Kindness

February 2023
Read full Newsletter

“You can count on me like one, two, three
I’ll be there
And I know when I need it, I can count on you like four, three, two
And you’ll be there
‘Cause that’s what friends are supposed to do”
Count on Me by Bruno Mars

Hello WIS Community –

Happy February! I’m hoping that your month is going well and treating you kind. While we know that February is full of love with Valentine’s Day, did you also know that February 17 is Random Acts of Kindness Day? This is a great reminder that big and even small gestures (a smile, holding the door open, letting a person merge in traffic, etc) are easy ways for people to connect. It’s also about being KIND to yourself as we continue to navigate a continuously changing world.

KINDNESS is my word for this month. I’ve been thinking lately, can acts of kindness help us create a more sustainable world? When we practice kindness to others, or kindness towards ourselves, there are countless positive outcomes. We create a ripple effect of kindness that goes beyond the person it was intended for, creating compassion within our communities and beyond. When we can count on each other and kindness is shown everywhere from the rooftop to the workplace to our personal groups and even amongst strangers on the streets – then, kindness starts to become collective effort with infinitely repayable results!

We use so many words when it comes to sustainability (carbon offsets, climate neutral, etc) that the average person can feel lost in the conversation. What if we moved towards more messaging around well-being instead of statistics for a positive and motivated reason to CARE? Let’s try it this month! What are ways that you can provide random acts of (green ) kindness into your routine? (Remember this doesn’t require spending a lot of money or time.) Need some ideas? Check out RAK’s website or this list here. Share with us how you plan to incorporate KINDNESS into your month. How does it make you feel? Do you think we can change the world with one small act of kindness at a time? Let us know!

We hope you will be KIND to yourself and join us this month at an upcoming event. We have a lot going on from book club, swaps to webinars about money and diversity, equity and inclusion. we are excited to partake in CO Environmental Film Fest as we support our members‘ world premiere of “A Good Neighbor” based on environmental justice in Commerce City, CO. We are also looking forward to partnering with Let Em Have It Salon for our unique networking event to kick off Women’s History Month on March 1. Check out all the information below.

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”~ Fred Rogers


Becky
Chief CARE Connector / Founder
becky@womeninsustainability.org
Calendly

GET TO KNOW OUR MEMBERS – Sarita

Sarita parikh (she/her)
glow + gather / Women in sustainability DEI chair

Do you have a specific area of sustainability that interests you the most? Why do you CARE about that specific area? (i.e. energy, water, waste, transportation, etc.) 

The intersectionality of social, environmental, and economic justice and how it is all connected drives me to look at not only the bigger picture of sustainability, but also how to compassionately break it down into its parts to more effectively address sustainability on a micro and macro level.

What interests / excites you most about being involved in (Women in) sustainability? Women in Sustainability has created a safe, compassionate, and purposeful environment to create connections, spread knowledge, and encourage activism. I always feel supported, welcome, energized and the warmth of community.

Finish this statement: I CARE Because … I CARE Because I believe we should leave the planet a better place than how we found it and always reach out to help each other thrive.

What are some self-care tips you like to share? 

To me the biggest tips for self-care are more about mindset – giving yourself permission to slow down, take a moment to yourself, to enjoy simple pleasures. Giving yourself and others grace, is to me, one of the biggest things you can do to find more peace within yourself and your life. And also to surrender and live in the flow of life. If you can find what brings you grounding, brings you to your center, it opens up so much more flow and abundance. Meditation has always been important to me. There is no right or wrong way to meditate, no rules to it. I think people put too much pressure on how it should be done or what should happen during it, and it shouldn’t be that way. And, some form of movement and exercise, even if it is for 15 minutes, always makes a difference. Creating rituals, however small, makes an everyday activity more centering, more in the present moment, more an act of self-care – use a favorite mug for your morning coffee and really appreciate it, use the expensive glasses for your wine, light a candle when you sit down for a meal, celebrate the moments large and small.

