Each month, WEN spotlights a WEN member or a nonprofit organization who is helping engage the Bay Area community on environmental issues. Nominate organizations, colleagues or friends for upcoming Spotlights by emailing

This Month's Spotlight: Tara Holmes

Tara is the Vice President of Strategy & Accounts at Blue Practice, an environmentally and sustainability-focused communications agency, where she drives business development and organizational marketing. She brings over 10 years of strategic communications experience to her role and believes that storytelling is a key element to increasing public engagement on pressing environmental issues. Coming from the nonprofit sector, Tara has worked in development at the World Resources Institute and more recently as the head of communications for The Borneo Project and Future 500. She is an active San Francisco community member and sits on the board of the Randall Museum Friends where she chairs the communications committee. She holds an MPA with a concentration in environmental policy from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University and a B.A. in psychology from Connecticut College.

How did you become involved in your current career?

I attribute my love for the outdoors to digging for worms with friends as a young child growing up in western Massachusetts. I believe that getting your hands dirty is one of the best things you can do – both literally and metaphorically – to stay connected to the planet we call home. I’ve also been very vocal about protecting the Earth from as far back as I can remember – from Sierra Club canvassing in high school to picking up litter on the street. The belief that each person can truly make a difference remains my motto. My environmental career developed after taking an environmental policy class at Connecticut College my senior year that enlightened me to the seriousness of climate change and the dire ecological issues that face us all today. I decided then and there to apply my love for the environment to my career and here I am!

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Of course climate change, bad energy policy, factory farming, and ocean acidification, to name a few. While those examples remain absolutely true and valid concerns, a bigger concern to me is public apathy towards environmental issues and money in politics; two critical areas that I believe are intertwined and feeding the very systemic issues we continue to battle today. Nothing exists in a silo and in order to address the byproducts of a resource-intensive economy, we need to fundamentally address the societal root cause of how we got here and shift our ways significantly and collectively. For example, living with less stuff, eating less meat, taking public transportation if it’s available, driving less / walking more, etc. Environmental protection will follow if we all made meaningful and consistent shifts in our behavior. 

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

Women continue to face an up-hill battle when it comes to wage equality and positions of power, but in the environmental field, I see many women doing amazing things. I’d like to see even more, particularly women in science driving climate change solutions and women leading the way in environmental policy and finance. Given these sectors, particularly science and finance, have historical been dominated by men, getting women more and more engaged in these fields will be key to pushing the environmental envelope forward in a more balanced and impactful way.

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?

The communications space, particularly the environmental communications space, is so exciting and so necessary. Storytelling is empowering and can be the difference between an amazing movement that catalyzes change and one that nobody knows about. I highly recommend going to talks at WEN, The Commonwealth Club / Climate One and Earth Island Institute – I have found those groups to not only be a great environmental news resource, but a fabulous networking platform. Most importantly, I recommend volunteering so you can explore what niche of the environmental movement calls most to you. The Bay Area is full of amazing environmental organizations in need of help and once you get in the door you never know what can happen!

Previous Spotlights: Judy Frauman

Judy Frauman has spent most of her career working for manufacturing firms, including startups in the energy efficiency and renewable energy arenas.  She has had a long-standing passion for environmental causes, and to help feed that passion, she’s volunteered for a number of organizations, including Engineers Without Borders (EWB), an organization that supports communities around the world to help themselves meet the most basic human needs such as clean water, sanitation, and energy.  In her work with EWB, she helped design a photovoltaic system for a rural school in Tanzania, and supported a team providing clean water to a coastal village in Ecuador.  She spent several years volunteering for the Northwest Chapter of the Association of Energy Services Professionals, a group that provides networking and educational opportunities in energy efficiency and renewable energy.  Today she is thrilled to serve on the board for the Women’s Environmental Network, where she combines her environmental interest with helping women advance in the workplace.  She holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

How did you become involved in your current career?

I fell into Quality Engineering a number of years ago and it fed my interest in how data tells a story.  As a Quality Engineer, I use statistics to tell me how capable a supplier is of making good parts, consistently.  While my career hasn’t been directly involved with the environment, ensuring that a supplier isn’t going to waste energy and materials making bad parts does have a positive impact, and of course it benefits companies in their bottom line.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

What isn’t of concern to me?!  If I had to pick something, it would certainly be our changing climate and the impact it’s having not only on humans, but also on the other species that share our planet.  But I have confidence that we will continue to innovate solutions that reduce our energy footprint.

One of the more fascinating and promising developments I’ve seen is clean cookstoves.  This simple innovation, by greatly reducing the amount of fuel needed and smoke produced, can help mitigate climate change, reduce pollution, and improve the health of those doing the cooking.  Multiply this reduction in one cookstove by the 3 billion people relying on them, and it’s easy to see the impact this has on the world.  By using less fuel, most often wood products, deforestation is curbed; and notably, women’s safety is another outcome.  Women are the traditional gatherers of wood products, spending hours daily to locate dwindling sources of wood, venturing further and further away from home, where they are vulnerable to assault.  Reduce the fuel, improve women’s lives.  It’s remarkable that something as seemingly mundane as a cookstove can be  a panacea for a number of the world’s problems.

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

The same challenges that face women in all realms of the workplace, not just the environmental movement, is gaining the same credibility as men.  We clearly still have to prove ourselves more so than our male counterparts.  But the past 40 years have seen tremendous inroads from the 1970’s, a time when it was questioned whether a female news anchor could be taken seriously.  We need to march ahead as if we did not have a steeper path to climb and not get discouraged by obstacles that others may throw (intentionally or not) in that path.  We also need to support each other and not be part of the problem of holding women back.

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?

Even if your current job isn’t directly involved with the environment, volunteer for organizations that are part of the solution.  There is great satisfaction to be had, regardless of whether it results in a paycheck.

Meghan Dewey

Meghan manages PG&E’s energy efficiency strategy and policy initiatives. Her team leads efforts to shape California’s energy efficiency policy and regulatory environment to enable innovative, customer-focused programs that inspire and empower PG&E customers to eliminate unnecessary energy use, and drive strategic EE program design and implementation to meet the state’s aggressive EE and GHG goals. She has over 10 years of experience in the energy industry, having started her energy career in facilitation and public involvement for hydroelectric relicensing projects. She holds a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and a Masters from the Hatfield School of Government. Meghan is on the board of the Women Energy Associates.
How did you become involved in your current career?

My path to energy was non-traditional, for which I am extremely grateful. It allows me to bring a diverse perspective to the many fun, interesting, and sometimes challenging, EE issues we tackle in California. After study French, History and Theater in North Carolina, I was on my way to Hollywood to produce blockbuster romantic comedies (no, I’m not joking!). I happened to make a pit stop to visit a best friend in Oregon where I met an amazing professor, and later mentor, who offered me an opportunity to study and work in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on the Tan Hoa Lo Gom Canal Restoration project. From there, I headed south to San Francisco, because who can resist San Francisco? I was young, and knew the world was my oyster!  After several stints at environmental and energy consulting firms, I felt a natural draw to PG&E – it’s here that I’ve felt I’ve made the biggest impact in energy efficiency. In California, monumental changes are occurring in energy efficiency, and I’m right at the forefront. Plus, you can have almost any job of which you’ve dreamed at a utility. I’ll get around to the movies at some point, but probably shift my focus to environmentally-focused documentaries… 

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Climate change and environmental justice. We are at the precipice of something big, a turning point. It’s a very exciting time not just in California, but nationally and internationally as well.

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

My generation is so fortunate to have a plethora of strong women mentors, advocates, and role models in this field. Seek these ladies out. But don’t discount the gentlemen – they can make great mentors too. Many have daughters, and will see them in you and thus can actually be strong advocates for you. Something I still find troubling though, even after all of the publicity of Sheryl Sandberg's book – I still see too many opportunities for more women to “lean in.” When Sheryl urges us to sit at the table, she means that literally. Too often I see young women go sit in the corner when there are plenty of seats left at the table. Also, for those of us who find ourselves in a technical field with no real technical background – don’t be afraid, embrace it. Ask as many questions as you need to. I guarantee many people, men and women alike, have the same questions and will be grateful!

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?

