“The most important thing you can do to fight climate change: talk about it," Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist who leads the PBS series Global Weirding, often says.
So I decided to virtually talk about today's environmental issues with a few female sustainability leaders. Why women? Well, the environmental movement has a history of being led by women, and that continues today. The environmental movement as we know it began in 1962 when Silent Spring by Rachel Carson became a best seller. Since then, women like Dr. Jane Goodall, activist Greta Thunberg, actress Jane Fonda, and fashion designer Stella McCartney have been leading the movement.
In politics, we now have Vice President Kamala Harris who has a history of supporting environmentally progressive policies. Gina McCarthy, the former president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, will lead a White House office of domestic climate policy. And former Governor of Michigan Jennifer Granholm has been nominated to head the department of energy. The list goes on.
So let's talk about today's sustainability and environmental movement. Here's what the female sustainability leaders I talked to want people to know this Earth Day:
Mimi Tran Zambetti: Wren
"Don't underestimate your power as an individual! You can start with where you're at. What are the areas of opportunity in your lifestyle, your spare time, or your profession? Maybe you can try out thrifting, volunteering at a community garden, getting your company on board with taking climate action, or even switching up your career. We need everyone to help with climate change however they can."
Mimi is a co-founder of Wren. Wren* is a subscription service that lets you calculate and offset your carbon footprint.
Diane Bailey: Menlo Spark
“2021 is the year of Climate Action and the year to Electrify Everything. There’s a growing youth movement and environmental movement coming together around the urgent need to get off Fossil Fuels; and public opinion is now overwhelmingly in support of that too.”
Diane is the Executive Director at Menlo Spark, a nonprofit collaboration of local government, businesses, and residents helping Menlo Park, California become climate neutral by 2025.
Erin Callahan: Climate Collaborative
"The past year has felt unprecedented in so many ways. One very hopeful way is that we have never seen such a high percentage of Americans concerned about climate change. Now is the time to drive meaningful action. Last year's climate-driven wildfires and hurricanes showed how climate change is already impacting millions of Americans. It is the next big crisis. We must all be asking ourselves what we can do to drive a strong national response, whether it is writing your congressman or asking the companies you purchase from about their practices and advocacy. This is an opportunity to race toward that will allow us to build a better and more prosperous, more equitable future. The question I'll be asking myself throughout this year is "What more can I be doing?" I hope you will join me."
Erin Callahan is director at Climate Collaborative. Climate Collaborative is a group of concerned businesses from the natural products industry working collaboratively to catalyze bold action, amplify the voice of business and promote sound policy to reverse climate change.
Caitlin Oleson: Climate Collaborative
"There has never been stronger public support and concern for addressing climate change than now. However, we need to make sure our work to tackle the climate crisis is rooted in dismantling racial injustice. Whatever we do to mitigate climate won't be enough if we don't address systemic racism at the same time. I hope we'll all take this opportunity to lean into the challenge of how we can embed justice, equity, and inclusion into our work, organizations, and communities."
Caitlin Oleson is the Operations & Programming Manager at the Climate Collaborative.
Lauren Barnes: National Women's Soccer League champion
“I just want to simply start out by educating teams on environmental issues: How changing habits can lead to a bigger, more sustainable future.”
Lauren Barnes (also known as Lu) is a National Women's Soccer League champion and Reign FC original, having played for the club since 2013. Lauren is an advocate for environmental sustainability and led a sustainability initiative for her team during the pandemic.
Zeyneb Magavi: HEET
“Our natural gas system was cutting edge technology in the 1800’s. Today it would take billions to fix the crumbling pipes and the greenhouse gas impact of continuing to leak and burn gas will not allow us to achieve our emissions goals. We must begin building an equitable, safe, and lower-cost renewable energy infrastructure, like the GeoGrid, NOW to ensure a livable future, this century.”
Zeyneb Magavi, is Co-Executive Director at HEET. HEET is driving forward the transformation of our energy system beyond gas, using Massachusetts as a proving ground to seed and grow solutions. HEET’s approach has three synergistic pathways: Triage the system we have (developing and implementing a first in the country method to fix the worst gas leaks), Change the Narrative to drive change (studying the chemistry of gas and educating about impacts and alternatives), Transition to a better system (piloting the GeoMicroDistrict).
Kimberly Le: EnergySage
"I'm not a big fan of these Hallmark holidays, Earth Day included. Similar to Mother's Day. I choose to celebrate my mom and other moms, every day. This allows me to appreciate that in which I am supposed to celebrate on a specific day, every day of my life. To me, every day is Earth Day because sustainability is life.
