COMMUNITY VOICES SERIES – July

Finding common ground to make sustainability conversations relatable BY JESSI BURG

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com 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

GET TO KNOW OUR MEMBERS – July

Jessi Burg (she/her/hers)
CEO / Outgrow your garage

Occupation: CEO of Outgrow Your Garage

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 tend to focus on the overlap of accessibility and sustainability, and how to incorporate it into our daily lives and choices. We need to be realistic about what systemic changes need to occur in order for people to start thinking about sustainability. Sometimes, that’s someone who lives in a rural area and does not have access to recycling or composting, or sometimes it’s someone living in poverty and their main priority is where they will get their next meal. In those cases, the question becomes more about solving the barriers to access than how to make sustainable choices.

Finish this statement: I CARE Because … In Guardians of the Galaxy, Rocket Raccoon asked “What did the galaxy ever do for you? Why would you want to save it?” and Peter Quill answered “Because I’m one of the idiots who lives in it!” Which is a good reason for wanting to save it, but also because it’s nice living in a nice place, whatever nice means to you. On a human rights level, everyone should have access to clean air and water and the fact we don’t is absurd.

What are one or two of your favorite sustainability tips or tricks that you like to share with others? Worm composting! Worm bins can be scaled to whatever sized space you have available, whether that’s an industrial sized worm bin, or a tiny Tupperware container you can keep in your bathroom (speaking from experience). Basically, anyone can worm compost! My other favorite is utilizing your local library. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love the library. It’s this huge source of information where I don’t have to buy anything and the resources are shared. Some places even have tool libraries that rent out house supplies and tools. This is a good option for when you don’t need whatever tool it is all the time- try to rent or borrow instead!

What are you most excited about when it comes to being a Women in Sustainability Member? I like that I can ask for resources, and they appear! It’s so refreshing to be part of a community of women who are willing to help each other out.

Connect with Jessi:
Email: jessi@outgrowyourgarage.com
Website • FacebookLinkedIn
Outgrow Your Garage Co-Working Sessions

GET TO KNOW OUR MEMBERS – June

Representative Lisa Cutter (she/her/hers)
Colorado State Representative for House District 25
Candidate for State Senate in Senate District 20

Karen Bartlett (she/her/hers)
Kite & Dart Group and Now & Center Podcast

Occupation: Colorado State Representative for House District 25 and Candidate for State Senate in Senate District 20

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 care about all of it but have focused my work on achieving Zero Waste. I love Colorado and the natural beauty we live in, and I’m passionate about protecting our lands and resources. I believe in being a good steward of our environment, which includes curtailing our product consumption and thoughtfully disposing of our waste. Reducing plastic consumption and improving recycling (keeping things out of landfills!) can make a huge difference in our battle against climate change.

What interests / excites you most about being involved in sustainability? I love working with like-minded people to do something to make the world better. Protecting our resources and our environment is foundational – enjoying nature and having clean air and water sustains us, contributing to our physical and mental health.

Finish this statement: I CARE Because … because if the earth can no longer sustain life we will have nothing. We are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, from wildly unpredictable weather to rising ocean levels and raging wildfires. These are life and death issues – especially for marginalized populations. In addition, many are already experiencing significant stress anxiety about climate change. I love the beautiful world we live in, and am driven to help preserve and protect it for future generations.

What are one or two of your favorite sustainability tips or tricks that you like to share with others? Use refill stores for dish, laundry and hand soap, and reuse every plastic bag possible – including bags from pre-cut veggies and bread. Purchase bamboo cutlery and keep it in your purse or car!

What are you most excited about when it comes to being a Women in Sustainability Member? I am the co-chair of the Colorado Democratic Women’s Caucus and I have seen what amazing things can be accomplished when women support each other. Women share a unique perspective and often have to navigate entrenched gender dynamics in the workplace. These challenges inform how we work together and influence the decisions we make. I love working with and learning from powerful, passionate women to create change!