“Meet new friends but keep the old…” This adage has become increasingly relevant to me as I progress in my career. It’s amazing how former colleagues, managers, schoolmates, et al. will magically reappear in your life when you most need them and least expect it, so use them to your advantage. Say you’re interested in learning more about energy efficiency and see someone you used to know on LinkedIn that has a cool job in that. Reach out to them, ask them what they do, who they know etc. Don’t be shy! Chances are they will be thrilled to hear from you and want to play match-maker. This also means don’t burn bridges! This is critical in today’s well-connected world.

There’s so much to be done and need for all sorts of skills and expertise, and we in the energy efficiency community welcome you with open arms!

Kelly Malinowski

Kelly is a Project Manager at the California State Coastal Conservancy in the San Francisco Bay Program where she manages projects ranging from climate adaptation, to wetland restoration, sustainable agriculture, and trail projects. Previously, she was a California State Sea Grant fellow, and before that spent roughly 5 years in the non-profit sector working in environmental health and conservation. Kelly has a BA in French Linguistics, and a MPA in Environmental Policy and Management.

How did you become involved in your current career?

A French BA to a career in conservation might seem like a leap, but looking back at my path I realize how important each step and each connection was along the way. During the pursuit of my undergraduate degree I was a member of the student environmental coalition where one of our main campaigns was to ban bottled water on campus. Through the coalition I met a woman named Marta, who then hired me on to intern at Clean Water Action where I spent a summer of canvassing and call nights working to close coal-fired power plants in Michigan. My passion for environmental issues grew during the internship and I decided to pursue a position at an environmental health non-profit where I was an outreach worker for 2 years. I had always wanted to return to graduate school, so decided to pursue an MPA with a focus on environmental policy at an international school where I could incorporate my love for French. During and after my Masters I had several other stints at non-profits working on things like environmental policy in California and marine debris. I landed a California State Sea Grant Fellowship, was placed at the Conservancy, and then hired on after my fellowship year.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Climate change! In my day-to-day I do a lot of work around sea level rise adaptation, and it is clear we need to do more to prepare for climate impacts, and even more to mitigate and decrease emissions. We need to change behavior and start living more sustainable lives, and I think all of us in the environmental sector can set these good examples. I am also a strong believer in a federal carbon tax as a great way to start curbing emissions.

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

I learned at a WEN ‘Women in Leadership’ conference that though our numbers are rising in the environmental sector, we are still largely second-in-command, so I think our biggest challenge is breaking through this glass ceiling to fill more leadership positions. Thankfully, especially in the Bay Area, we have access to great networks like WEN that can help connect women in the environmental sector, grow networks, provide support, and increase opportunities for us to move forward in our individual careers, as well as the environmental sector as a whole.

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?

Climate adaptation and resilience is a fairly new field, so it’s a great time to start! Look for internships or fellowships with cities, counties, organizations, and agencies with a sustainability officer or climate change program. Join professional networks such as WEN or the American Society of Adaptation Professionals, go to events, take classes, volunteer, and network!

Amy Clanin

Amy Clanin is an educator, trainer, and catalyst for innovation and collaboration in conservation education.  She is the Founder and Executive Director of Primate Education Network (PEN) and has more than 15 years of experience in designing and delivering conservation education programs for zoos, sanctuaries, schools, and local communities in primate range countries.  Amy is a strong advocate for community-based conservation educators, who inspire behavior change and protection of the world’s most diverse and threatened ecosystems where primates serve as flagship species.

How did you become involved in your current career?

I like to say that my mom had something to do with creating my destiny.  When she went into labor with me, she refused to go to the hospital until she watched the end of the King Kong movie.
With degrees in Primate Behavior & Ecology and Anthropology, my commitment to conservation education began as a guide at the Knoxville Zoo and the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute.  I also taught at Smithsonian’s National Zoo, led an education project on chimpanzees as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal, and worked with primate conservation organizations in Borneo, Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

PEN was a long time in the making.  My ideas for the network evolved over a decade.  I spent more than five years working on operations, program management, and fundraising at non-profit conservation organizations in Washington, D.C.  I wanted to utilize my expertise, passion, and entrepreneurial spirit to have more impact and solve systemic problems in primate conservation education.  Throughout my career, I saw my colleagues in primate conservation education consistently encounter similar challenges, such as a lack of expertise, resources, and collaboration – just to name a few. 
In 2012, I combined my experience in teaching and non-profit management to establish PEN and address three needs of conservation educators: connections, resources, and training.  PEN leverages local capacity and partners with multiple stakeholders to accelerate collaboration and solve unique regional conservation challenges through customized online tools and resources, as well as offline training workshops in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.  
As PEN’s Executive Director, I lead a dedicated and dynamic team, who share a common conviction and passion for primate conservation education.  This has become the fuel for PEN’s growth and success.  
What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

More than half of the world’s primate species and subspecies – in over 90 countries – are threatened with extinction.  As a result of human activities, primates are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, infectious disease, and the illegal bushmeat and pet trades.

Primates offer tremendous conservation value for many different reasons.  They serve as flagship species for entire ecosystems. Some of the world's most diverse ecosystems, including the Congo Basin and Amazon, have the largest and most diverse primate populations.  Primates play a critically important role as seed dispersers in regenerating and maintaining the health of our planet’s forests.
What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?
It is a critical time for women to get involved in the environmental movement.  The world needs leaders who are more collaborative, compassionate, and empathetic.  Women have always been uniquely qualified for this and we’ve accomplished a lot to protect the environment.  However, we must do more to support each other, particularly to address one of our greatest challenges, which is maintaining a work-life balance.  It is equally important for women to prioritize our causes and our own well-being.  From experience, I can say that this especially rings true for entrepreneurs.  A few things I’ve learned after starting my own non-profit is not to let my organization drive personal priorities, disconnect when I can, put myself first once in a while, find a strong support system, spend time with the people I love, and to take care of my health.  The distinction between work and life can disappear, especially when you work from home.  If you can follow these basic principles, you will find it easier to serve your cause. 
What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?
There are so many ways WEN members can get involved!  For example:
  • Volunteer your time and talent locally or abroad to help non-profit organizations like PEN achieve our conservation goals.
  • Recycle your cell phones to reduce demand for mining in primate habitat.
  • Avoid anything with palm oil unless it is certifiably deforestation-free.
  • And teach others to respect and care for the environment and all living things on Earth.  Compassion is contagious!

Rosalind Jackson

Rosalind manages media, member and donor relations for Vote Solar, a non-profit advocacy organization focused on making solar more affordable and accessible across the country. Previously she spent five years at the Antenna Group directing and implementing PR campaigns for all manner of clean energy and sustainable business innovators. She has degrees in Environmental Science and Communications from UC Berkeley.

How did you become involved in your current career?

I studied environmental science in college, which was basically four long years of studying the ways in which we've done irreparable harm to our communities and planet. Then, when I graduated, I was lucky enough to find the Bay Area's burgeoning cleantech industry. These were entrepreneurs and businesses that were focused on solutions to those problems - new ways of approaching energy, water and materials to help us live in a more sustainable way rather than needing to clean up the messes already made. That's what I love about solar - it's something in the environmental movement to say 'yes' to rather than 'no.'

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Climate change and community health - particularly as they relate to our most vulnerable populations: children, seniors and communities of color. We have an incredibly unjust energy system, and it's time to change that before we do more harm to those who can least afford it. 

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

I can't imagine a more fulfilling career for a woman than working in clean energy and sustainability. We are in the incredibly luck position of going to work each day to a job that matters: building a healthier, more equitable world for ourselves and future generations. We need more women to feel like they can find their place in this movement, because it is awesome to be part and the industry will be better for it. 

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?

I work in state level solar policy, and so there are many ways to get engaged and have an impact simply as a concerned citizen. Sign petitions, send emails, make calls, speak up in public hearings, let your lawmakers and regulators know that clean energy matters to you. I can tell you from experience - those actions matter!

Francesca Vietor

Francesca Vietor serves as Program Director for Environment, Public Policy, and Civic Engagement at The San Francisco Foundation, focusing on efforts to improve the environmental health of vulnerable communities, build resilience in the face of climate change, and protect the natural environment. Francesca is also Vice President of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, where she leads policymaking for the City and County of San Francisco’s water, wastewater, and municipal power services. Before that, she was executive director of the Chez Panisse Foundation, where she advanced nutrition education and food justice issues. Previously, she was president of the Urban Forest Council, president of the Commission on the Environment, and the chair of the Mayor’s Environmental Transition Team. She has worked for several non-profits, including Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace, and she serves on the boards of SPUR and Environmental Working Group. Francesca holds a Bachelor of Sciences degree from Georgetown University and she pens a blog for The Huffington Post. 

