Why I’m Passionate About Sustainability: Lived Experiences with Contaminants
by Darcy Nelson

I grew up in rural Western Washington nestled in a beautiful valley surrounded by forested hills. The air was clear, the forests were thick and mystical, and my experience of nature was one of curiosity, appreciation, and respect. 

In my teenage years, our local trash collection service purchased a segment of land near my small town to build a new landfill. I remember much debate and controversy from the community over the project as it was likely to obstruct views of Mount Rainier from the highway leading to our small town. 

The project went through, and it did begin to rise to heights that obscured views of the mountain from our scenic highway. Eventually, black plastic could be seen covering the growing mound. Pockets of methane gas began to bubble and balloon from below, and my father raised his eyebrows doubting how well that plastic was holding toxins from releasing into the air. 

One day I found a yellow slip of paper in our mail warning residents like myself that contaminants had been found in our drinking water. The mailer said that elderly and pregnant people were advised to not drink the water, but that everyone else could still drink the water — apparently because the contamination levels “were so low.”  I thought back to the movie, Erin Brokovich and felt upset knowing that the water supply wasn’t really safe, but what could I do? I was trying to figure out my steps after high school and moved away shortly after, choosing to fight other battles in life. 

While I didn’t study to become an ecologist or environmental health professional, the memory of this environmental injustice is visceral — our trash doesn’t go “away” and our consumption and disposal choices degrade the planet for us, our neighbors, and our future generations. 

About My Work:

I studied organizational communications in college, and for the past 10 years, I have worked in digital marketing for an assortment of brands, nonprofits, and small businesses. I’m part of a generation that remembers life before smartphones. We’ve been a living experiment for the growth of platforms and devices designed to be addicting, but also useful and vital to life and success. 

Finding a balance between self-care and screen time is still a bit of a Wild West. We are learning how to balance self-awareness with the reliance on tools that use our innate psychological rewards systems to hook us into more and more use. Social media platforms call us “users” (a word I find uncomfortably associated with addiction). 

In my work: 

I help brands chart strategies for growth while reducing resource waste (time and money). It is a joy to offer my services to solopreneurs, small businesses, and aspiring influencers crafting their best life through self-employment and side hustles.

Learn & Connect With Fellow Goal Getters: 

I am excited to share free tips, tools, and strategies in an upcoming Webinar with Women in Sustainability. 

December 7th | 12:30 PM (Mountain). 

“Using Strategy To Sustain Marketing & Social Media Goals” 

Five practical tips and strategies to see an impact from your screen time and sustain your goals while avoiding burnout. 

What you’ll learn:

  • Why you should use strategy when approaching your screen time
  • Tips for building a brand without burnout:
    • How to spend your time on platforms that align with your goals
    • How to repurpose content to save time 
    • How to measure your impact from your screen time
  • Time management hacks and tips to navigate the infinity pools of the online world

Why you should attend this:

We all need reminders to balance our screentime healthfully, and as we head into a new year this is a great time to not only take stock of goals for 2023, but to take stock of your most precious resource — your time — and ensure that you’re using it wisely and sustainably to support your passions and projects. 

If you’d like to make connections with other savvy and collaborative folks, there will be some time to explore how we can share knowledge with each other as we continually advance our skills in our industries and sectors of business and influence. 

Darcy Nelson • Nelson Strategic Marketing


Accessible Sustainable Writing: Tips for Writing to Include the Masses
by kelcie ottoes

Photo by guille pozzi on Unsplash

I grew up in a home where we didn’t believe in climate change. We didn’t have nice things to say about Al Gore. And, my science classes competed for my least favorite classes against math every year. There was something about sustainability, climate change, and science that felt inaccessible and boring to me. 

But, there were major turning points in my life that made me realize climate change isn’t something you believe in – it’s something that’s happening regardless of what you, or anyone else, believes. 

I met people in college who I regarded as incredibly intelligent, and their undeniable belief in climate change made me question what I believed. 

In an environmental science class my professor had to coddle her sophomores who were freaking out because she told us there would be irreversible damage and consequences to the planet if we didn’t make significant changes to the way the world ran. 

I began to notice the waste, the pollution, the smog, the heat, and the extreme weather patterns. After one summer of continuous fires I decided enough was enough. I had gone from someone who didn’t believe in climate change to someone who had decided to dedicate her career to combating it.

Today, I am a copywriter for sustainable brands.  