What is your favorite quote? 
I love our glow + gather tag line: glow to light your soul | gather to light the world; it embodies how I believe life should be lived. Finding and embracing what brings you joy, peace, and purpose – whatever that looks like for you, truly filling your soul, and from that place of fullness and light, reaching out into the world to connect, to gather, to lend a hand to help each other thrive, to make a difference in whatever way you can, in a way that inspires you and others, because together we rise. We have to take care of ourselves first and release the guilt and the glorification of busy, so we can not only find our joy and fulfillment, because we all deserve that, but also so we can take care of others and our planet with compassion and empathy.

What are some things that bring you joy? 
I love finding joy in the everyday moments as well as the larger moments that last forever. Cherishing that morning chai in a favorite mug, a quiet walk in the woods, gathering around a beautifully set table for a good meal with friends and family, a favorite drink in a beautiful glass, a dress that fits perfectly, my morning yoga practice, travelling – anywhere and everywhere, reading, stargazing, the view after and during a challenging climb, knowing I’ve made an impact in someone’s life.

Connect with Sarita:
Email: sarita@glowandgather.com
Website
FacebookInstagramLinkedIn

Community Voices Webinar February Topic:
Beyond DEI Basics – Why incorporating authentic diversity, equity and inclusion policies matter

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are buzzwords in today’s society. Many organizations (for profit and nonprofit) have updated their organizational policies to include a DEI statement. However, these policies tend to fall short of implementation and practice. Why? Many are created as part of the buzz and not a part of the plan. To truly be a diverse and equitable organization, we must look beyond the basics. Join this webinar as Sarita Parikh dives into the importance of incorporating authentic DEI practices, why it matters and provides tips on creating DEI policies that are embedded in the organizational culture. You’ll leave feeling inspired to move beyond the DEI basics to create a more authentic space where all are welcome.

Watch Replay.

Happiness

January 2023
Read full Newsletter

“Meet me in the crowd, people, people
Throw your love around, love me, love me
Take it into town, happy, happy
Put it in the ground where the flowers grow
Gold and silver shine

Shiny happy people holding hands”
Shiny Happy People by R.E.M.

Hello WIS –

Happy new year and welcome to 2023! I hope it’s been a riveting start to the year, or perhaps (like me), you’re just tip-toeing into it. Either way, I hope the first ten days have been amazing for each of you! Over the past few weeks there has been one word that seems to keep circling around me. That word is HAPPINESS. What does it mean? How do we achieve it? This past Sunday I was watching CBS Sunday Morning and a segment came on titled “Friendships, the key to Happiness”. Is that the answer? Then I read an excerpt from “Adrift: America in 100 Charts” that gloomily noted, “Community connections are fraying. Friendships are fading. In 1990, 40 percent of men and 28 percent of women reported having ten or more friends. By 2021, deep into the age of social media, a staggeringly low 15 percent of men and 11 percent of women said they had that many friends.” Galloway provides hope in his book and his first key idea is to find COMMUNITY by joining a club or organization. That’s why I’m SO excited to kick off our year with a “Just Be-Cause Happiness Hour” event on February 1 at Raices Brewing Company. Raices Brewing Co is rooted in COMMUNITY so a perfect spot to gather. Maybe together, we can find the key to happiness (hand holding not required) as we continue to navigate our daily lives in this strange world. I hope that each of you can find your happiness this year, whether it’s within the WIS community or elsewhere. We all deserve to find it!

We had so much fun in December wrapping up the year at our Holiday Beach Celebration at Wah Gwaan Brewing Company (photos below). We laughed, sang, ate and had merry ole time. Thanks to everyone that joined us. We’ll be bringing back this celebration again this year with even more beachin’ vibes!

We will also be bringing back our monthly Community Voices Webinar Series. This is a series that highlights our members and the work they are doing in sustainability. It’s a great way to get to know more about the WIS Community members and learn something new. We hope you’ll join us at one (or more) throughout the year. Who didn’t love recess as a kid? (That was my happiness!) Have you ever thought about the importance of recess as an adult? Well, Ashley DePaulis can tell you why recess is still important in our lives and some tips to incorporating it into your busy schedules. Join us as we kickoff this series with Ashley’s talk “Give Your Mind A Rest With Recess: Purposeful Play to Thrive in Business & in Life” on Wednesday, January 25 at 12:30pm MT.