How did you become involved in your current career?
I became involved in my current career through a fortuitous combination of good luck, networking and hard work. I became interested in rainforests at a Sting/Suzanne Vega/Grateful Dead concert in 1987 and I set out to find an organization where I could volunteer to help save the rainforests. After a lot of research, outreach and letter writing, someone connected me to Randy Hayes who was starting the Rainforest Action Network. That was my first job in the environmental movement. When I was later working for Greenpeace, Mayor Willie Brown recruited me to start San Francisco's Department of Environment. Several jobs later I am still working on environmental policy as a program director at The San Francisco Foundation and Vice President of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?
Climate change and the drought. We have to get a lot smarter about how to conserve our resources, especially water. I am also concerned that our kids are so disconnected from nature that they are not going to care about, or take care of the planet when they grow up.

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?
Finding work life balance is a challenge for working women, especially working moms. There are not a lot of women leaders in the environmental movement, which I believe is why we have not made more progress then we have. We need more leadership development programs for women to participate in the movement and excel. That said, there are more opportunities then ever before, probably because the problems are worse than they have ever been.

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?
Networking and hard work, which I mentioned before. Identify something you care about or want to work on and develop the skill set to make yourself competitive. Introduce yourself to people you admire or who inspire you. Online professional networks like LinkedIn and Twitter can help make connections so learn about social media if you haven't already. Volunteering and internships can give you a foot in the door.

Jennifer Karyn Berg

A proud born and bred San Franciscan, Jenny works for ABAG as the Manager for the Bay Area Regional Energy Network (BayREN), a collaboration of the nine Bay Area counties.  Her duties include participating in regulatory proceedings and collaborating with local government members. She is the co-chair of the statewide Energy Upgrade California, Home Upgrade working group.  A graduate of UC Santa Barbara and Catholic University law school, Jenny practiced plaintiff side civil litigation until shifting her career focus.  She is actively involved with environmental groups and in her (overscheduled) children’s’ activities, including sitting on the Executive Board of the Oakland Technical High School PTSA.

How did you become involved in your current career?  

After practicing law for 20 years, I realized that I lacked professional passion. A lot of soul searching and networking led me to turn my focus to finding something related to the environment. So, with two kids, a husband and a full time law job, I went back to school to study sustainable management.  Following that, I worked for several years building up my environmental experience, before I landed my current position.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?  

We live in a scary time. Growing up in San Francisco, I remember living through a drought in the ‘70’s. But that was nothing like what we are experiencing now.  Water scarcity is really of concern to me.

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?  

The sad reality is that the top positions in our industry (like most others) continue to be held by mostly men.  I work with a lot of women in energy, but when I look at the executive team and board make up of their organizations, it is usually all or the majority male.  There are great women working in this field. The top doors must be opened wider to let us in!

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement? 

Stay current on the issues, regulations and players since the terrain is bumpy and ever changing.  Don’t underestimate the power of networking. I would never have even heard about my current job if it wasn’t for my great network.

Laura Meadors

Laura is currently Global Supply Manager for Energy at Apple, where she negotiates and manages structured renewable energy and energy efficiency transactions.    Prior to joining Apple she co-founded GridMaven Utility Solutions, a division of SK Telecom Americas, that provides smart grid network management and billing solutions to the utility sector.   Laura has 13 years of experience in environmental markets including brokerage and structured transactions in renewable energy credits, emission reduction credit (ERC) markets, renewable power purchase agreements, and water leasing and banking.  She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Wellesley College and Master’s in Resource Economics from Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. 
How did you become involved in your current career?   

I’ve been drawn to environmental issues ever since I spent a semester in college at the Biosphere 2 in Arizona.  It was on a lark, but it was the first time I came away from immersing myself in a subject and had more questions than I started with.  It was coming into 1999 and the Seattle WTO talks, and there was a drumbeat of anti-globalization sentiment in the environmental community.  I became fascinated by the question of why, if economic growth was so powerful as to be considered unequivocally detrimental to the environment, it couldn’t be turned on its head and used as a force for good?  Why couldn’t economic growth be used to value the environment in a way that allowed us to pay for improved environmental quality?  So, I went on to do a master’s in resource economics at Yale, and then over the last 13 years have held a variety of roles in environmental markets, at everything from a Wall Street hedge fund to a small non-profit in Oregon, to the British government and now, at Apple.  I’ve tried to work in these issues and understand them from a variety of perspectives -- non-profit, private and government-- in order to find equitable and efficient solutions.     

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Water scarcity and distributed renewable energy are two of the issues nearest and dearest to me.  Water is fascinating because it’s not necessarily that there is a scarcity problem (droughts excluded); it’s that legal and economic constructs prevent water to getting where it needs to be.  There is also the issue that water is a fundamental need for life; but access to it is not free, and those two things get conflated in heated debate.   Energy, on the other hand, isn’t quite the same touchstone that water is, but suffers from a similar problem.  It has the same legacy of ‘big construction works’ thinking and struggles with how to maintain a reliable distribution system in the face increased distributed generation and fewer and fewer people left to pay for it.  I don’t think utilities are necessarily going anywhere – they serve an important purpose and I don’t think it will turn out to be efficient for everyone to maintain their own reliability individually -- but I do think they will need to radically change their approach to business to survive. 

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

Part of the challenge for women in environmental fields is just knowing where the other women are. Both water and energy are historically large, utility-driven or irrigation-district driven fields, where there still are not a lot of women.  There are still many meetings that I go to where I’m the only woman.   It’s important to build relationships across the ecosystem of whatever field you are in – regulatory, utility, non-profit and private industry – because it’s the growth of that ecosystem that will lead to us each looking out for each other, and helping each other into leadership in these industries.  That’s what groups like WEN and others are perfect for, but it doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes time and investment.   With regard to opportunity, there’s huge potential in the utility sectors, because that workforce is aging and retiring, and will require a sea change in thinking to continue to be relevant.  Who better to lead that than a sea of women?  I’m also seeing more entrepreneurial women leading industrial clean technology companies, in biofuels or micro-hydro for example, and it’s really refreshing.   Lastly, women can do really well in environments where there isn’t a precedent.  For example, many private companies are getting more involved in sustainability efforts and greening their energy and operations; that hasn’t existed before and so it’s a perfect opportunity for women to create a vision and shape a strategy.  

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?

When I first moved into the energy sector from water in 2005, I knew nothing about it.  It took about 3 years to really understand to scope of the sector and figure out how all the players interacted.  I did that by soaking up every market research news piece or analysis I could – just reading them consistently – and attending every professional conference, networking event and launch that I could.  I would have gone to the opening of an envelope in those days!   But, it helped me build a great network, stay current with what was happening in the industry, and get the call when new opportunities came up.   Get to know who’s doing what, and don’t be afraid to reach out to people you find interesting and want to know more about what they are doing.  A thoughtful note on LinkedIn goes a long way.   I still feel the way I did back in 1998; these fields are evolving and there are still huge problems to be solved.  We need women to jump in now.  It won’t happen overnight, but there’s a life’s work of real, meaningful change in there for anyone who wants it.  

Kate Meis

Kate Meis is the Executive Director of the Local Government Commission.  Under Kate’s leadership LGC has become a leading organization addressing climate change in California— advancing the first California Adaptation Forum, helping to create the Statewide Energy Efficiency Collaborative and developing the CivicSpark Governor’s Initiative aimed at increasing local capacity to respond to climate change. Kate is active in national, statewide and regional efforts to advance clean energy, increase resilience and enhance community livability.  Kate oversees LGC’s support for leading local governments providing: model policies and projects, peer support networks, events, direct assistance, and statewide advocacy aimed at addressing our most pressing community challenges.

How did you become involved in your current career?

