Helen Bielak is the Office of Sustainability's Operations Manager. One of Bielak's current projects is working with Institution Recycling Network, a cooperative that works largely with educational and health care institutions, helping them manage their recycling and reuse efforts.
As manager of the surplus Reuse Program, Bielak acts as a matchmaker of sorts, learning about items available for reuse and finding channels for linking them with recipients on campus, in the Morningside neighborhood and in other parts of the world. The Surplus Reuse Program is a centralized resource in Columbia's growing effort to keep as much material as possible out of landfills.
Bielak's career in facilities management – both in private industry and at Columbia University – has been its own course in sustainability. Over the years she's integrated countless principles and practices, applying them in her current position.
Bielak came to Columbia in 1999, as Building Operations Manager for the University Residence Halls department. Her pioneering work with the University's "greening" began shortly thereafter, with the renovation of the East Campus townhouses.
Over the years, training has been a significant part of her work. Most recently she has been introducing new employees to the Office of Sustainability efforts at Columbia as a presenter in Human Resources' Learning and Development orientation program. This fall she has done similar programs for the Medical, Dental and Public Health Schools on the Columbia University Medical School campus, and for Arts and Sciences, Student Services, SEAS, Columbia College, International Studies, Columbia Business and Law Schools, and the RA Training Program - all on the Morningside campus.
Bielak and Catherine Resler, Recycling and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Programs Manager, have also been working on environmental audits with personnel at Columbia University Press, Studebaker, and CUMC residence halls.
Under Facilities' auspices, Bielak worked on the organization of Dumpster Days, in which faculty and staff was encouraged to clean their work places, with emphasis on recycling. In recent years, Dumpster Days have evolved into Give & Go Green, a collaborative effort among Eco-Reps, Housing & Dining, and Facilities, with huge amounts of donations going to local agencies rather than into landfills.