GV alumnus pioneers sustainability

Courtesy Photo / gvsu.edu
GVSU Alumnus Tony Rotman

Courtesy Photo / gvsu.edu GVSU Alumnus Tony Rotman

Molly Waite

Tony Rotman first became interested in sustainability at Grand Valley State University in a class called Visionary Thinkers. Throughout that semester and the rest of his college career, Rotman’s interest grew, and his interest led him to a new career and the potential to explore new sustainability practices.

Since graduating with a degree in psychology, he has built a successful career in management and has helped create energy-efficient supply chain systems in the furniture industry.

“I graduated and then went into management,” Rotman said. “It’s how I got my feet wet, so to say, in management and working with groups of people. And then I started to see things in the business that could have been done differently.”

After spending some time working, Rotman decided to move to New York.

“I really got into sustainability after I moved to New York, but I knew that by moving that I was really going to run into a lot of different things,” Rotman said. “But I came out here to just expand my horizons and really got into something. It has worked out really well and has been a clean slate to do things that have really never been done before.”

Rotman, who has lived in New York for six years now, works in New York City as a production manager for Q Collection, a sustainable design firm he helped develop that uses non-toxic and locally sourced materials to produce furniture, bedding and other similar products. He created the supply chain model that Q Collection currently uses, and he oversees operations including suppliers and manufacturing.

Now, Q Collection packaging contains no foam or plastic, Rotman said. Plastic is cheaper to use for packaging, but it is bad for the environment and for human health. Rotman said now, all packaging supplies are completely renewable.

And the supply chains have become increasingly important to Rotman. All of the products featured in Q Collection have traveled no less than about 1,600 miles, a distance that cuts fuel consumption and travel costs.

Norman Christopher, executive director of GVSU’s Sustainable Community Development Initiative, said he knew Rotman when he was graduating, and all of the work that he has done in sustainability has put him at the forefront of the sustainability movement.

“Tony has been practicing applied sustainable development best practices in his company and work area since graduation,” Christopher said. “He also has surrounded himself with others who have additional experience and knowledge in these practices. Tony may have been more of a pioneer in applied sustainable development best practices than he thinks he is.”

With what little free time he has, Rotman enjoys traveling, and he went to Nicaragua last year. He also volunteers and serves as a committee member of Self Help Africa, an organization that works with rural communities in Africa to bring sustainable solutions to the causes of hunger and poverty.

Rotman is also looking at graduate schools where he can study organizational management and sustainability management. He wants to continue working with people and educating others about sustainability

“For me, sustainability only goes as far as people will believe,” Rotman said. “So if you don’t have the people skills, the ability to inspire those around you to take part in this process, sustainability stops there. I’ve seen quite a shift happening in the few years I’ve been doing this. One of my main goals is about education, essentially. It’s not so much telling people that they need to change their behaviors as it is showing them why it’s important and why it helps.” [email protected]