My path to supporting local policymakers on sustainability initiatives involved a few important career and life lessons— first working through the University of California Cooperative Extension I had the opportunity to work with an amazing Extension Advisor, Manuel Jimenez, to start a community garden in the small underserved Central Valley community of Woodlake.  The garden became a beacon of hope and pride, which taught me that local community development projects are a great entry point for broader civic engagement and sustainability initiatives. Second I did social work supporting youth from challenged families and neighborhoods, which was a crash course in the generational challenges that too many people are born into— underlining for me the importance of addressing systemic social and racial equity issues within all of our community improvement projects.  Lastly I conducted research on alternative transportation alternatives, which led me to understand—and want to support—the role that cities and counties play in improving community health and sustainability by prioritizing investments and directing development to the central community core with a mix of daily destinations close enough to bike, walk or take transit.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Climate change and racial equity are the two issues that are most likely to keep me up at night.  We are already facing the impacts of climate change (from sea level rise to extreme heat and drought) and these impacts won’t be linear— we have a short window to make some drastic changes before we reach irreversible tipping points with potentially catastrophic results.  Climate change will compound the growing racial gap (in terms of income and access to critical needs such as housing, health care, transportation and education) by disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable among us that don’t have resources available to move or switch jobs to avoid extreme heat, flooding or other impacts and don’t have the safety net to pay for increasing energy and gas prices.  Luckily, there are a number of cities and counties piloting innovative local solutions, increasing state action (especially in California) and a growing awareness of the need for national leadership— I am hopeful that together we can tackle these intractable challenges that will define this generation.

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

These issues will require new partnerships and cross-sector collaboration at a scale that is commensurate with the extent of the challenges.  Women are uniquely positioned to break down traditional silos and address difficult issues with an approach that values transparency, partnerships and stewardship above individual gain.  To be successful we will need more talented and passionate women engaging in environmental initiatives- we have an opportunity and a responsibility to lift up and equip the next generation of leaders.

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?

Run for a local office!  In California’s 58 counties, women comprise just 25% of all county board supervisors and in its 482 cities women hold 28% of all city council seats.  Local government is often the pipeline for the state office, which helps explain why only 28% of legislators are female.  We need to do a better job at building the capacity of future government leaders that can represent the diversity of the state.

Sarah Church


How did you become involved in your current career?


My roots are in community organizing, but I got hooked on procurement-based strategies while serving as a mayoral appointee to San Francisco’s Sweatfree Procurement Advisory Board. Public procurement struck me as a complex but incredibly powerful lever, and caused me to see the potential for greater, honest collaboration between nonprofit, business, and government sectors. After grad school in public policy and management, I was drawn back into the sustainable purchasing world, and realized how much I love the deep research, demand for integrity, and inherent pragmatism of responsible procurement. From there, I have been delighted to see the significant role that local institutions like the County can play in being drivers of sustainability through their existing operations.


What environmental issues are of most concern to you?


Global weirding, climate chaos… whatever you want to call it, we are already feeling its effects. Personally I feel the effect of the drought here in California, the squeeze on farmers that is becoming a squeeze on consumers, and an increasing awareness of superstorms. But I can’t help but feel hope when I see the leadership shown on a local level on this issue. I have pride in the steps taken by Alameda County – most recently a groundbreaking 19-agency energy procurement collaboration – as we build this new road by walking it.


What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?


Professional leadership by women is at unprecedented levels, but there is still a lot of work to do for gender equality. One piece is to still recognize grassroots and volunteer leadership around resource use, pollution, etc., which women have always been engaged in, especially in communities that are directly affected by environmental degradation. Another thing that’s important is to notice a shift in the U.S. towards dual-earner families as women take on more professional roles, and to advocate both internally and externally for balanced family and work lives across genders.



What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?


Local institutions can be an incredible source of change and a market and policy driver. I’d suggest looking for areas of synergy between your goals and what local institutions are trying to accomplish (for example, local government, healthcare, and universities) and see if there are opportunities to collaborate. Internal innovation may not be evident from the outside, but you may be able to find unexpected partners.

Anna Gore

Anna Gore is the Membership Manager of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a member-supported nonprofit organization working to promote the bicycle for everyday transportation in San Francisco. Last January Anna helped to launch Women Bike SF, a program of the SF Bicycle Coalition that aims to help and encourage more women, trans*, femme, and female-identifying people to ride bicycles. Prior to joining the SF Bicycle Coalition, Anna received her Masters in Environmental Planning and Design from the University of Georgia and served on the Board of Directors for her local and statewide bicycle advocacy organizations in Georgia.

How did you become involved in your current career?

It’s hard to believe that just five years ago I was working in a completely different industry. Two things led to my involvement in my current career: a traveling job that took me through rural parts of Georgia, and volunteering at my local bicycle advocacy organization (BikeAthens). The traveling job sparked my interest in land-use planning and inspired me to return to Graduate School for Environmental Planning and Design, and my work at BikeAthens helped me understand the importance of advocacy in building both the public interest and the political will to transform public spaces. The SF Bicycle Coalition understands this relationship better than any organization I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and as Membership Manager I continue to learn a lot from the 10,000+ members who make our organization so effective. 

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Climate change. It’s the biggest environmental concern of our time, and at the top of my mind as well. Change is needed in every sector to reduce the causes of Climate Change, but the transportation sector has been of particular interest to me. It’s responsible for nearly 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, and a large percentage of that is attributed to personal automobiles. Reducing dependency on greenhouse gas emitting vehicles is a tremendous challenge, but the solution has the potential to improve both the quality of life for people and environmental conditions on our planet. Communities that promote biking and walking tend to be healthier and more livable places all the way around.

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

There’s a gender gap in leadership positions in most industries, and the environmental movement is no different. The transportation sector has historically been a male-dominated field, but with a growing population and an aging transportation system, I think women have an opportunity to work and lead in this sector now more than ever. This is an exciting time for women in the bicycling movement, too. Across the country, advocacy organizations like the League of American Bicyclists, Washington Area Bicycle Association, the SF Bicycle Coalition and others have launched women’s programs with the goal of helping more women to start bicycling and to encourage them to ride a bike more often. The network of women in the bicycling industry is growing rapidly, providing more and more opportunities for women to get involved.

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?

Women currently make up only 32% of the bicycle commuters in San Francisco, and nationally the number is even lower. There are lots of reasons why women don’t bike more, but peer-to-peer encouragement can go a long way to empowering more women to try bicycling. I encourage all WEN members who already enjoy bicycling to help a female friend get rolling this month. May is Bike Month in the Bay Area, and what I consider of the best bicycling months of the year: great weather, tons of biking events and Bike to Work Day on May 14. Help a friend get rolling this month and you just might inspire them to keep rolling throughout the year!

Rebecca Lee

Rebecca Lee is a senior analyst at California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Rebecca currently manages legislative affairs for Office of Ratepayer Advocates within CPUC, where she analyzes electric, natural gas, and water legislation affecting customers of private utility companies. She is responsible for representing ORA’s policy positions before the State Legislature. Previously, Rebecca served as an analyst at Energy Division of CPUC, specializing in long-term procurement planning, advanced energy storage, greenhouse gas reduction strategies, and clean energy research and development. Rebecca is an elected Assembly District Delegate of the California Democratic Party, and serves on the Citizens' Advisory Committee of the SFPUC.

How did you become involved in your current career? 

I actually wanted to be in public transit development! But I just couldn’t turn down an offer to work on energy issues at the CPUC, and I eventually fell in love with the work. Energy is a weird and complicated animal; it is fascinating like a long saga story filled with interesting characters, tribal wars, and endless backstories.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

I am constantly exposed to climate change issues as a matter of profession, but in a way I think climate-related policies have become the new normal, at least in California. These days I find myself personally drawn toward issues like biodiversity and wildlife trafficking. Issues like ivory poaching, shark finning, and rhino horn trade just break my heart.

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

Have you ever counted the number of female versus male speakers at a professional conference? Or counted how many women are in leadership positions at energy, water, transportation companies? I highly recommend it. The sheer percentage is a challenge. But we can make our own opportunities – trails don’t blaze themselves.

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?

Invest in your own expertise and spend time to cultivate a professional support network. If there is an environmental issue you are passionate about, own the issue by investing in your own expertise on the matter, and nobody can ever take that away from you.

