My name is Mike Chiarella, and I am a Junior Environmental Design (Object Track) student. From June
4th through August 8th, I was one of five Design Interns at TerraCycle, a Trenton, NJ-based company
that makes consumer goods out of non-recyclable materials, and encourages corporate partners to
establish green practices. They also launch some community-based recycling initiatives as prototypes of
how they could work on a larger, nation-wide scale. Essentially, they are selling the idea/inspiration of
green design/practices to show how possible such practices actually are to companies who wish to
pursue them. I was searching for internships through several websites, including micanetwork.com and
internships.com, but ended up finding this one independently of these sites.
While working at TerraCycle, my direct supervisor was Brad Sherman, who was part of a team with twoother "Design Junkies": Lori Anselm and Tiffany Threadgould. I worked alongside four other Design Interns, and together we got our hands on some really cool projects. We did concept drawings and prototyping for, among other things, a cigarette butt recycling initiative, a Capri-Sun Legends-of-the- Hidden-Temple style competition/event, some office re-designs for TerraCycle's Trenton and Toronto offices, a collection box for a township-wide chip-bag recycling campaign, and some other things. I am most proud of the projects that I completed single handedly: computer-rendered concepts of ways to repurpose old escalator handrails, and a faux neon-sign for the Toronto office. Still, I think being a part of the concept phase for the cigarette butt recycling initiative will prove to be really rewarding if the project advances.
I think that the most important thing I learned from my experience was how a Design team of a company works in conjunction with the other teams (Research and Development, Marketing, Material
Sourcing, etc.). I also realized that you will sometimes be asked to do things that you're not comfortable with, or that aren't in your field, but that you have to pitch in to help out the company as a whole. Designers don't work in a vacuum! I also definitely learned to work in a fast-paced environment, and to work as a team, which I haven't done too much of. It was amazing to get these experiences now, as an intern, before actually entering the field after college. Everything I did at TerraCycle will prove to be very beneficial in the future, even if some things are just food for thought. Establishing connections and a foundation/background in the field I plan on entering is of course a great thing, but it also will help me to decide where I want my career path to go: what, where, and how I may or may not want to design.