Gray is the New Green Blog Series #3: Early days as an aspiring environmental scientist Reply

Picking up where I left off, and what it was like when I was a young person in the environmental field and how things have changed…here are some reflections…

College days

So it’s 1977, I’m at Cook College, Rutgers University, studying Environmental Science and I think this is going to be a breeze. I was in the top ten of my high school class and felt like I was prepared to take on the world. But actually, it didn’t happen that way.

To refresh my memory, I had a copy of my college transcripts sent to me because I couldn’t remember the classes I took and I wanted to be able to talk about them honestly in this blog…I was horrified…let’s just put it this way…my daughter Frankie, who is currently a junior at U Miami, would be thrilled to have crushed my GPA. For most of the intro courses …chemistry, calculus, I was a straight “C” student. I wasn’t sure I had made the right decision being so far from home, wondering if maybe I should have studied music …remember there were no cell phones, no internet, no computers…maybe I should just quit and become a folk singer? I had the chance to do just that. In fact, I recorded in NYC…   I knew I didn’t want my love of singing to become a job…but by sophomore year I I needed a break from school.

Co-Op work opportunities were not what they are today but I managed to get a job with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. I inspected wastewater package plants and I walked streams looking for illegal discharges. These inspections were required as part the NPDES program which regulates discharges to surface water. There continue to be modern day “stream walkers” in search of illicit discharges to storm water. They still perform visual inspections but also use high tech tools to discover illicit discharges such as infrared, aerial, and thermal photography to locate dischargers by studying the temperature of the stream water in areas where algae might be concentrated and in soils.

Being a Co-Op student taught me a lot…like what it’s like to get up early, commute to work (from Perth Amboy to Trenton NJ-the 1979 energy crisis was at its peak so carpooling made sense because of gas rationing),, (hybrids and electric cars were not even in our minds) be responsible for paying rent…and that going to school was a lot better than working…smile.

The Environmental Science program offered today at Rutgers is much more multi-faceted . Remember when I was in school RCRA and CERLA were just being born! It was when I started taking classes in my major that I started to shine…Elements of Environmental Pollution; Water and Wastewater Analysis, International Environmental Studies, Environmental Toxicology, Environmental Impact Statements, Pollution Microbiology. I became somewhat of the Professor’s pet in Pollution Microbiology. Dr. Melvin Finstein was researching composting and needed assistance going through all the periodicals related to composting. I remember reviewing stacks upon stacks of periodicals, no internet, and summarizing my findings.

First jobs

Careers with an Environmental Science degree were not plentiful when I graduated in January 1982. The country was also experiencing a major recession.

My first “real” job, though temporary, was as a chemist at the East Providence Sewage Treatment Plant. The day they received my resume, their chemist fell and broke his leg…this is true! That job only lasted 2-3 months. I guess he healed quickly!


Lucy Servidio in the tank at her first job

My first real permanent job was Environmental, Health and Safety Coordinator for a plating company, W.F. Wood Corporation. I ran the ultrafiltration, cyanide destruct system, performed quality control testing on the plating line and kept the company out of trouble with the regulators. That’s exactly how the position was explained to me…keep us out of trouble. Visions of pollution prevention, sustainability or proactive anything were not even thought of, never mind an expectation. At this time, most companies were just trying to understand the new regulations related to hazardous waste management, chemical spills, water and air pollution control. I learned a lot and felt like I was protecting a very small portion of the planet. I wanted to get out and do something that I thought would have a greater impact…that’s when I decided to become a consultant. Not to “dis” plating but they say if you stay in the industry for more than 5 years you never get out…I think I was at 4 years and 360 days! Smile

Since the 1970’s, a multitude of careers have grown out of the environmental movement. The jobs can be more impactful to business’s bottom line, more impactful to the planet and more satisfying.