But, one might ask… how? How did I go from not believing to caring so much? And how can we replicate that to get others voting in alignment, working to hold major carbon emitters accountable, and living a more zero waste lifestyle? 

It starts with a story about a whale, and it ends with sharing more stories like it – stories that are sustainable, empathetic, and accessible to all of us. 

The Story of a Whale

There was once a whale named Tahlequah who gave birth to a calf in 2018. Unfortunately the calf didn’t make it and died an hour or so after the birth. The mother, in unimaginable grief to many of us, wasn’t ready to let her baby go. 

When orcas die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean. Rather than let her calf sink, Tahlequah nudged her calf to the surface of the ocean to keep it afloat. 

If she did this for one day it would’ve been moving. If she did it for a handful of days, it would’ve been tragic and remarkable. With help from her pod, Tahlequah kept her calf afloat for 17 days. This dedication to keeping her calf afloat was coined the “tour of grief” and lasted for one thousand of miles

Her tour garnered the attention of a lot of folks. At the time, the pod had gone five years without a successful birth and had been on the endangered species list for 13 years. One of the main issues was that orcas can’t find enough fish to eat. Unfortunately, their food, Chinook salmon, is also on the endangered species list. Couple that with noise pollution and toxic pollutants, and there’s a lot stacked against this whale population. 

Tahlequah prompted local and regional governments and people to take action. One dam was taken down on the Elwha River to increase the salmon population in the pod’s habitat. In 2020, Tahlequah had another calf, known as J57, a male who is happy and healthy.

This story has stuck with me since the day I heard it. Every time I see the photo of the mother whale, holding her dead child to the surface, my heart breaks. Beyond Tahlequah’s incredible performance, why is this story one that moves us towards fighting climate change? 

One that nags in the back of my head when I try to take a break, urging me to push a little further? 

Why was it one to bring down dams?

Afterall, these whales had been endangered for 13 years before we could get one dam down.  

Make Sustainable Information Accessible  

This story made an impact on so many people because it was accessible. 

When I say accessible, what I mean is that most folks were able to hear, understand, and re-tell this story so others could understand it. Did you know that the average reading level for an American is a 5th grade reading level? When we’re writing about climate change, we need to recognize who we’re keeping the story from when using high level academia style writing. 

You’ll be hard pressed to find a version of this story that includes whale anatomy, or complex diction that anyone who made it to 5th grade wouldn’t know. 

“A whale’s calf died and the mother carried it for 17 days.” 

You could tell it to anyone, and then they could tell it to their mom later on the phone. 

“Hey, did you hear about the whale?” 

By making the information readable for those with a lower reading level, we can help them access the story, and we can help them share it with others. Another story about a sea creature that stuck with all of us was, “Have you seen the video of the turtle getting a straw pulled out of its nose?” 

So, beyond avoiding academic, inaccessible jargon, how do you make your stories accessible? 

Shorten your sentence lengths. When you write longer, more complex sentences, there’s a chance of losing your readers. One great tool you can use to find out if your sentences are too complex is This website will tell you if your sentences are hard to read, or very hard to read. 

When it comes to talking about complex subjects (this is sustainability, it’s unavoidable), make content that acts as a building block for more complex subjects. By providing readers with all the information, rather than assuming they know, or that they will Google terms outside of the 5th grade reading level, will help them access the information easier. When you don’t create building block information, you put the burden on the reader to find the information they don’t have. 

And, the truth of the matter is, they likely aren’t going to seek out unknown information unless they’re really interested.  

Last, keep in mind that as human beings, we communicate in stories. Tahlequah’s deep sorrow and strength led Americans to action. When we hear her story, we can’t help but think, “I have to do something. Anything.” In that desire to help we have the opportunity to influence the future. 

It’s a different story than, “Whales are going extinct and are currently on the endangered species list for a multitude of reasons.” 

I wish the second story inspired action, but unless you’re an oceanographer or a whale scientist, it likely doesn’t. 

Empathy: We’re All Tired of Doom Scrolling

One way storytelling went wrong in the sustainable world is that we became hyper focused on the worst of the worst of what could happen. Seas rising, animals going extinct, populations competing for resources, and death are all very real, genuine concerns. 

But you’re placing those concerns up against institutionalized racism, mass murders due to lack of gun control and regulations, and widespread mental health in decline. 

We’re physically incapable of caring deeply about all of these things. And, the unfortunate truth is that we simply don’t want to be inconvenienced. We can doom scroll and then go to bed knowing that our life is ok, and sleep. Couple that with the inability to see a way forward, especially when working on an issue that’s hard to understand, and most people give up. 