We are finalizing our volunteer schedule with We Don’t Waste and other opportunities throughout the year so stay tuned. These are great events to gather in COMMUNITY and give back to those in need. (Fun Fact: Researchers have found a connection between happiness and the performance of selfless acts.)

Does money bring happiness? That’s for you to determine, but there is an importance of understanding your relationship with money to be (feel?) financially well. Meghan Lape with Conscious Impact Financial Planning will be taking us through a “Money Mindfulness” conversation and providing us with some tools we need to have a good relationship with money and why it’s important in our lives. According to The Pledgettes, “when more women take individual action or make money moves, our collective impact grows, leading to healthier, wealthier communities.” Financial health is a key priority for me this year, which is why I’m excited to be a member of The Pledgettes too. Want to learn about financial health? RSVP for this webinar and check out The Pledgettes. Oh and please do hold me accountable! I think more women should ask “how’s your investment portfolio” instead of “how’s the weather”.

Finally, this year is about books! Did you know that “people who read books regularly are on average more satisfied with life, happier, and more likely to feel the things they do in life are worthwhile” according to a 2013 survey by the Book Trust. Plus, it’s much more fun to read a book and share your insights with a COMMUNITY! That’s why we’re launching our quarterly WIS Book Club (thanks Zhuli for supporting this effort.) We’ll read 1 book a quarter but have opportunities to meet monthly to hold each other accountable and discuss our viewpoints. Our first book is “Braiding Sweetgrass” which is one of my favs! We’re also teaming up with Stephanie Vail and Jacki Carr for our first book swap on February 22. Bring a book, take a book and maybe find a little happiness (and friendships) along the way! Check out all of our book information below.

I keep saying I’ll keep these shorts, but we just have so much to share and I’m so excited (and happy) to be in this COMMUNITY with all of you. Thank you! The Board and I are working up great plans to bring you more ways to CARE this year. We can’t wait to share with all of you. Stay tuned for more events, resources, and so much more.

As always, my virtual door is open and I love to connect with this community. If you have ideas, thoughts or just need to chat, feel free to set up a time on my calendar. And remember to take care of YOU, too!

Wishing you all health, wealth and HAPPINESS this year!

Becky
Chief CARE Connector / Founder
becky@womeninsustainability.org
Calendly

GET TO KNOW OUR MEMBERS – Ashley

Ashley dEpaulis (she/her)
Embodied Success

Do you have a specific area of sustainability that interests you the most? Why do you CARE about that specific area? (i.e. energy, water, waste, transportation, etc.) 

At first I didn’t think I was a fit for the Women In Sustainability network, not in the traditional sense since my work is not related to environment and transportation. Once I spoke with Becky and she shared the CARE motto with me, I began thinking about how our health and our energy is directly impacted by our environment and vice versa. I CARE because we can’t do this work alone, nor can it be done in silos, it truly does take community, advocacy, resources and education.

What interests / excites you most about being involved in (Women in) sustainability? Learning various ways I can support co-creating a sustainable environment, along with sharing my voice and expertise as part of this symbiotic relationship. WIS takes me back to my public health roots and reminds me that co-leadership in a charged and challenging time is so important. I also look forward to having fun while building new relationships with friends and colleagues.

Finish this statement: I CARE Because … I CARE so much about the ecosystem of our health and wellbeing, and by raising our personal worth and value within feeds how we choose to take care of the environment. An imbalance occurs when we take care of one and not the other, it’s a symbiotic relationship!

What are some self-care tips you like to share? 

  1. Keep it simple superstar—KISS!
  2. Take recess breaks-—procrastinate on purpose and allow yourself to experience joyful moments throughout your day, whatever that means to you. This will improve your productivity and focus.
  3. Move, Breathe, Play—Repeat

What is your favorite quote? 
Right now it’s:
Angels can fly because they take themselves so lightly. -G.K. Chesterton
It reminds me that I’m not alone and not to take myself or anything else too seriously.

What are some things that bring you joy? 
Nature, movement, music and the people I love, especially my best companion dog, Sanders!