Nina F. Ichikawa 

Nina F. Ichikawa is the Policy Director at the Berkeley Food Institute (BFI). She is a fourth-generation Californian and policy professional dedicated to making good food accessible, sustainable, and culturally appropriate. Prior to joining BFI, she served in the office of Senator Daniel K. Inouye and with the US Department of Agriculture’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” Initiative. In 2011, she was named a Food and Community Fellow by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. In 2009 she launched the Food and Agriculture section for Hyphen magazine, and she has also written for Civil Eats, Grist, Al-Jazeera America, and Rafu Shimpo. Her writings on Asian American food and farming have been published in Amerasia Journal and Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Reader (NYU Press: 2013). Following research on sustainable food systems in rural Japan and Mexico, Nina received an MA in International Relations/Food Policy from Meiji Gakuin University and a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies/Food Policy from UC Berkeley. 

How did you become involved in your current career?

I was always interested in food and environment, ever since I was a child. It took me awhile to figure out that this would be my career but I’m so grateful to the professors, mentors, and bosses who encouraged me along that path. Those who said, “food is a transformative issue!” and helped me see how to direct my passion with purpose. 

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?
  1. Urban-rural disconnections and the lack of political will to solve the environmental problems we as humans have created. 
  2. An economic segmentation happening where nature could become the luxury of the wealthy and urban concentration the reality of everyone else. 
  3. Forgetting about the sanctity of food, part of which I believe allows us to waste, abuse, and destroy the very thing that nourishes our growth and, in many ways, our happiness.  
What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

Women make tremendous leaders in every field, including the environmental movement. However, I think we face the same challenges in the environmental movement as we do in the rest of society: unequal pay for equal work, lack of leadership opportunities, lack of access to childcare and eldercare, lack of investment capital, and more. Until we fix those larger social problems (especially in the United States), we won’t be able to see the full power of women to fix our environmental challenges. That would be a loss for the entire movement. 

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?

Food IS environment! Women have been responsible for so much of food cultivation and preparation for most of human history, so we have unique perspectives and understanding of what types of food humans need. We see something is wrong and need to raise our voices to fix it: in our local communities through building local food economies, by working to bridge urban-rural divides, by welcoming new women into our fold, by ensuring that our national policies don’t stand in the way of food security for families across the world. In the simplest terms, cooking and sharing a good meal with friends and neighbors can be a building block for big change. Finally, in the words of food activist and scholar Marion Nestle, “vote with your fork but even better, vote with your vote!” 

Amber Hasselbring, Nature in the City

Amber Hasselbring became involved with Nature in the City ( in 2006 when she joined the organization’s Steering Committee. At this time, she became immersed in a community of generous, motivated, and thoughtful people. They worked collectively to celebrate, advocate, protect local nature. At the time, she was making artwork about native ecosystems, creative exploration in the urban landscape, and transforming sidewalks into habitat for songbirds, native bees, and butterflies. 

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Most pressing to me is our relationship as human beings with nature. We often have an "us and them” perspective for how we see our part in protecting, caring for, and learning about ecosystems. I would like to see us redevelop a more inclusive view. Often, we feel guilty about the species that we are losing, the ocean levels rising, our fossil fuel use, the foods we eat… and the list goes on. 

I believe that the more we take part in nature everyday, the more connected we will feel to nature inside ourselves. The issues that overwhelm us: sickness, stress, relationship concerns, addictions, and mental health challenges –– can be all consuming. However, if we step back and take the long view, we can remember that we are simply opportunistic mammals, just like the spiders, bees, and songbirds, looking for ways to satisfy our basic needs. 

If it were possible for us to think of ourselves as more intrinsic to nature, instead of separate from it, I believe we would feel better about ourselves in general. Perhaps the water we drink, the foods we eat, the soils we touch, and materials we surround ourselves with would be enhanced by taking a lighthearted "I am part of this" approach. For example, if we depended on the San Francisco Bay instead of the health club pool for our swim workout, how might we think about waterways upstream? 

In urban places, we live in a very privileged system. But there is hunting, foraging, food growing, swimming, habitat restoration, bird migration, and more. All of these are happening here, where we live. I would love to see more urban people feel like they have a part to play in these natural systems instead of taking them for granted, or worse, ignoring that they exist. 

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

Women have a leading role to play in the environmental movement. In our families, we share what we know and bring new habits into our everyday lives. We teach our children how to belong to nature. We can give our communities more a sense of simplicity and interdependency if we work together. I am encouraged by women in positions of power in the environmental fields, and the more we can support each other in raising our voices about what we know and think –– the more we can work together to find creative, inclusive solutions. 

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?

If WEN members would like to learn more and stay informed, they can join our Naturein the City’s Meetup group and sign up for our e-newsletter. They can participate in an eco-literacy movement, that not only will inspire them personally, it will help to build a better San Francisco, and what’s more, it will expand our connection to the natural history of this place and remind us that we are a part of a much larger system of wild nature close to home and far away. 

Ashley Eagle-Gibbs

Ashley is busy caring for fraternal twin boys, although she plans to re-enter the work force soon. Prior to having twins, Ashley worked as an Associate Attorney with Lawyers for Clean Water, Inc., where she had previously worked while attending night law school. Before returning to Lawyers for Clean Water, Ashley volunteered at the Natural Resources Defense Council, where she worked on the India Initiative. During law school, she interned at the Center for Biological Diversity and worked as a certified student clinician at Golden Gate School of Law’s Environmental Law and Justice Clinic.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Two environmental issues that highly concern me are climate change and the increasing loss of biodiversity. 

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

I think one challenge to mothers in the environmental movement is being able to balance a pro-environment career with the financial challenges and time constraints of raising a family. I am currently confronted by the prospect of finding a position, which will allow me to make positive change for the environment, spend time with my children, and be able to afford childcare. 

There are many opportunities for women in the environmental movement including leadership and collaborative roles. However, women still face discrimination in the work place and often a “double burden” between home and work responsibilities. Because the environmental movement is such a tightly knit community, it is critical for women to help other women by sharing opportunities and connections. It is also important for women in all fields to both advocate for other women and for themselves. 

Do you feel that you've had to make tough decisions related to your career and having children?

Yes, I think any mom (or dad) has to make career sacrifices to have a family, especially with the limited maternity/paternity leaves offered in the United States. I do not think it means you need to sacrifice your values or give up on your career, but having children definitely influences your career decisions. Once a parent, you begin to pay closer attention to the proximity of the workplace to your home, whether the salary will allow you to afford child care, and whether the position will provide you with adequate time to spend with your children. 

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?

The public interest environmental law sector is very small, and even though it is growing, the sector remains a small community. The best way to become involved in the environmental law community, or the environmental movement in general, is to network by going to environmental events (like WEN events or other events in the community), as well as attending conferences in your environmental area of interest. In my opinion, two of the best annual environmental law conferences are the State Bar’s Yosemite Conference and the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon. 

Some ways to become involved in the movement in general are to work in the movement, volunteer your time, educate yourself about current environmental issues, and/or donate to environmental organizations. While there are many volunteer opportunities, one that comes to mind is joining a non-profit board. When looking for volunteer opportunities, it is advantageous to focus your efforts by reaching out to one or two environmental organizations that you really care about so that you can become more informed about the particular issues that they work on and get to know the organization staff and other members. Lastly, we must not forget the power of personal choices, like buying local organic food, voting for politicians that value the environment, modeling strong environmental choices for your children and friends, spending time in the woods, and driving less. 

Karen Poiani, PhD

Karen currently serves as Director, Learning & Evaluation at the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation. Previously, she was Chief Conservation Strategy Officer with The Nature Conservancy. Karen has experience developing and executing strategy at multiple organizational levels and translating science into applied practice. Karen has authored numerous scientific publications on wetlands ecology, climate change, and conservation planning. She has managed multi-disciplinary teams, designed and led dynamic learning events, and provided organization-wide leadership on diversity and gender. Karen earned a B.S. in environmental studies from Stockton State College, NJ, and an M.S. in botany and Ph.D. in ecology from Virginia Tech.

How did you become involved in your current career?

I was always interested in the environment and in nature. I came of age in the 1970s when the United States was just starting to notice the environmental problems we were facing, such as maintaining clean air and water. I used to go backpacking in the Delaware Water Gap in NJ/PA in high school. And I went to college in the NJ Pine Barrens. The NJ turnpike has given the state of NJ a bad rap. It’s actually a very beautiful state with amazing ecosystems.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Well of course, climate change. And being a wetlands ecologist by training, I am also concerned about nitrogen loading (from row crops and animal production) to water bodies such as streams, lakes, estuaries and groundwater. This is already a serious problem in some areas and I think it will emerge as one of the leading global environmental issues in the next several decades as world population increases and we increase food production to accommodate this growth.