We doom scroll because we’re desensitized. Doom isn’t working. If it was working, we would’ve saved the planet by now, because there’s plenty of doom to go around. Instead, we have to find ways to lead with opportunities, stories, and tangible ways forward. 

How do we help save the whales? We take the damn down.

How do we help save the sea turtles? We stop using straws.

How do we reduce the number of single occupancy, gas operated vehicles on the road? We take public transportation, buy an EV, ride our bikes, or grab a ride with a friend. 

Saving whales, sea turtles, and reducing the gas emissions on our planet aren’t as simple as those steps. But those steps get us started, and those first steps have a likelihood of inspiring other changes. 

How can we make our stories empathetic and actionable? 

Inclusivity: Worry About the Planet, Not the Grammar 

I’m about to tell some of you something that’s going to make you uncomfortable, but I hope you sit with it for a minute… Your grammar policing is a racist, classist, outdated and oppressive practice. 

The point of communication is to share a story. If the story is still communicated from one person to the next, then we’ve accomplished what we’ve set out to do – communicate information. 

Correcting folks who write or talk differently than “Standard American English” is actually keeping others from feeling confident in telling stories and sharing experiences. What you’re telling them is that sustainability stories are not for them, and they shouldn’t be a part of them. And, we need everyone. 

Rather than focusing on the grammar, focus on creating a space for diverse voices to speak up, especially considering that marginalized voices are the most likely to be affected by climate change. When we make room for diverse voices, and allow folks to code mesh over code switch, we include more people in the story of sustainability and climate change.

And, again, we need all of us. 

Accessible, Empathic, and Inclusive Sustainable Writing Can Change the World  

When you remember the reasons you decided to get involved in combating climate change, what stories come to mind? 

Did you get tired of surfing with trash in the ocean? 

Did you lose your home to an unexpected wildfire? 

Did you hear that bees were going extinct and planted 100 flowers in your front yard instead of grass?

Chances are, your stories are as straightforward as mine. A whale kept her dead calf afloat for 17 days. The smartest people I’ve ever met believe in climate change. A professor of mine took the time to explain climate change well enough, the whole class panicked.  

Its stories like these, that are simple, accessible, easy to re-tell, and inclusive to everyone who hears them, are our biggest asset to reverse climate change. Start making your stories more accessible, and who knows what change it will inspire. 

Kelcie Ottoes • Kelcie Ottoes Copywriting


Finding common ground to make sustainability conversations relatable BY JESSI BURG

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

We’ve all had an experience where we think we say something innocuous, and someone responds “oh, let’s not talk politics.” But for many of us, our very existence is considered political – and that makes it hard to have conversations about sustainability, climate change, and the ways these issues affect our lives. Recently, the US Supreme Court has passed a plethora of opinions gutting protections for women, indigenous peoples, the environment, and more. Some are hailing these as victories, while others are literally in fear for their lives. So what can we do? How do we hold on to hope and the decades of work we’ve already committed?

For me, it’s by remembering to be kind, wherever I can. Kindness is often the most important part of introducing change. Everyone wants to lead a safe and happy life, but finding ways to make life safe and happy for everyone is a tricky challenge. Often, what makes one person feel safe actively harms someone else – and these feelings are at the crux of the climate change conversation.

As an example, let’s look at Weld County (1). Weld is one of the more conservative counties in Colorado, and gets a bad reputation for its support of oil and gas. Though only 4% of the population works in oil and gas extraction, it has the third highest average wage – behind “Management of Companies and Enterprises” and “Utilities”. Not only that, but at $113,000 per year, an average mining job pays nearly double the county average of $63,000. If you want to make a good wage in Weld County, oil and gas is one of the best ways to do it. When you ask residents of Weld County to vote against these industries, you’re asking them to vote against high paying jobs without providing a clear alternative.

Grappling with this dichotomy is one of the hardest parts of talking about sustainability. How do you manage the fact that some towns wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for mining industries, oil and gas, or coal mining? How do you find solutions that acknowledge that a more sustainable world means many of those towns will die?

At the best of times, empathy and compassion can be difficult. Under the current political climate, finding common ground is a formidable ask. It’s easy to help your friend who has broken their ankle to go grocery shopping. There’s a clear solution, a starting/ending date, and everyone agrees what the problem is. It has solid metrics. Nothing about the sustainability world meets this criteria.