Connect with Ashley:
Email: ashley@theinnerathlete.co
Website
FacebookInstagramLinkedInYouTube

Community Voices Webinar January Topic:
Give Your Mind A Rest With Recess: Purposeful Play to Thrive in Business & in Life

Play is a source of aliveness, it let’s the kid within win! By giving your mind a rest you gain access to states of curiosity and flow. Join us to explore play as a practical self-care tool that helps you de-stress on demand, and make profitable decisions in business and in life.

Watch Replay.

COMMUNITY VOICES BLOG SERIES – December

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

GET TO KNOW OUR MEMBERS – December

Darcy nelson (she/her)
Chief Marketing Strategist,
Nelson Strategic Marketing

Do you have a specific area of sustainability that interests you the most? Why do you CARE about that specific area? (i.e. energy, water, waste, transportation, etc.) 

Waste reduction and regenerative food production are the most interesting areas of sustainability to me. I grew up in a town whose water supply was affected by a newly developed landfill in my teen years and this experience made it tangibly clear to me that there is no “away” when it comes to our trash and our lack of resource looping with materials. I’ve also learned a bit about the connection between soil health and human health and see the farmer and local food production as vital and often underappreciated facets of environmental care. How our food is grown and where it comes from affects our health and the planet’s health in massive ways.

What interests / excites you most about being involved in (Women in) sustainability? I truly enjoy being part of a network of women who care for the planet and one another. It’s encouraging to see a variety of people with varying passions and subject expertise areas work collaboratively for positive change and impact. Every sector can and should be committed to sustainability practices.

Finish this statement: I CARE Because … the earth is our only habitat, and the choices we make today impact the quality of life for future generations.

What are some self-care tips you like to share? 

My daily at-home yoga practice is an essential self-care habit that brings me a moment of peace before the day begins and helps get my lymph and muscles moving and working before a day in front of a screen. For me, yoga can be a moving form of meditation and self-love.

I’ve also started tapping into mindfulness and guided meditation with the help of apps and videos. Sometimes life is so hectic and my mind is so full I need the extra support to just breathe and set it all aside for a few minutes.

When the weather is warm enough, my favorite form of self-care is biking to a park with my hammock and taking a nap or reading a book while enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. It feels so carefree and removed from the adult stresses of life.

What is your favorite quote? 
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” – John Burroughs

What are some things that bring you joy? 
Using Music as Medicine brings me joy! I’m a songwriter and have a silly song about how much I love farmers’ markets that I hope to dust off and share soon. I also love biking when the weather and logistics allow it. It feels good to conserve gas and get some exercise in at the same time. Dancing anywhere and anytime also brings me joy. Hit me up the next time you want to go two-stepping or have a ladies’ night out!

Check out Darcy’s TEDx Talk “Music is Medicine

Connect with Darcy:
Email: darcy@nelsonstrategicmarketing.com
Website
FacebookInstagramLinkedIn

GET TO KNOW OUR MEMBERS – November

Kayla Ferguson (she/her)
The Same plate, owner/founder

Do you have a specific area of sustainability that interests you the most? Why do you CARE about that specific area? (i.e. energy, water, waste, transportation, etc.) 

-Food access and food waste mitigation: I believe that access to healthy food should be a right, not just a privilege. Additionally, food waste is incredibly harmful as it relates to greenhouse gas emissions – and it can be so easy to mitigate with composting and thoughtful consumption!
-Ocean conservation: every second breathe we take (even in landlocked Colorado!) comes from the ocean. Protecting the ocean and keeping it alive is protecting ourselves and keeping ourselves alive.

What interests / excites you most about being involved in (Women in) sustainability? I absolutely love being involved in an inclusive community that cares about all aspects of sustainability. Community makes every initiative stronger.

Finish this statement: I CARE Because … we only have one planet and the opportunity to cherish and protect it in this lifetime is not just a responsibility to me, but an honor.

How do you like to give back to your community? Why is this important to you? 
I try to give back to my community holistically through the three main resources I see constantly interplaying with each other: time, money and energy.