Connect with Lisa:
Email: lisa.cutter.colorado@gmail.com
Website • FacebookTwitter

Occupation: Entrepreneurial Activist | JEDI-Informed Business Growth Strategist | Leadership Consultant + Facilitator | Educator – – Kite + Dart Group | Ascension Energetics | Now & Center Podcast

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 don’t have a specific area of sustainability that interests me the most, as I believe ALL areas are intricately tied together and cannot be separated. I’d also add that I’m very passionate about the social aspects of sustainability.

Finish this statement: I CARE Because … because it matters. I’m deeply committed to creating a world that is loving and affirming to all life, and where there is both environmental and social justice. All life is connected, and because of this, nobody is truly liberated until we are all liberated. So, if we’re ever going to live in the kind of world I want to live in, it will take all of us caring, all of us transforming how we walk on this planet.

What are one or two of your favorite sustainability tips or tricks that you like to share with others? Using microfiber clothes, water, and homemade cleaning products to clean my house; taking reusable collapsible containers to restaurants to pack any leftovers in to bring home; using cloth napkins, handkerchiefs, etc. to limit paper products.

What are you most excited about when it comes to being a Women in Sustainability Member? I’m most excited about the community of like-minded people that care about the things I care about. Sometimes the challenges we’re facing feel very big and insurmountable, and it’s very comforting to know there are others who care as deeply as I do and are taking action. Also, I get to learn about more ways I can have an impact and the ways others are having an impact.

Connect with Karen:
Email: karen@kiteanddartgroup.com
Website • LinkedIn • Podcast

COMMUNITY VOICES SERIES – May

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@summitsustainablegoods.eco

Carrie Martin-Haley • Summit Sustainable Goods

GET TO KNOW OUR MEMBERS – May

Lara Smedley (she/her/hers)
Smedley Events

Carrie Martin-Haley (she/her/hers)
Summit Sustainable Goods

Occupation: Event Producer/Owner, Smedley Events

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 love utilizing events to connect people with their community and environment. Events have the power of bringing people of varying backgrounds together and creating experiences that uncover commonality. This can help spark a new idea, or change that creates a better world for all.

Finish this statement: I CARE Because … doing the right thing matters.

What are one or two of your favorite sustainability tips or tricks that you like to share with others? Go paperless! I try whenever possible to not print anything. I have reusable vinyl banners that we print new dates (and attach with velcro) each year. Saves time, money and the environment!

What are you most excited about when it comes to being a Women in Sustainability Member? I am most excited about seeing this community grow and supporting my amazing friend Becky Migas!

Connect with Lara:
Email: lara@smedleyevents.com
Website • FacebookInstagram • LinkedIn

Occupation: Founder at Summit Sustainable Goods

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.) Zero waste is a passion of mine because it’s a simple and effective way to engage with environmentalism from an everyday perspective. Through minimizing the waste we produce as individuals and as a society, we can reduce the amount of trash that collects in landfills on an annual basis. This shift to a circular economy reduces land and water pollution, decreases emissions, and minimizes dependency on single-use items. Zero waste empowers both individuals and communities to shift behavior changes to more sustainable practices and embrace mindful consumption.

What interests / excites you most about being involved in sustainability? I love being involved in sustainability because it provides an outlet for individuals to connect with each other and the natural environment through both small and large decisions to make the world a better place. Through sustainability we can connect with current and future generations to ensure a safe planet where we can thrive. Sustainability excites me because it allows me to establish connections with people from all walks of life and work together towards a clean and healthy world for everyone. For me, it’s about seeing both the small details and the large picture; how the small decisions we make every day impact the kind of world we choose to live in.

Finish this statement: I CARE Because … I see a world in which people and the planet can thrive harmoniously, and where individuals, communities, and societies can work collaboratively to create a healthier tomorrow for generations to come. It takes all of us making shifts, both small and large, to create the momentum necessary to make this happen. I care because our planet – and all life on it – ultimately depends on it.

What are one or two of your favorite sustainability tips or tricks that you like to share with others? When making the transition to lowering your waste, don’t feel like you have to change everything overnight! I like to break it down into two categories: practices and products. Brainstorm the practices in your everyday routine that you could adjust to reduce your trash or dependency on single-use items, such as bringing reusable bags to the grocery store instead of choosing plastic. Then look at the products you use on a regular basis in your household. Find options you are comfortable committing to swap out, such as buying a plastic-free shampoo bar or refill when you run out of liquid shampoo. Work on adjusting these lifestyle swaps – the practice and the product that you committed to – and ensure you’ve established a habit before moving on to the next product and practice! Rather than becoming overwhelmed on your zero waste journey, this creates a way to feel successful and accomplished.