What is life if we have no home? What is the true home? Are not all the grounds we walk on and commute in, a part of this giant home we call Earth? We all have a choice here.
This Earth Day, I hope that we, the collective we, begin to think more broadly of our home and our lives such that Earth Day is removed as a Hallmark holiday and becomes a part of everyday life."
Kimberly Le is the Strategic Accounts Executive at EnergySage. EnergySage* is the best place on the web to get multiple quotes online from pre-screened local solar installers. Their service allows you to compare solar quotes side by side so you know that you're getting the best deal in your area.
Lauren Weston: Acterra
"The simplest form of environmentalism and sustainability efforts is when it becomes a habit. When it is no longer difficult to think about putting the Earth first, when it is no longer a sacrifice to reduce our carbon footprint...that is when Earth Day becomes Every Day. Now it is time to make the Earth our priority. We need to make people see that we all win when the Earth comes first."
Lauren Weston is Executive Director of Acterra. Acterra is a San Francisco Bay Area nonprofit that brings people together to create local solutions for a healthy planet. Acterra is driven not by ego, but by the opportunity to learn and grow together while achieving high impact through fighting climate change and reducing carbon emissions.
Linda Hutchins-Knowles: Mothers Out Front
"I want people to know that the environmental movement has a niche for each and every person, even busy parents! The most effective thing you can do is to join a grassroots organization, like Mothers Out Front, that builds the political will to pass bold policies to accelerate a just transition from polluting fossil-fuels to clean, renewable energy and draw down excess carbon from the atmosphere. When working in community together, it’s easy and even fun—and a great antidote to climate grief!"
Linda Hutchins-Knowles is the California Senior Organizer of Mothers Out Front. Mothers Out Front is a national movement that brings together mothers to take action on climate change and work towards a just transition away from fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy.
Suzanne Wouk: SellHound
"On this Earth Day try to not only declutter your living space but also get rid of that storage unit! When I hear how much people spend on storage units rent just to store stuff that they might never use I am blown away! I like to tease the question: What if I tell you that someone will pay YOU to store your items? Yes... really! Just sell it! It is so easy to do so! And when (or if) you ever need that item again, then buy it back. It might not be the exact couch that you sat on, but probably will be a nicer and more modern one. And you won't have to rent a u-haul to pick it up, rather, it will be delivered directly to your door! Not only will you save potentially thousands of dollars on storage rent you will also save precious resources by encouraging circularity and reuse."
Suzanne Wouk is Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at SellHound. SellHound is a secondhand marketplace posting app.
Deborah Lindsay: SellHound
“Sustainability or better yet, regeneration, must become a priority to us all. Do your best to carve out time to get your hands in the dirt and find love and healing there. Plant seeds; maybe the Three Sisters of corn, beans, and squash, and engage in the miracle of them. Read Braiding Sweetgrass* by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and discover the wisdom of First Nations ways. And remember, there is so much to be hopeful and grateful for...we just have to tend, in the most urgently passionate way, to our most beautiful Planet."
Deborah Lindsay is a Sustainable Business Coach and Director of Operations and Sustainability at SellHound. Her passion is building sustainable operational strategies for womxn-owned businesses to match their rising profits, courage, and value creation.
Carolyn Butler: Borobabi
"At Borobabi, we believe every family should have access to ethically & sustainably crafted clothing. Sustainability should not be a luxury."
Carolyn Butler is a chemical engineer turned Circular Economy Pioneer innovator in zero-waste design at Borobabi. Borobabi is a sustainable lifestyle brand that carries natural & organic children's clothes. They consider the full lifecycle of all their products, educate families about slow fashion & encourage everyone to care for their outgrown clothes.
Emily Wan: Movement Case
"Consumers should be expected to make minimal to no behavioral change because that’s the biggest deciding factor of the success of any sustainability initiative. They should be able to rely on businesses to figure out how to minimize their environmental impact and the effort needed to adopt a sustainable lifestyle."
Emily Wan is Founder of Movement Case, a recycled phone case that keeps old phone cases out of the landfill.
Megan Morrice: ValuesAdvisor
"Climate change is affecting all industries, and all industries must align to address it.
A large part of today's environmental movement is the recognition of the capital that fuels the status quo. Many people don’t think of themselves as an investor, but if you have a bank account or a retirement account you direct where money goes and can direct where it doesn’t go! Just paying attention to where your money spends the night and switching to a different bank, can have a huge effect on the total impact of your dollars."
Megan E. Morrice is the Head of Operations at ValuesAdvisor, a matchmaking platform for clients to find financial advisors who specialize in sustainable investing. She is passionate about helping individuals and organizations align their money with their values.