Finding solutions to global problems is an inherently local issue. Finding ways to talk about those problems requires input across all economic classes, industries, and walks of life. It is an overwhelming challenge and there is so much more that goes into how we have to approach these issues. Cultural issues and “isms” (racism, sexism, classism) typically get rolled into how we talk about it and that puts many of us on the defensive.

So what do we do about it? Like so many things, it starts with personal reflection and growth. If we want to be able to create truly equitable solutions, we have to be able to listen to viewpoints we don’t agree with. This requires kindness and patience on a scale often reserved for preschool teachers. We need a way to talk about these issues while still retaining both our values and our ability to listen. It also means recognizing that there is information you likely don’t have.

A common topic in sustainability is managing the rural/urban divide, and how we handle our recycling is an excellent example of how our available information differs. Many rural communities don’t have recycling infrastructure. The Producer Responsibility Act passed earlier this year in Colorado will help create the infrastructure, but nevertheless, the task is daunting. It’s compounded further by the constant confusion for many around what is and is not recyclable in the first place. I live in Delta County, and the nearest recycling drop off for me is twenty minutes away. There are no options for safe hazardous waste disposal or industrial composting. Most people handle their organic waste by burning and in the springtime, the air is hazy with smoke from field and ditch burning. (For those not familiar with agricultural towns, burning is a common way to clear a field or irrigation ditch of last year’s growth, creating space for new planting and keeping channels clear for water flow.)

It will be a long and arduous process to generate the infrastructure needed. Once the infrastructure exists, we still need buy in from the local community, funding for ongoing education about how to use new programs, and long term management of the programs themselves. When I talk about the barriers to people I know who live in urban areas, they’re unaware these hurdles exist. It’s easy to assume people aren’t recycling because they don’t agree with it or they’re lazy. And in some cases, maybe that’s true, but for a lot of us, we can’t make more sustainable choices when the options don’t exist. In these conversations, step one is to agree on what the problem actually is. 

Even once we know what the problem is, we rarely have the right answer for how to solve it. Generating space within ourselves to be able to sympathize, empathize, and have compassion for other beings is hard, especially when they disagree with us. Climate change is a real issue that requires change from wildly disparate populations around the globe. However, even within the realm of climate change, we run into opposing opinions. Some people think that climate change is real, but isn’t caused by human activity. Then there’s the people who don’t think it’s happening at all. Then there are still others who believe it is in fact happening, humans are the cause, and we need to make better choices but aren’t sure where to start. 

Starting a conversation with “I think you’re wrong” isn’t likely to get your desired result. When we have these conversations, remember to think about where the other person is coming from. The more you practice this, the better you will get at listening. The more you listen, the easier it will be to find common ground. I start with the basic premise that everyone wants to live a safe and happy life. The things that make us feel safe are also things most people have in common: we want a stable place to live, we want a community, we want a regular source of food and water. 

Practicing these conversations and discovering within yourself how to approach them with kindness is counter to a lot of the things we learn in American culture. We’re taught that it’s more important to be right than to be kind. The American Dream tells us that helping others and accepting help is wrong – the true way to success is pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. The reality is that kindness gets us farther than anything else. Finding common ground lets us agree on the problem and start conversations where there are no good answers. Recognizing that there are no good answers opens the door to new questions, new curiosities and creates a path to better solutions. 

Practicing kindness and listening begets the ability to have conversations around the real issues facing all communities. Local solutions require local answers – and that means sharing knowledge (and questions) on a global scale. 

  1. Weld County Map, accessed 7/8/2022.

Jessi Burg • Outgrow Your Garage


Intro to Zero Waste
by Carrie martin Haley & Libby Bloom

Photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash

Taking that first step toward zero waste living can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! Join Carrie Martin-Haley of Summit Sustainable Goods and Libby Bloom of The Crooked Carrot for an intro to the world of zero waste and learn how you can break it down into simple actionable steps. 

In the Zero Waste Basics workshop, you’ll learn what zero waste is all about, the essential components of a low waste lifestyle, and examples of how to reduce your daily landfill footprint. Through this interactive workshop, you will have a chance to reflect on your everyday routine habits, and brainstorm concrete, measurable ways to reduce waste in your daily life. You will leave with an exclusive zero waste workbook, ready with your actionable goals to start (or continue) your zero waste journey. The curriculum encourages you to tailor your goals to your own lifestyle, so whether you’re a seasoned zero waster, or new to the concept, you’ll walk away with next steps that you can implement right away at home. 

