By Richard Zagrzecki
Clancy Nelson didn’t take the traditional route to college.
The senior kinesiology major joined the Marine Corps after graduating from Rosenberg’s Terry High School in 2004. He served his country for the next four years, working as a combat videographer while stationed in Okinawa, Japan.
In that role, he was involved in all sorts of projects, including recording training exercises for commanders to review afterward to determine what went well and what needed improvement. He also videotaped different ceremonies and events, and even helped make a motorcycle safety video.
“It was a really cool experience. I was able to see a lot of things and travel to different places,” Nelson said.
After his military service ended, he worked in several different fields and even moved to Hawaii for a while, where he was able to hone his surfing skills – a hobby he picked up in Japan. He eventually moved back to the Houston area, where he now lives with his wife in the Heights. After taking classes at Wharton County Junior College, he decided to pursue a degree at UH. For the past year, he’s been a waste diversion assistant, a part-time student worker position in the Office of Sustainability.
“I work on improving recycling efforts around the UH campus,” he said. “I find it to be very meaningful work.”
One of the projects he’s been working on has involved the Big Belly trash and recycling containers that dot the campus landscape. He is involved with redesigning the outer covering for the containers to make it easier for people to understand where to dispose of trash and where to place recyclable materials.
He was involved with RecycleMania, a nationwide recycling contest among universities that UH participated in. He input data every week and worked with the recycling vendor to track the weight of everything UH was recycling and comparing it to the weight of the trash generated on campus that went to a landfill.
He also organized a drinking water blind taste test that took place at the RecycleMania kickoff event earlier in the spring semester. Students, faculty and staff who attended tasted water samples and picked which one they liked best. The winning water came from the UH2O water bottle filling stations that are installed in buildings across campus. The data showed a significant preference for this water over two national brand bottled drinking waters.
He’s been able to incorporate more sustainability initiatives into his own life. He likes to build things by hand, and often uses items other people have thrown away. Check out #thiswasyourtrash on Instagram to see some of his more recent projects.
“I recently built a mobile billboard and a tailgate billboard for my truck that people can rent out for advertising space,” he said.
Nelson, who would like to pursue a career in physical therapy after graduating from UH, has taught CPR and first aid classes for the YMCA of Greater Houston for the past six years. This summer, he will work for the city of Houston as a pool center supervisor, which will include scheduling and training the lifeguards for the Memorial neighborhood pool.
Six months ago, he made the decision to become a vegan, which means he does not consume meat or any other food products that originated from an animal, including all dairy products. He makes all his meals and brings them to campus in a cooler as part of his goal to graduate without ever purchasing food on campus.
“I’ve become a better cook as a result of going vegan,” he said. “I’ve even learned how to make cheese out of nutritional yeast and cashews.”