What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?

One challenge/opportunity facing women in the environmental movement today is trusting our own voices and perspectives, and then getting those ideas and perspectives out into the world. Another is balancing career and family. Many influential jobs in the non-profit or for-profit sectors make it difficult to spend enough time with your kids.

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?
I think that WEN members can get more involved in conservation by volunteering and getting out in the field. There are so many non-profit conservation organizations in the Bay Area and many of them provide local volunteer opportunities. These include nature hikes, restoration activities such as planting and weed pulling, and helping with education and docent opportunities. I think first-hand personal experiences with current conservation issues will change the way people think and act, and will cause important ripple effects in the environmental movement. I also think weighing in on policy issues related to the environment through voting and campaigning is also another critical way to help the cause.

Shakira Ferrell

Shakira Ferrell currently serves as the Corporate and Foundation Relations Manager at an online environmental magazine and a program consultant to NGOs based in East and South Africa. Prior to her current role, Shakira served as a development and communications advisor commissioned to provide strategic guidance to established and emerging nonprofits and grassroots organizations. Because of her extensive time serving in the arts sector she believes that artists have ample solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation and is determined to find the intersection.

Tell us more about yourself – how did you become involved in your current career?

I started exploring the environmental sector because of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I was heartbroken when I witnessed the devastation, and outraged when I witnessed the response (or lack of) from the local, state and federal governments to the residents of that area. From that day I vowed to learn what I could about climate adaptation solutions. I moved to Nairobi, Kenya and worked with the Kenya Climate Justice Women’s Champions, an organization led by a dynamic group of Kenyan women that provides a platform for networking and advocacy on climate justice issues affecting Kenyan communities. Their firsthand knowledge of the adversities millions of women at the grassroots level face helped redefine my priorities.

What drew you to WEN and our events?

I was drawn to WEN because I wanted to connect with other changemakers in the field.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Resource depletion caused by overconsumption, sustainable communities, and equitable climate change adaptation solutions.

What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?

My best advice is to just jump in and start making things happen. You don't need permission nor years of experience in the environmental sector to get involved. Every space in the movement, whether you're into conservation or climate justice, can use more allies. Talk to people who are doing the work - those who consistently show up with solutions and act on them. That's where the learning begins.

Jenni Grant, Oracle

Jenni Grant is Manager of Global Sustainability and Real Estate Programs at Oracle. After more than 10 years working in the not-for-profit space, she decided to challenge her assumptions about corporations and search for a way to change the business practices that impact people and the environment. She spearheaded Oracle’s very first Sustainability Program for Global Real Estate & Operations, which addresses more than 9 million square feet of space, in more than 70 different countries, to reduce the company's impact on the environment. In 2013, her team was presented the Outstanding Corporate Leader award from Sustainability Roundtable. In 2014, she was featured in the Amazon best seller book The Quarter-Life Breakthrough
Tell us more about yourself – how did you become involved in your current career?

My journey in environmental conservation began in 2006, when I left my home in Atlanta (Fine Art degree in-hand) and drove 2,500 miles across the country to photograph the fabled California Redwoods and gaze at the Pacific Ocean. Determined to stay close to my place of awe and inspiration, and do my part to protect it, I continued northward another 150 miles and knocked on the door of the Sierra Club's National Headquarters in San Francisco, where I got a position in Operations. In 2008, after years of work in not-for-profit stretching back to arts and education programming in Atlanta, I decided to challenge a belief I'd always held, that I would never work for a corporation. It was clear to me that more significant impact was possible by changing business practices from the inside of companies, instead of pressuring them from the outside. The language of profit-driven business was something I wanted to learn in order to understand what the real obstacles were to change. Inspired, I moved to Palo Alto in 2009, where I spent the next year learning everything I could about the unique culture of corporations in the Silicon Valley. In 2010 I made my transition to the tech world as a Business Analyst at Oracle, assessing the energy use of their global real estate and data center portfolio. The following year, I began managing projects that reduced Oracle's environmental footprint and operational costs through implementation of innovative building technology. In my third year, I had carved out a role as Manager of Global Sustainability Programs. My work allows me to fulfill a strong desire I've always had to protect the things in life that provide people with wonder, inspiration, and refuge. To me, the most powerful of those things is nature and the environment. 
What drew you to WEN and our events?
What I love most about WEN is the diversity of experiences and strengths amongst the members. The varied backgrounds encourages a fantastic kind of cross-pollination of ideas during networking events. I'm always interested to see how a strategy used in one field could inspire a solution for a challenge in another field. 

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Corporate environmental responsibility and accountability is an issue that I would like to see more environmentalists working on. Not only through government regulation, but also by working inside corporations, in order to better understand how we might be able to change corporate culture so that protecting the environment becomes a standard value.
What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?

One of the most important things you can do to become more involved in corporate sustainability management is to challenge any assumptions you may have that corporations profit by defeating the environment. This doesn't have to be true. There is a certain language and set of values in every sector. You can learn the different languages and then become skillful at translating between them. The environmental conservation space could benefit from using business strategies found in Fortune 500 companies and those same companies could benefit from incorporating the mission-driven, impact consciousness found in the environmental conservation space. Once you understand how conserving resources equates to operational cost savings for corporations, you can begin pushing for change through reduced energy and water use, waste generation, and carbon emissions.

Kendra Klein, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Kendra Klein is a Senior Program Associate at Physicians for Social Responsibility where she coordinates the California Healthy Food in Health Care program of Health Care Without Harm. She is also a lecturer in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management at the University of California at Berkeley. Kendra has been active in the environmental health and sustainable food movements for over a decade, including community organizing at Breast Cancer Action, a national non-profit focused on addressing environmental links to cancer, and apprenticing on organic farms in California and Hawaii. She is a 2011 Switzer Environmental Fellow and has written for The Nation, Gastronomica, Environmental Politics, and Civil Eats. She holds a bachelors degree from Miami University of Ohio and a PhD in Environmental Science, Policy & Management from UC Berkeley.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

In 2002, on the long drive from my home state of Wisconsin to California, I read Living Downstream by ecologist Sandra Steingraber. This “investigation of cancer and the environment” is the intellectual sequel to Rachel Carson’s, Silent Spring. Like Steingraber, the experience of cancer in my family – my mother’s breast cancer at age 30 and recurrence at 48 – brought my attention to the intimate interconnections between the health of our bodies and that of the environment. From pesticides to fracking, to climate change, I see this intersection as a powerful platform from which to work for change. My current focus is on creating food system change through an environmental nutrition approach which goes beyond counting calories and quantifying nutrients to define healthy food as the end result of a food system that conserves and renews natural resources, advances social justice and animal welfare, builds community wealth, and fulfills the food and nutrition needs of all eaters now and into the future.

What difficulties do you see facing women who are interested in becoming more involved in the environmental sector? Any recommendations on how women can overcome these?

I feel grateful to be of this generation, since so many women before me have helped to dismantle the external barriers to our pursuit of high-level careers. I think we need to continue addressing institutionalized inequalities, for example in pay. It is so often women who do the work of addressing threats to life, health, and the environment, and too often, this work is not adequately compensated. I think inadequate pay is one of multiple factors that can lead to burnout, including balancing career and family, and doing work that requires a great deal of passion. I think we need to remember, as Audre Lorde said, caring for ourselves is “not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

You recently finished your PhD in ESPM – any recommendations for WEN members interested in pursuing graduate studies in the environmental field?

Academia can be a difficult place for individuals committed to creating social and environmental change; theory and critique are far more valued than action and solutions. I designed my research in collaboration with the organization I now work for, Physicians for Social Responsibility, which allowed me to ground my academic work in real-world challenges. I would recommend seeking out fellow activist academics and developing research questions that set you up to engage with organizations and agencies that are doing work you respect and are interested in being a part of.