Co-host Carrie Martin-Haley is the founder of Summit Sustainable Goods, a zero-waste shop serving Colorado and beyond. Summit Sustainable Goods sells eco-friendly and plastic-free household and personal care products, including refills, online and through local pop-ups. With an emphasis on Colorado and US-made products, Summit Sustainable Goods is designed to provide high-quality and sustainable products for your everyday life with minimal environmental impact. Carrie’s background in education has led to a strong focus on intimidation-free zero waste education and providing a safe space for individuals to learn about zero waste and engage with more sustainable living.

Co-host Libby Bloom is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and founder of The Crooked Carrot, a weight-inclusive nutrition practice that helps people create a peaceful relationship with food, find movement they enjoy, and nourish themselves in a way that also supports a healthy planet. Libby is passionate about working to keep our planet beautiful and she enjoys helping people reduce their waste in a non-judgmental and compassionate way that works in their everyday lives and aligns with their values. 

Carrie and Libby define zero waste as “practicing lifestyle choices that create less landfill”, and lean into the shame-free exploration of sustainable living through multiple lenses. They have collaborated on previous workshops to educate the public about zero waste, and look forward to extending their workshops through the Women In Sustainability platform. Together, they address zero waste through the discussion of conscious consumer choices, nutrition, and daily behavior shifts, offering a muti-faceted approach to lessening your everyday waste.

This interactive workshop provides a way for Women In Sustainability community members to empower themselves to make small eco-minded adjustments to their daily habits and purchasing practices. By reducing the waste we all consume on an individual basis and as a society, we can reduce the demand for landfills, decrease plastic consumption, minimize plastic pollution, and connect more intentionally with our daily habits as powerful tools to address the climate crisis.

Have any questions? Want to learn more? Shoot Carrie an email at

Carrie Martin-Haley • Summit Sustainable Goods


Embedding Sustainability in Business Operations

Photo by Josh Power on Unsplash

You live and breathe sustainability and supporting the planet, right? Sustainability is in every fiber of your being! But is it embedded in every fiber of your business operations? Protecting the planet goes beyond just a value you hold when you’re in business – it needs to be engrained in the work that is being done by everyone who touches your business.

Today let’s talk about what are the critical operations management systems necessary to embed sustainability in day-to-day business. Here is a high-level rundown:

  • Operations management system is the blueprint for how a company does work – it is meant to support the whole organization from the top down.
  • Circular approach in which leaders are supporting employees, who are supporting the operations, and feedback is returned and acted upon at all levels.
  • Goals and metrics that are related to sustainability – equal to and integrated with production and revenue related metrics, they could be:
    • Lagging indicators (output after an event occurs): Energy consumption, emissions, water usage, waste, supply chain
    • Leading indicators (input before an event occurs): Sustainability project efforts, pre-implementation sustainability audit, environmental audits, employee training
  • Communications – leaders need to be able to clearly explain what the company goals are, why they are important, what they are doing to support the goals and what employee’s roles are in the company efforts
  • Written requirements and instructions for how work is performed (standard operating procedures (SOPs), standard work, processes, operating instructions) and those should include sustainability measures. Ideally there isn’t a separate document for the same task, otherwise it isn’t viewed as one in the same.
  • Tools and equipment: should be aligned with sustainability initiatives.
  • Training: Training is important to ensure that all employees have the same understanding of how to perform their work and how environmental efforts tie into the work that they perform.

What are best practices to engage employees in sustainability initiatives?

  • Employee engagement efforts are important to gain buy in and to get important insights into how work is performed.
  • A great tactic is to include sustainability as a part of each employees’ annual performance goals with tangible activities that can be performed to meet those goals.
  • Employee-led committees with leadership support.
  • Department representatives for sustainability and environmental efforts.
  • Leadership should highlight those efforts to the entire organization so that everyone understands the importance.

As business leaders, how do we know if we’re succeeding in embedding sustainability in the organization?

  • Conduct assessments or audits to verify within the operations and conduct a root cause analysis for any issues or gaps that arise
  • Get feedback from employees: Circular feedback loop when an employee submits concerns, Townhalls, Employee surveys – most importantly, this should be a regular conversation that is happening internally so that its normalized and not just a ‘check-the-box’ activity.

Have any questions? Want to learn more? Shoot me an email at

Brie DeLisi Zoller • Brie Z Operations