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Spirit & Safety: Harry Howisen’s Commitments to the Industry

You’ve probably heard that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. While that might be true in some circumstances, at the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF), it’s both. Harry Howisen first got involved with EREF because of the what and who, and then the how and why led him to deeper engagement. EREF is proud to announce the H.H.H. Safety and Spirit of the Waste Industry Scholarship.

Harry’s path to EREF began through a conversation that highlighted the Foundation’s scholarship funding and key networking events like the annual Auction and Fall Classic. These interactions sparked his interest, leading him to attend his first event. Three years later, Harry’s company H.H.H. Incorporated is a regular sponsor at EREF events.

Since Harry’s introduction to EREF was through friends and colleagues, he expected to know some of the attendees at that first event, but what he found was deeper.

Several qualities struck me about the Foundation when I participated in the 2021 Fall Classic. First, the people and the atmosphere stood out – it was like an extended family. Second, I was surprised to learn that I had business relationships with two of the founders that were at the O’Hare meeting in 1994 – Lee Brandsma and Whit Hudson. Having that connection to the past as well as with current stakeholders like Josh Thompson and James Mitchener made me feel like EREF was where I should be involved.

This experience isn’t unique to Harry. EREF’s family of supporters is known for its atmosphere of collegiality and a shared commitment to nurturing the future of resource management. This is crucial in the waste industry, with its unique blend of essential services and inherent risks. It’s this environment that inspired Harry to create the H.H.H. Safety & Spirit of the Waste Industry Scholarship.

Like a family, the waste industry continues to grow and evolve with each generation. While industry competition is fierce, Harry recognized that EREF gives industry competitors a shared vision of sustainable waste management to discuss and pursue outside of corporate agendas. EREF fosters a positive and dynamic synergy within its own family so that competitors can have open communication and work cohesively with each other to identify present and predict future environmental challenges. When scholars join that family, they’re given the opportunity to study the science behind them and create potential solutions. Harry was struck by this cohesion.

EREF stands out because it’s a unifying body within the industry. They’re focused on the future. Just like a family looks out for the next generation, EREF focuses on research that improves processes today so that the future’s better for everyone.

This spirit of making the world better for the next generation is the spirit for which this scholarship is named. 

It’s in recognition of the spirit of the post-World War II generation that built their family hauling companies and have passed them down to their children and grandchildren. It’s in recognition of the entrepreneurial spirit of those families who have merged and/or sold their businesses to the large public haulers or private equity groups. It’s in recognition of the spirit of those persons like my father who have worked their entire career in the waste industry because they love what they do. 

While spirit is the abstract part of the scholarship name, it’s partnered with safety. EREF has previously written on safety concerns within the industry and is committed to researching efforts and finding solutions to improve it. Through his participation with the National Waste and Recycling Association’s ANSI Z245 subcommittees (American National Standards Institute) and involvement with EREF, Harry supports initiatives that make tangible improvements in safety protocols, propelling the industry toward new levels of safety and efficiency.

My hope is that the H.H.H. Safety & Spirit of the Waste Industry Scholarship helps fund the research needed to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities in the waste industry so that it can evolve from being one of the most dangerous industries to being one of the safest.

Beyond the waste industry, Harry and his wife Michelle support various organizations like the V Foundation and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, both of which, like EREF, use donations solely to achieve their missions.

What resonates with me is that my father, mother-in-law, and college roommate are all cancer survivors. Unfortunately, not everyone I know is a survivor, and I’ve lost several friends, family members, and colleagues to the disease. I use the V-Foundation as a benchmark when evaluating all other charitable organizations since they have fully endowed all their expenses and 100% of donations go to cancer research.

Harry Howisen’s journey with EREF underscores the impact that one individual’s commitment can have on an entire industry. It shows the power of connections, the importance of strategic philanthropy, and a continuous commitment to safety and the future of the waste industry. Through the establishment of the H.H.H. Safety and Spirit of the Waste Industry Scholarship, he helps drive the industry forward toward a future where it isn’t defined by its hazards but celebrated for its safety, innovation, and sustainability.

About EREF

EREF is a 501(c)3 class charity that advances scientific research and creates educational pathways that enable innovation in sustainable waste management practices. For complete information on EREF-funded research, its scholarship program, and how to donate to this great cause, visit erefdn.org.

Media Contact:

Stephen Aber
Communications Manager
Email: saber@erefdn.org