A Summer Intern’s Experience at DEP

August 1, 2023
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Daniela at Covanta đź“·: Daniela Figueroa

My name is Daniela, and this summer, I had the privilege of interning at the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, specifically within its energy-saving department. I was fortunate to work under Larissa Johnson, a gracious mentor who’s also the department manager. As I’m transitioning into college at Montgomery College, this experience was invaluable.

Larissa was more than just a supervisor; she was a genuine friend. She often shared audiobooks she was enjoying and even offered me rides when necessary. The conversations we had were not only enjoyable but incredibly informative.

My primary role was as a graphic designer for their social media. Since I aspire to be a graphic designer, this role was particularly aligned with my future goals. Most of my work was conducted online, but I also had the chance to visit the office in person four times a month. This allowed me to interact with my colleagues, many of whom were journalists, and all of whom were amiable and supportive.

During my tenure, I crafted numerous designs and posts using Canva, gaining insight into eco-friendly practices. I became familiar with concepts like plogging, energy-efficient products such as light bulbs, and various waste management strategies.

Summer 2023 Climate Interns/Fellows about to Plog, đź“·: Larissa Johnson

One of the unique experiences was when Larissa introduced us to plogging—jogging while picking up trash. While participating, I was shocked at the number of cigarette butts discarded. It made me reflect on the importance of environmental respect, similar to practices in Japan where individuals carry personal trash bags to minimize littering. After our plogging session, we relaxed with smoothies, engaging in a hypothetical discussion about whether we’d prefer to lose our hearing or sight.

I also had the opportunity to attend one of the department’s library events tailored for children. Hosted by high school students, it combined education with fun games. Each attendee received an eco-friendly light bulb. Working from home was equally rewarding, giving me the flexibility to manage my schedule. I created both informational and visually appealing posts to highlight the department’s offerings, such as promoting the adoption of solar panels, which are readily available in Maryland for homeowners.

During my internship, I embarked on two work trips. One was to the Waste to Energy facility located in Dickerson, Maryland and the other to the Transfer Station in Derwood. Though initially, three colleagues were meant to join Larissa and me on the trip to Dickerson, they couldn’t make it. We ended up driving there in Larissa’s blue car, fondly named “Smurfette,” which she’s maintained for years to promote energy conservation. The vast stretches of farmland, dotted with livestock and vintage homes, were a sight to behold.

Our visit to the Covanta building was enlightening. The friendly staff educated us on how waste is transformed into compost. However, as we ventured deeper into the building, the overpowering scent of garbage was undeniable. After the tour, we engaged in an informative discussion with the staff about the department’s budget for the year and its impact on school funding.

Summer 2023 Interns at Butler’s Orchard đź“·: Larissa Johnson

Another trip took us to a Recycling center. Here, I learned about the recyclability of various materials. A notable observation was the majority of female workers, particularly Latina women, handling the recycling process. It was intriguing to learn that women adapted better to the environment, while men often struggled with the odor.

In conclusion, my internship at the Department of Environmental Protection was an enlightening journey. From honing my graphic design skills to understanding the depth of environmental protection, I am immensely thankful for this invaluable experience.

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