After biking up and down the hills of San Diego convincing restaurants to eliminate single-use plastic straws, Katherine Huded knew what she wanted to do with her career: sustainability marketing and communications.
“People and businesses generally want to do the right thing by the environment,” says Katherine. “Often the barrier is simply good communication – helping people understand the why and the tactical how so they can take action.”
This realization led Katherine into the world of waste and recycling, starting at an Atlanta-based aluminum rolling and recycling company, and then on to Rubicon, where she expanded her marketing and communications works to support sustainable solutions across all types of waste and recycling.
Today, Katherine is back on the road, traveling across North America in a camper trailer with her husband and dog, meanwhile providing sustainability marketing and communications to a variety of businesses, as the Founder and President of Huded Communications.
How did your role at Rubicon set you up for success?
KATHERINE: Until joining Rubicon, I had only ever worked for large corporations, which was a great foundation for my career, but it meant that almost everything already had a protocol or a playbook. Rubicon’s fast-paced, startup environment meant I had to get creative, find new solutions, write a new playbook.
With so many innovative, talented experts internally to turn to for advice, finding solutions was never difficult and always exciting. It taught me not to shy away from things that have never been done before. It gave me the confidence to challenge the status quo, something that’s at the very core of Rubicon’s culture and always will be.
You left Rubicon to take a year off to travel North America. What does planning for a trip like that even look like?
KATHERINE: This trip was years in the making. My husband and I had just gotten married but we weren’t ready to settle down yet. We had always wanted to take a year off to travel and see the world, and while international travel was tempting, we wanted to see our own country first and our neighbors to the north and south: Canada and Mexico.
We renovated a 16-foot camper trailer, sold off most of our stuff and packed up the rest. But the real devil was in the details: devising a solar power plan; how to filter and store drinking water; acquiring maps for every region of North America; packing only what we needed (funny, that my husband’s overalls somehow made the cut).
The best part was that after all that planning, we drove out of Atlanta not knowing where the next 365 days would take us or where we would sleep each night. It was scary but incredibly liberating.
How has being on the road changed or reinforced your passion for sustainability?
KATHERINE: Living on the road has taught me sustainability lessons on both a micro and macro scale. On the micro scale, it’s incredible how much more sustainable our daily lives have become. We rely exclusively on solar energy to power our lights, water pump, fan, and to charge all our electronics.
Between the two of us, we use on average 50 gallons of water per week, whereas the average American couple uses around 1,400 gallons per week. And our waste (trash and recycling) averages 12 pounds per week, whereas the average American couple produces 60 pounds of waste a week.
On the macro scale, I’ve witnessed first hand how disjointed and unstandardized our waste and recycling infrastructure truly is in America. Being in a new city, county, or state every few days, it’s a constant battle to recycle. Some places offer composting and comprehensive single-stream recycling, while others won’t accept glass, paper, steel, or plastics.
Some areas have deposit programs, while others offer no recycling at all. But the real eye-opener was traveling in Canada, where recycling services are plentiful and consistent, and then in Mexico, where recycling was nearly nonexistent and litter was the norm. It made me realize how far we have to go not only as a country but also as a continent and a global society to truly solve the waste problem.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve eaten on the road?
KATHERINE: That’s a tough one because there’s plenty. We always try to eat local and things we can’t get anywhere else, whether it’s bison prosciutto at Glacier National Park; cactus fries in Sedona, Arizona; Basque breakfast in Bakersfield, California (which is more of an experience than just a food); elk and yak burgers in Kalispell, Montana; or aquachiles in Los Barriles, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
What is next for you?
KATHERINE: While life on the road has been an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience, we’re looking forward to returning to Atlanta this summer and digging back into our network and careers. In addition to continuing sustainability marketing and communications through Huded Communications, I’ve been granted a Sustainability Fellowship in the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business at the Georgia Institute of Technology while pursuing a Master in Business Administration at the Scheller College of Business.
I’m excited for the opportunity to dive deeper into studying sustainable business principles and hope to one day help lead and market the sustainable innovations of the future!
Editor’s Note: All photography belongs to Katherine Huded