Liz Oh, Solar Marketing Group

Liz Oh is a seasoned renewable energy marketing and communications professional with 15 years of broad marketing experience. She currently serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors of the Women’s Environmental Network. Liz co-founded Solar Marketing Group ( in 2009 to move clean energy into the mainstream and has launched marketing campaigns for over 30 companies. Liz enables businesses to market themselves in smarter ways through strategic branding and creative solutions, events and public relations/media outreach. Liz has a B.S. from MIT and an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

How long have you been a WEN member?  If a Board member, please state your position and how you bring value to the team.

I serve as the Vice President of the WEN Board and support our member/partner outreach and events strategy and communications. I have been involved with WEN for over 4 years in different capacities.

What do you like best about being part of WEN?

I love being a part of strong community of mission-driven women in the environmental field and leading that community to realize its potential. I get inspiration from strategizing and planning how WEN can better serve our membership base.

Tell us more about yourself.

I grew up in Manhasset Hills, NY, and have lived in Boston, Washington DC, LA, and Chicago. I have lived in San Francisco for the last 14 years and connecting with the area’s natural beauty inspired me to make the career switch into renewable energy. I believe the world is a wonderful place for us to protect and enjoy.

What are some of your other activities?

I am an avid runner and have 6 marathons under my belt. I have completed the Boston Marathon three times and look forward to many more! I enjoy skiing, swimming, surfing, scuba diving, wine tasting, fine dining, spending time with friends, and playing with my dog Jakey. My biggest passion in life is traveling the world and exploring new, exotic places. I just returned from a 2.5 week stint to Bulgaria and Greece and look forward to my next adventure!

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

I am most concerned about climate change and the general population’s indifference around this issue. I would like to see more action around generating education and awareness at a global scale about the need to act on climate change and what corporations and individuals can do to halt/reverse the damage. WEN and other organization that work to provide knowledge and a support network for people in the fight are key to driving this change.

Erica Mackie and GRID Alternatives

This month, WEN had the opportunity to learn more about the non-profit GRID Alternatives through an interview with its CEO and Co-Founder, Erica Mackie. Erica co-founded GRID Alternatives with Tim Sears in 2001 and has helped develop it into a major national non-profit. For her leadership of GRID Alternatives, Ms. Mackie has received numerous awards including the Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award in 2008, the New Leaders Council Energy Leadership Award in 2009, the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award in 2010, the US Green Building Council’s Green Building Super Hero Award in 2010 and the 2013 Clean Energy and Empowerment Award from C3E. Ms. Mackie’s professional experience prior to GRID Alternatives included work in the social sector first with survivors of domestic violence and then with youth at risk, as well as work in renewable energy and energy efficiency consulting and sales. She holds two bachelor’s degrees from Southern Illinois University, one in Mechanical Engineering and the other in Physics.

What is the mission of GRID Alternatives?

GRID Alternatives vision is a successful transition to clean, renewable energy that includes everyone. Our mission is to make renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities. We bring together community partners, volunteers and job trainees to implement solar power and energy efficiency for low-income families, providing energy cost savings, valuable hands-on experience, and a source of clean, local energy that benefits us all.

What is the history of Grid Alternatives?

Tim and I founded GRID Alternatives during the 2001 California energy crisis. We were engineering professionals who were implementing large-scale renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for the private sector, and found ourselves wondering why this amazing technology could save corporate clients millions of dollars but was out of reach for people like my neighbor in Oakland who could barely pay her bills. Through GRID Alternatives, we developed a model to make solar technology and training practical and accessible for low-income communities that need the savings and jobs the most, yet have the least access.

In 2008, GRID Alternatives was selected by the California Public Utilities Commission to serve as the statewide program manager for its Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) incentive program, the country’s first dedicated solar rebate for low-income families. Nearly 4000 California homeowners have gone solar through GRID Alternatives under this groundbreaking initiative, and we have integrated workforce development into every project. 

In 2012, GRID Alternatives launched a national expansion with support from Wells Fargo. We began serving Colorado in fall, 2012, and the New York Tri-state area in 2013. In 2014, GRID Alternatives started an international program in Nicaragua through the acquisition of Power to the People, as well as a program to serve Tribal communities across the nation. We will be expanding to serve the Mid-Atlantic region this coming fall.

What is the Women in Solar initiative?

The National Women in Solar Initiative is a year-long campaign, in partnership with SunEdison, to bring more women into the solar industry and support their professional advancement. It includes targeted outreach to bring more women out onto rooftops to get installation and leadership training with GRID Alternatives; women-only installation events; mentoring and networking opportunities; 20 year-long fellowships through GRID Alternatives’ SolarCorps program; and a series of webinars featuring women in various solar careers.

Why the focus on women?

The U.S. solar market grew at a rate of 41% last year. In order to sustain this rapid growth, the industry needs to attract and retain talented professionals at all levels, from installers to salespeople to executives. Just one in five solar workers today are women. Attracting more women to the industry will increase the talent pool and add important perspectives as solar becomes more mainstream. GRID Alternatives’ volunteer model provides women a pathway to access a variety of careers in the industry, and our partnerships with so many solar companies puts us in a great position to support hiring, professional development and networking. Just a few months in to the initiative we’ve gotten a great response. We are already feeling a shift in attention and approach toward the issue by solar companies both large and small.

Jordana Cammarata

Jordana Cammarata is currently a Client Solutions & Regulatory Affairs Manager at FirstFuel, an energy intelligence company that applies data analytics to drive deep insight into commercial buildings. Prior to joining FirstFuel, Jordana worked as a Senior Regulatory analyst at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) overseeing commercial energy efficiency programs. Jordana holds a Master’s in Public Policy focusing on environmental and energy policy from the University of Southern California, and a BS in Legal Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

How long have you been a WEN member? If a Board member, please state your position and how you bring value to the team.

I have been a WEN member for the past 3 years. I became a WEN Board member two months ago and focus on promoting WEN events through social media. I enjoy connecting people and I look forward to growing the network of environmental women leaders in the Bay Area.

Tell us more about yourself.

I was born in Brooklyn, raised in New Jersey, and I have lived in San Francisco for five years. During college I studied abroad in Hanoi, Vietnam for 3 months, and years later I completed a graduate policy-consulting project in Guangzhou, China. I have been an active environmentalist for the past ten years and these experiences further confirmed my passion to make the world a better place through environmental and energy work.

What do you like best about being part of WEN?

Over the years WEN has developed a group of intelligent and strong women that are trying to make a positive change through their work in the environmental space. WEN provides a venue for discovery and learning and I always appreciate the diverse conversations with the women I meet at our events.

What are some of your other activities?

I love being active in nature, traveling to new countries, and cooking a nice meal from the farmers market. Some of my favorite activities include: camping, snowboarding, rock climbing, yoga, biking, and road trips.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Climate change and recycling are big drivers of my professional work and lifestyle choices. I believe that small actions make a big difference, even if they don’t seem like it, and awareness and education on these issues cannot be underestimated. 

Sonita Lontoh

Sonita Lontoh is a Silicon Valley-based executive with almost two decades of experience spanning the technology sector and the smart, connected, and green energy industry. She is currently the Head of Global Corporate Marketing at Trilliant, a venture-backed Smart Energy Platform company. Ms. Lontoh is a frequent speaker and contributor on “smart” technology, green tech, and global leadership topics for publications such as FORBES, FORTUNE/CNN Money, the Huffington Post, BBC Capital, and the MIT Entrepreneurship Review. Outside of work, she is a professional mentor and selection committee member for TechWomen, a U.S. Department of State's technology initiative spearheaded by former Secretary Hillary Clinton to implement President Barack Obama’s vision for greater collaboration between the United States and the emerging technology leaders in the global communities. She was named Global Emerging Leader under 40 by the National Association of MBAs and has been invited to the White House for a celebration honoring Women Champions of Change. Ms. Lontoh earned her Master of Engineering degree from MIT, holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and did her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Emissions and waste resulting from our outdated and somewhat-inefficient energy infrastructure. For some context, our electric grid has been deemed one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century by the National Academy of Engineering. Yet, this greatest 20th century engineering achievement has not been modernized in almost 100 years in order to be able to handle the challenges of the 21st century, where energy will become greener and more distributed. Our traditional, centralized, one-way energy infrastructure does not allow for the visibility and control of the system, which results in a lot of waste and inefficiencies. The smart grid or smart energy can help us modernize this infrastructure by layering two-way communications and intelligence across our whole energy value chain, giving us more visibility and control, and result in a more efficient, cleaner and balanced system of supply and demand. I would like more people to be educated about this.

