Marian Chertow Honored by Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame

Marian Chertow
When Marian Chertow ’81 M.P.P.M. ’00 Ph.D. arrived in Connecticut in the late 1970s, not a single municipality in the state had curbside recycling as we know it today. Her job was to change that.
Hired out of college by a Connecticut-based startup that was looking to scale up the burgeoning recycling sector, Chertow’s role was to convince mayors and town boards across the state to adopt waste management strategies.
“I had an old fuel-efficient Plymouth Barracuda, and I would drive around trying to find every city hall,” remembers Chertow, now an associate professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). “And I thought, ‘Oh, this is great. I’m actually going to make money by doing good!’”
Within two decades, she says, more residents were recycling on a weekly basis than were voting. And by that time, Chertow was deep into a career as a professor that now takes her to countries across the world to promote strategies in industrial environmental management that she has helped develop.
Last night, she was honored for her longtime commitment to environmental innovation during the Connecticut Women’s Hall of FameAnnual Induction Ceremony. Chertow, who has become a global authority in the emerging field of industrial symbiosis, was one of ten women recognized for transforming the world through innovation and design.
“This is a well-deserved and timely honor for Marian,” said F&ES Dean Peter Crane. “Her innovative work and collaborative approach is enhancing the environmental performance of industries across the world, but it is wonderful to see that her accomplishments are also recognized closer to home.”
The Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame is an educational outreach organization that celebrates and honors the achievements of Connecticut women in the hope of inspiring continued achievements by women and girls in the state.
Previous inductees have included Linda Lorimer, Yale’s Vice President for Global and Strategic Initiatives; Carolyn Mazure, founder of Women’s Health Research at Yale; and Florence Wald, former Dean of the Yale School of Nursing.
Marian Chertow came to Yale F&ES in 1990 after spending many years in government, including a stint as president of the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority. In that role, she helped develop a roughly $1 billion waste infrastructure system for the state. (At the time, the New Haven Advocate referred to Chertow as the state’s “garbage guru.”) In 1991, she was appointed director of the School’s Industrial Environmental Management Program, and she initiated and led the Corporate Environmental Leadership Seminar, a two-week executive training course.
I realized that if we want to save the world, and make it less polluted, we need to accelerate the commercialization of these technologies.
— Marian Chertow
At Yale, her teaching and research have focused on waste management, innovations in environmental technology, and the field of industrial ecology. She also earned her Ph.D., in 2000, writing a final dissertation on the commercialization of environmental technology in the U.S. “I realized that if we want to save the world, and make it less polluted, we need to accelerate the commercialization of these technologies,” Chertow says.
In addition Chertow played a key role in developing the School’s curriculum for issues pertaining to business and the environment, says Reid Lifset, Associate Director of the Industrial Environmental Management Program and editor-in-chief of the F&ES-based Journal of Industrial Ecology.
She also continued to participate on environmental issues at the state level. For several years she served on the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality. She was a charter member of the state’s Clean Energy Fund, which explored strategies to finance more clean energy projects. And most recently, she served on the Governor’s Working Group on Modernizing Recycling.
During the early 1990s, while the city of New Haven was crafting a waste management plan, she helped assure that recycling was a major piece, Lifset said.

“What she brings is a combination of intellectual rigor, deep understanding of the business context, and political experience,” said Lifset, who has known Chertow since the late 1980s. “It’s the combination that really makes her comprehension of these issues particularly powerful.”
Over the last 15 years, Chertow has spent an increasing amount of time on industrial ecology. During a trip to Denmark in the late 1990s, she saw firsthand the concept known as industrial symbiosis — which includes the exchange of wastes, materials, energy, and water within networks of businesses to add value, reduce costs, and improve environmental outcomes.
Specifically, she encountered a cluster of companies that had found a way to utilize each other’s byproducts to meet their own production needs more efficiently — and even create opportunities for new businesses. The experience would inspire the next phase of her career.
What she brings is a combination of intellectual rigor, deep understanding of the business context, and political experience.
— Marian Chertow
In the years since, she has become a central player in the field, forging relationships with researchers and business leaders worldwide and writing seminal papers about how symbiotic systems can achieve resource and energy savings in many countries, including China and India.
“She can go into any multi-industry, co-located situation and very quickly say, ‘This is a setup for symbiosis,’ or ‘symbiosis isn’t going to work here,’ or, ‘it will only work if you get people to meet once a week and tell each other what they’re doing,’” says Thomas Graedel, the Clifton R. Musser Professor of Industrial Ecology at F&ES and Director of the Center for Industrial Ecology.
“She has that overall view that comes out of having looked at probably 50 of these systems by now all over the world.”
Chertow is currently President of the International Society for Industrial Ecology, is a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore’s School of Design and Environment, and is also appointed at the Yale School of Management.
Decades after she promoted recycling in town halls across Connecticut, she is now sharing insights of another new field to communities globally.
– Kevin Dennehy    203 436-4842