I’ll talk more about consulting and where it has taken me in my next blog…Lucy

Gray is the New Green Blog Series #2: The Caped Crusader Returns! Reply

Lucy with Cape

Lucy Servidio donning the Super TURP Cape in 2012

It was six years ago that I was in Australia speaking to the Western Australian Cancer Council about the benefits of Toxics Use Reduction planning. CAPACCIO was asked to be the keynote speaker and present industry’s perspective and approach to TUR planning.  I remember feeling I had to share examples of both practical and amazing success stories so that those attending the conference would be motivated to “take-off” on their own TUR journeys and reap the benefits that we have seen from working on TUR Plans with our clients. How would I capture their attention…what would make them believe me…that’s where the “Cape” comes in…I came up with the “SUPER TURP cape” to have a schtick for my presentation… the truth is the folks who organized the conference said when they first saw me in the cape they thought “Who is this wacko we flew in from America”?  See, I got their attention! All in all, I was well received and helped spread the TUR Planning seed to the lower hemisphere.

back view TURP cape 2

CAPACCIO’s visit with the South Korean delegation on April 13

So CAPACCIO was thrilled when we were approached by the South Korean Ministry of Environment recently to meet with a delegation of 22 representatives from the ministry and corporations including Samsung, LG Chem, and Hyundai to discuss our experiences in developing TUR plans for our clients. South Korea will be enacting a TURA-like regulation which will become effective in 2019. They have decided to implement this regulation to reduce the amount of chemical accidents and to improve worker safety and health. They chose to visit us because CAPACCIO has six TUR Planners, more planners per square inch than any other firm in Massachusetts!

lucy and cape

Bongwoo Shin and Lucy Servidio

When the delegation arrived, our panel of TUR Planners was ready for their questions. It was so cool to be speaking to businesses from across the globe and realize how much we have in common and how much we can learn from each other. We made a real connection…for example, CAPACCIO’s mission is “Helping Industry and the Environment Prosper.” LG Chem, one of the delegates’, mission is “Balance between Business and Safety, Health and Environment,” which of course is very similar.  We sealed the new friendship when the Director of the Chemical Safety Management Team, from the Ministry of Environment, Bongwoo Shin, asked if he could don the official “Super TURP cape”. Others tried it on too. Who knows maybe a purple cape will lead to CAPACCIO helping with TUR Plans in South Korea! As I have said                                                                 before, “It’s hard to say no to a SUPER HERO!

At CAPACCIO, we live our mission of “Helping Industry and the Environment Prosper”. We align EH&S with your overall business objectives to strategically position you for success.  Our unique approach combines our extensive EH&S experience with cutting edge technologies, such as our EHS DashboardTM, to effectively address your challenges.  Our comprehensive solutions have resulted in award-winning EH&S and overall business performance for our clients.  To learn more visit us at


When in doubt, wear a cape! Reply

On  May 3, 2012, I had the honor to present “20 Years of  Making the Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) work for business’ in Massachusetts” at the Cancer Council Autralia’s (CCA) Cancer in the Workplace – A forum on practical solutions for prevention. I was amazed at the feedback I received and of the hope my presentation gave to the attendees. I was even more amazed at the great research and presentations that I was asked to be part of. The presentations opened my eyes to Australia’s biggest occupational health issues of mesothelioma (working with/mining asbestos) and melanoma (sun exposure).

New Friends-Cancer Coucil Australia

I was able to attend a strategic planning meeting with the CCA. When I was about to leave they asked me to give my two cents of advice on how to get a TURA-like law rolling. I reminded CCA that TURA was first ignited by Ken Geiser (then at Tufts) and Mike Ellenbecker (then at U Mass Lowell) who were from acadamia…not the legislature. Maybe the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology could be the starting point. Also, that starting off with Victoria, one state, rather than going country-wide would have a greater chance of success. Lastly, I said don’t forget TURA’s secret sauce…mandatory reporting/planning…voluntary implementation based on a viable business case.

Lucy Servidio The Cape Crusader

When saying good byes and giving hugs Terry Slevin, CCA said to me that they weren’t sure what they were going to get when we they asked me to come down to speak, but one minute into my speech they knew we had asked the right person…I remarked, “Did the cape frighten you?” He replied, “Not at all.” His only fear was that Dr. Tim Driscoll, Professor at University of Sidney, would start wearing one.

For those of you who have never wore a cape when making a presention, I would highly recommend it…it did make me feel like I could do or say anything!