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
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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
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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:
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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
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GET TO KNOW OUR MEMBERS – August

Kat Haber (she/her/hers)
Founder, CFO, Chief Fun Officer, TRUST Climate Action Strategists

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.) TRUST Climate Action Strategists coach people to adapt to our changing climate by changing the way they live in Earth. Awareness leads to activations lead to balanced relations naturally.

What interests / excites you most about being involved in sustainability? Leaving waters/land, and air that is clean teaming with life for my great grandkids moves me to devote each day to informing about the solutions and carbon replacements to regenerate a finer future for them.

Finish this statement: I CARE Because … the current trends of greed in capitalism is altering the quality of life right now. For generations, humanity has been flying with one of two wings in circles. That one male wing has gotten stronger, dominant. A bird with only one wing flies in circles. The other wing, the female, has not yet unfolded. As that wing becomes unfurled and strengthens shemanity will have the opportunity to help the flight of homo sapiens to fly higher, beyond suffering. When we are balanced and both wings flying strong, straight, and concerned for the health of all our relations, we will soar together higher and higher.

What are one or two of your favorite sustainability tips or tricks that you like to share with others? 
1. Know your numbers. Calculate your carbon footprint annually. Like a checkup with your doctor. Check out how rapidly, successfully you are minimizing your carbon pollution.
2. Honor your water. Know your watershed and what is happening to it. Visit your local water treatment plant.

What are you most excited about when it comes to being a Women in Sustainability Member? Women in Sustainability together are like the Chinese water torture for deliberate and unintentional polluters. Slow and steady, act by act, WIS prevails. Seeing the care a group of women can ripple throughout Colorado for the benefit of our kids, gives TRUST Climate Action Strategists raison d’etre. Together we are doing the work to inform, inspire, and intervene for human and earthly health. TRUST is the art of the doable in relations-with ourselves, others, and Earth. TRUST rights our relations in these climate-benefiting acts by coaching youth, women writers, millennial workers, and executives for options to “Business as usual.”Daily Dozen Drills do this with gorgeous images, stimulating songs, eye-opening clips, wise quotes, climate-impacting acts. We do the work together. Forces in charge do not give up their power easily-familiar, energy-demanding, comfort-seeking, convenience-delivering. Personal change can be challenging. Support and accountability shift established habits. Research shows it takes 42 days to shift a bad habit to a better habit. It’s estimated that the average adult makes more than 35,000 decisions per day. Like the river in your watershed, TRUST flows clues to you. With each informed choice, you with TRUST coaching, free yourself to live a lighter, brighter life.

Connect with Kat:
Email: TEDxyouthHomer@gmail.com
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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
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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
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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