At any given time, one (or two) of these might be in more abundance than the other. If I commit to giving from all three of these resources pretty consistently, and then giving more from whatever resource might be overflowing when it’s available, I can feel like I’m consistently giving back in a way that is sustainable for me.

So, I do have a handful of organizations I donate to every month, and I increase the amount I’m able to give as I’m able. I also have a handful of organizations I consistently sign up to volunteer for, and pick up a few extra shifts when I find myself with a little extra time. And, when I have the energy, I love engaging in advocacy and inspiring others to get involved.

I do find that to give back effectively and consistently, I have to prioritize and plan for it like I would anything else of importance.

What is your favorite quote? 
My (current) favorite quote is from the Dalai Lama and it says, “‘If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

I love this for a couple of reasons. For one, I appreciate the humor. Secondly, I think it really gets to the root of “every action matters.” This is important for people in their daily lives when they feel like they are stuck in the mud – every small step in the direction you want to go counts. And it’s also very relevant to sustainability; our climate challenges our huge and sometime’s a single person’s compost bin seems insignificant, but it’s not, and every victory, every action, every intention, it matters.

Connect with Kayla:
Email: kayla.ferguson@thesameplate.com
FacebookInstagram

GET TO KNOW OUR MEMBERS – October

Leticia Socal (she/her)
Sr. Manager, Plastics & Recycling at ClimeCo

Do you have a specific area of sustainability that interests you the most? Why do you CARE about that specific area? (i.e. energy, water, waste, transportation, etc.) All my academic and professional background is in plastics. I believe I have a role to help reduce the impact plastics have in our lives. I do that in my own work and also through community education.

What interests / excites you most about being involved in (Women in) sustainability? I love being connected to such amazing and powerful women. Even living far away, I feel so close to them! I’ve met Elizabeth Boulos in person last month and can’t wait to meet others when I FINALLY make my trip to Colorado!

Finish this statement: I CARE Because … I CARE because I want the next generations to have a happy joyful life.

Connect with Leticia:
LinkedIn

COMMUNITY VOICES BLOG SERIES – September

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 hemingwayapp.com. 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

GET TO KNOW OUR MEMBERS – September

Kelcie Ottoes (she/her)
Founder, Kelcie Ottoes Copywriting

Do you have a specific area of sustainability that interests you the most? Why do you CARE about that specific area? (i.e. energy, water, waste, transportation, etc.) I’m a huge soil nerd. I think that the microorganisms that live, grow, and support plant life fascinates me. I went down such a rabbit hole the day I found out about mycelium networks. And, as an avid gardener, understanding soil health also helps me reduce my overall carbon footprint.

I’ve also found the accessibility of sustainability really interesting over the last year, which is part of the reason I’m teaching the webinar I am. For a long time, I couldn’t understand issues like global warming, so I buried my head in the sand and tried to ignore it. The moment someone wants to understand, we have to give them the resources available to do so. I’ve made it my mission to create relatable, accessible copy driven by stories to help increase retention.

What interests / excites you most about being involved in sustainability? This is one of the most supportive, caring, and intentional group of folks on the planet. I love the full circle, holistic approach that’s taken to provide educational, fun, and actionable opportunities for all of the group members.

Finish this statement: I CARE Because … if not me, who?

What interests /​ excites you most about being involved in sustainability? I’m grateful I found a way to use my superpower (writing and telling a great story) to help sustainable brands be more relatable and approachable. It sounds cheesy, but it really is an honor to support the folks who are doing the work to save the planet.

What are one or two of your favorite sustainability tips or tricks that you like to share with others? Composting is one of the easiest things to do in the entire world and it makes a HUGE impact on the amount of waste sent to landfill, as well as supports your garden. Win/win!

What are some of your favorite podcasts, books, documentaries, etc that you recommend to those looking to engage more in the environmental space? I really enjoy the “Make Climate Cool Again” podcast, as well as the “Keep Climate Cool” podcast. Both can help you explore businesses you could support.

What are some things that bring you joy? My dogs, husband, and a trail without any trash.

Connect with Kelcie:
Email: kelcie@kelcieottoescopywriting.com
InstagramLinkedInNewsletter