Christine Kohl-Zaugg: Sustainable San Mateo County
"To achieve true sustainability we need to keep all three E's in balance: the environment, social equity, and a green economy. The good news is that there are a lot of solutions out there. Coupled with greater awareness and a will to partner, collectively we can amplify our positive impact. Today, sustainability is no longer a luxury or a "nice to have." It is the smart - and only - way forward so that we can all continue to enjoy the same quality of life we've come to take for granted. Now and in the future. For all."
Christine Kohl-Zaugg, is the Executive Director for Sustainable San Mateo County is a local nonprofit with a vision of "a sustainable future for everyone in San Mateo County."
Sharmila Singh: New Lens Consulting
“Climate change is the biggest, most important, and most complex adventure humans will face. Take what you do best and apply your skills and talents to this cause. I guarantee that you will find fulfillment, fascination, and a distinction that puts you at the forefront of an emerging field.
If you’re an educator, engineer, or artist—become a climate educator, climate engineer, or climate artist. Explore what this intersection means for you and build your knowledge base accordingly. Start by thinking, “How can all facets of my company or organization think more sustainably, and what are the unique insights I can offer?” With this in mind, you can make significant impacts and build a career that is both fruitful and fulfilling.”
Sharmila Singh is the Founder and CEO of New Lens Consulting. A Career Coach, Sustainability Consultant, Teacher, and Connector, Sharmila has spent much of her career inspiring and supporting organizations committed to growing their business while implementing regenerative practices. Sharmila launched New Lens Consulting based on the belief that sound business strategy and making a positive impact on the world should go hand and hand.
Monica Park: Eleven Radius
"I want to encourage people who come into this work with a lot of integrity to find more people like them who have high integrity AND a practical and realistic approach to business. From my many years of experience, this is the most important combination and if you find it, it's gold. The fancy headlines and PR narratives are not the guides you're looking for. And if you'll allow me one more thing, I believe beauty is in execution, always. Keep trying to get your hands dirty working the principles of circularity and business discipline in a real-world, competitive environment. That is the only way we're going to change the course of business, in my opinion."
Monica Park is the Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of Eleven Radius, an action-focused industry group of dynamic, innovative circular fashion brands collaborating to displace linear models.
Sandy Skees: Porter Novelli
"We are rapidly waking up to the reality that the commons is in peril – that we need to care for the shared resources that none of us own, but we all depend upon – air, water, ecosystems, habitats, and social systems like education, healthcare, and the arts.
We are letting go of the paradigms and structures we’re so accustomed to that we don’t even see them anymore. Privilege, supremacy and domination, untrammeled capitalism. We are all beginning to see something new.
Seeing AND acting are required. I see so many in corporations asking the question: Does the world need what we’re making? Then, they ask… how are we making it, who makes it, what do we make it with? Who is it made for? What happens to it after it’s done? Every one of these questions is a giant ethical imperative that corporations are truly considering and changing themselves to address.
Because, to meet this moment, we need everyone, everywhere, reinventing everything."
Sandy Skees, Global Lead, Purpose & Impact at Porter Novelli. Porter Novelli is an award-winning, global purpose communications consultancy. They create lasting behavior change to drive measurable business results and positive societal impact.
Susan Wright: County of San Mateo Office of Sustainability
"Sustainability isn't just for people who think of themselves as environmentalists or 'green.' This past year has showed us that our community's health, economic vitality, and environmental stability are woven together. As we recover from a year impacted by the pandemic and a more public awareness of social inequities, we have the opportunity to rebuild a more sustainable, livable community. By working together across sectors -- public agencies, community-based organizations, small businesses, and large corporations -- and including voices that have typically been underrepresented, we can co-create innovative solutions to the complex challenges we face."
Susan Wright is a Sustainability Program Manager at the County of San Mateo Office of Sustainability in the San Francisco Bay Area. A department within the County Manager’s Office, the Office of Sustainability strives to improve the sustainability of the County’s operations and the greater community through work in areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency, resource conservation, alternative transportation, and greenhouse gas emission reductions.
Kathryn Kellogg: GoingZeroWaste
"Very rarely do we have waste problems; we have creative thinking problems.
It’s not about perfection; it’s about making better choices."
I'll end with what I want people to know this Earth Day: We need systemic change and individual change. Ultimately, the sustainable choice must also be the obvious choice. That’s not the case today. But the transition to a clean economy is happening now, and anyone can be a part of it. So just decide that you’re in. Then look for ways to make simple sustainable shifts. That's how we will change the system. As individuals, together. - Rebecca Kimber