What are you most excited about when it comes to being a Women in Sustainability Member? I love the community that surrounds the Women in Sustainability community. Becoming a member opens up a host of additional opportunities for me to engage with environmental justice and sustainability, both as an individual and with my business.

Connect with Carrie:
Email: carrie@summitsustainablegoods.eco
Website • Instagram • Facebook

GET TO KNOW OUR MEMBERS – April

Brie DeLisi Zoller (she/her/hers) – Brie Z Operations

Occupation: Chief Problem Solver of Brie Z Operations

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 have an overarching interest in the sustainability of supportive synergy – when we take care of the planet, the planet takes care of us, and we all flourish! We rely on every single aspect of our planet to live, why wouldn’t we treat it and care for it like the life-giving force that it is?

What interests / excites you most about being involved in sustainability? I’m beyond excited to have an exponential impact on sustainability with the work that I do. By streamlining, strategizing, and connecting sustainable, impact-driven organizations – I have the honor of helping them do even MORE good for the world!

Finish this statement: I CARE Because … I’ve lived in and visited so many breathtaking places, they deserve to be protected and cared for so that future generations can continue to enjoy them, too.

What are one or two of your favorite sustainability tips or tricks that you like to share with others? Buy everything second-hand! You’ll save so much money AND still get what you want/need. My go-to second-hand shopping in thrift stores and Facebook marketplace. Even Amazon has an option to buy ‘used’ when in a pinch.

What are you most excited about when it comes to being a Women in Sustainability Member? I love the community of like-minded women and allies who are here to make the world a better place. I’m constantly inspired and excited by the discussions I get to have with my fellow members. I cherish the opportunities to learn and grow as an individual and together as a community.

Connect with Brie:
Email: brie@briezoperations.com
WebsiteInstagramLinkedIn

GET TO KNOW OUR MEMBERS -March

Stephanie Vail (she/her/hers) – On the Move with Vail

Occupation: Denver Metro Realtor

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.) energy, food, clothing

What interests / excites you most about being involved in sustainability? I think there is a lot of energy and momentum in sustainability going on right now. I know in our household, we are always looking for ways that we can be better for the environment and in the past year switched to an electric car, being a single car family and put solar panels on our home. Also, now that we have integrated some of these practices into our life, we can help be an ambassador and hopefully help others feel like these are approachable options for them as well! As more options and developments become available we love to find ways to integrate more sustainable practices into our daily life. That’s the exciting part about sustainability- it’s always evolving!

Finish this statement: I CARE Because … I care because… it is vital that we take action steps now for the next generation!

What are one or two of your favorite sustainability tips or tricks that you like to share with others? I absolutely love clothing swaps- people aren’t always aware that fashion is one of the largest pollutants and people come not really knowing what to expect and walk away with incredible pieces that get a second life! Last year I was a part of my first CSA which supports a local farmer and provides fresh produce all season! It was a fun way to explore some new (to me) vegetables and support a local restaurant and their farm in my neighborhood.

What are you most excited about when it comes to being a Women in Sustainability Member? I absolutely love being in the Women in Sustainability space as I am always learning so much from passionate experts in their field. I love being able to learn, connect and integrate tips into my daily life so that I can show up and live in a more sustainable way! After the last few years I am so excited to gather in person! I am always looking for ways to stretch and grow and find this community to be so motivating and inspiring. I love the variety of events and topics that are covered and look forward to diving in!

Connect with Stephanie:
Email: steph@onthemovewithvail.com
InstagramLinkedIn

COMMUNITY VOICES SERIES – April

Embedding Sustainability in Business Operations
by BRIE DELISI ZOLLER (SHE/HER/HERS) ~ BRIE Z 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@briezoperations.com

Brie DeLisi Zoller • Brie Z Operations
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