Virginia Tech’s commitment to sustainability is a university-wide effort, requiring the hard work of many individuals to have a successful impact. Patrick Miele, graduating senior and Green Tailgate coordinator, played a strong role in helping to reduce the university’s environmental footprint through inspiring his fellow students to be more active in sustainability. 

Miele has spent the past two years as an intern with the Office of Sustainability within the Virginia Tech Facilities Department, and for the past year, as green tailgate coordinator for the Game Day Green Team.

The Game Day Green Team, a Sustainability Student Internship Program initiative, encourages tailgaters at Virginia Tech Football home games to tailgate more sustainably by recycling their cans and bottles. The all-student run Green Team travels tailgate-to-tailgate, passing out blue recycling bags and educating tailgaters about sustainability, recycling, and waste management.

As Green Tailgate coordinator, Miele’s responsibilities varied each semester. During the fall, his main priority was leading and recruiting volunteers for the Game Day Green Team. Each game typically requires anywhere from 12 to 25 volunteers. If the number of volunteers fell below 12, Miele readily jumped in to help pass out recycling bags and flyers himself. 

“Being presented with the opportunity to enable others to get involved and start recycling has been my most valuable takeaway from my time leading the Green Tailgate team,” Miele said of his role.  

Along with recruitment for the Green Tailgate program, Miele informed volunteers of their duties on game days and supplied new team members with t-shirts. He also acted as the interface between the Office of Sustainability and volunteers. In addition, Miele was responsible for creating charts to track the progress of recyclable materials and the success of each event, for the use of the Office of Sustainability.  

Between planning for and execution of the Green Tailgate events, Miele typically dedicated around 15 hours a week in his role as coordinator. While it was a lot to handle with a full class load, his internship has taught Miele valuable time management skills and the positive impact of behavior changes can have on sustainability. 

When football season ended, Miele helped manage the Green Graduates of Virginia Tech program which encourages graduating students to take a personal pledge to think about the environmental impact of their jobs, travel, and other adventures in life after leaving Virginia Tech. All pledge signers are awarded a green cord to wear at graduation. 

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Miele also helped with the Office of Sustainability’s social media efforts, including posts to its Facebook page. In the same light as the Humans of New York project, Miele posted photos of Green Grads, along with a quote on how they plan to live sustainable lives in the future. 

When thinking about his overall experience interning with the Office of Sustainability, Miele noted, “It’s been a great opportunity to work with and help the sustainability team. I’ve enjoyed being a small player in the grander efforts to help to make Virginia Tech a more sustainable campus.” 

Miele will soon graduate with a B.S. in materials science and engineering within the College of Engineering. He found his sustainability internship experiences beneficial to his coursework, especially in studying polymers, metals, ceramics, and other materials. His previous work as a construction management intern with the Facilities Department also provided Miele with a solid foundation of knowledge for his studies. 

“These materials are in products that we use every day, they’re a big part of our daily lives. It’s very important to know and understand what the end-stage of a material’s life looks like, especially when choosing a material to produce something,” said Miele. 

He credits his internship for educating him on how to be environmentally conscious and providing a basic understanding of the most sustainable and recyclable materials and resources to use.  

“Patrick has made a lasting impact, not only in the Office of Sustainability, but on the university as a whole. He has encouraged many students to get involved on campus, as well as equipping them with the knowledge to live sustainably after leaving Virginia Tech,” says Nathan King, sustainability manager. 

Upon graduation, Miele hopes to combine his knowledge from his undergraduate studies in materials science and engineering with his sustainability intern experiences to help build a more sustainable future for all.

Miele recently accepted a position with Milliken & Company, a textile and specialty chemical manufacturer located in South Carolina. Last summer, he worked for the company as a process engineer intern. 

Written by Christy Myers 

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