What difficulties do you see facing women who are interested in becoming more involved in the environmental sector?

In general, the energy sector requires some competency in a technical field, which some women may or may not have. And many of the top leaders come from the predominantly-male oil & gas or utility industry. Instead of viewing this as a challenge, however, I actually see this as a great opportunity. It's a great opportunity for women who have the combination of passion, skills and purpose to thrive. Smart Energy is an area where technology, business and policy intersect and where you contribute something greater to society rather than just selling a product/solution. Studies have shown that women tend to thrive in areas where they feel their work is contributing something more to society.

Any recommendations on how women can become involved in advocating for a sustainable environment?

Women are such great communicators in general. Instead of building superficial networks, women tend to build lasting, meaningful relationships. As such, it should be natural for women to get involved in advocating for a more sustainable future. She can start from her closest circles of friends and family. Then she can expand it through local relevant organizations or events. Then, should she have the time and capacity, she can advocate on the national and global levels by writing articles for or speaking at national and international conferences.

Katie Crossman

Katie Crossman is the recent recipient of an interdisciplinary, bilingual, dual-degree MSc in Conservation Leadership from CSU of Colorado and ECOSUR of Mexico. Her thesis involved collaborating with three other graduate students, a Mexican governmental partner, and six coffee-producing communities in Southern Mexico to develop the basis for a coffee planning document. It was funded by the Center for Collaborative Conservation. Specifically, she specialized in researching and developing a communication campaign for producers about coffee rust. Katie also has experience in ecological reserve management, investigating the use of sustainability indicators in the non-profit setting, and developing environmental education curriculum for a non-profit. 

How long have you been a WEN member? 

I have been a WEN member since January of 2014, joining after relocating to the Bay from Mexico.

What do you like best about being part of WEN?

I love the opportunity to meet women who I can learn from and develop relationships with others who I might be able to work with or help in the future. The events are meaningful and the board is driven to cultivating relationships with the members and bringing interesting and necessary conversations about our work to the table for discussion. 

Tell us more about yourself. 

I am originally from Montana and have a B.A. in English and Education and a minor in History. Before working in environmental conservation, I was a middle school English and Social Studies teacher. I have worked in fields as diverse as Private Equity and Ecological Reserve Management. I have also lived in Seattle, Los Angeles and Ecuador, and my favorite part of moving to a new place is finding a small piece of the whole that I can call my community, where I can build relationships and a home.  

What are some of your other activities?

My partner and I like to bird-watch and do it avidly when he’s not crazy-busy with school. I like to hike and generally be outside, do yoga, swim, ride my bike, support local farmer’s markets and businesses, explore new places in my community, read and write, cook, occasionally rock climb and recently took up non-contact boxing—which is great for stress!

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Water. Water rights. Water use. Water management. In my opinion, water will be the most interesting and controversial environmental issue of the coming years, as it is intricately linked to climate change and the stresses related to ever-growing human populations. I am also very interested in connecting people to the resources that they consume; and I am especially interested in connecting coffee drinkers to the actual producers. I would like to see more transparency in the entire chain of production and consumption of resources, especially when it comes to consuming resources from other countries. I am also interested in community-based conservation and environmental efforts, governance at all scales and how it dictates land use, and how current strategies and models of the private sector and business world might help move conservation and environmental work in a new direction.

Savanna Ferguson

Savanna Ferguson is an associate at California Environmental Associates (CEA) and a nonfiction writer focusing on natural history and the environment. At CEA, Savanna works on program strategy and recruiting for environmental and conservation nonprofits. Prior to CEA, Savanna was an assistant editor at Island Press and the geology technician and environmental studies field program manager at Whitman College. A Udall Scholar, Savanna holds a bachelor’s in environmental studies and writing and minors in geology and biology from Whitman, and an MFA in writing from the University of San Francisco. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

On a global scale, climate change, water, and the loss of biodiversity. I am devastated by the destruction being caused by mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia.

What difficulties do you see facing women who are interested in becoming more involved in the environmental sector?

One challenge is that as environmental organizations are constantly trying to increase their diversity, men are sometimes seen as the desirable, underrepresented candidates. It’s a little surreal.

Another potential challenge is compensation, especially if the environmental work women want to do is being done by nonprofits. Women, we know, are still paid less than men on average, and the nonprofit sector generally pays less than the for-profit sector does—and often less than government, too. Can the women who want to do this work afford to? The question of compensation is further complicated by the fact that there is a general belief that if you’re doing mission-driven work, you’re not in it for the money. This simple truth—that doing work you care about is more important to you than getting the highest pay—is often twisted to mean that you should be willing to do the work for a below-market salary. I disagree. If we want the best and the brightest to work on environmental issues, we need to offer competitive compensation.

As the environmental sector has matured, there has been a greater emphasis placed on specialization, and in recent years environmental organizations seem particularly keen to recruit individuals with strong skills in quantitative work, fundraising, and business. We have yet to see whether this emphasis will produce the desired effects, but there is no question that many organizations are attempting to shift towards a more business-like model. The trouble for women in this shift is that, though I acknowledge it’s a generalization, most of us have been socialized to be strong generalists with good communication and interpersonal skills, a nurturing demeanor, and a focus on qualitative work. Not only are these supposedly feminine traits, these “soft skills,” assigned less value—throughout society, not just in the environmental sector—but women are now often at a disadvantage when competing for quantitative roles or those that seek the hard-nosed and masculine traits we associate with business.

Similarly, I see women at the greatest disadvantage when competing for leadership roles in organizations. Despite the high numbers of women in the environmental sector, we are greatly underrepresented among the sector’s leaders.

Lastly, I fear that one of the reasons that the environment is not given the priority it deserves in politics and the public realm is because it is an area dominated by women. Despite the leaps and bounds women have made thanks to the work of so many who came before us, we are still not equal. Most of the prejudices we continue to face in this country, however, are more subtle and insidious than the bald-faced discrimination experienced by earlier generations of women. That means the remaining problems will be harder to fix.

Any recommendations on how women can become involved in advocating for a sustainable environment?

The simplest is vote. Educate yourself about ballot issues that affect the environment and about the environmental positions of candidates who are up for election. Choose the issues of top concern to you and identify a handful of groups working on those issues. Get on their listservs. Write letters and make calls when they ask you to. Go to meetings and hearings. Donate. Bring sustainability into your daily life: eat less meat or no meat, drive less often, fly less often, cut down your energy use, move your money out of the big banks and traditional investments and into credit unions or small, sustainability-oriented banks and SRIs. And when you do these things, talk to your friends, family, and colleagues about the changes you’ve made and why. If you don’t already work in the environmental sector, consider how your professional skills or other resources you have access to in your job could benefit the environment, and offer them up to a cause in need. Whether it’s pro-bono services, communications advice, content expertise, software, or simply a space to host an event, it’s all valuable.

Robin Quarrier

Robin Quarrier currently serves as President on the Board of Directors of the Women’s Environmental Network and is Chief Counsel at Center for Resource Solutions (CRS). At CRS, Robin manages legal issues such as contract negotiations, marketing claims, and the Green-e intellectual property portfolio. She is involved in the development of new standards and policies for the Green-e Energy program, and manages a semi-annual compliance review of marketing materials. Robin is the liaison with outside counsel and conducts coalition-building and policy writing. In July 2012, the State Department selected Robin to participate in the Foreign Speakers Program in Mongolia where she moderated and presented at the International Women’s Leadership Forum. Robin earned her Bachelor's degree from Darthmouth College and a J.D. from from University of Arizona.

How long have you been a WEN member?  If a Board member, please state your position and how you bring value to the team.

I’ve been on the Board of WEN for a little over three years and a member for almost four years.  I have served as Events Chair and Secretary, and for the last year I have had the pleasure of serving as President of the Board of Directors.  I run our monthly meetings, create agendas and facilitate Board recruitment.  It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding.

What do you like best about being part of WEN?

The aspects I like most about WEN is the camaraderie, ability to get things done and supportive teamwork among the women on the Board.  We look for ways to support each other in our careers and in WEN.  I love that we defy stereotypes of women especially in the environmental and energy sector.  Also, the members are very appreciative of our networking opportunities and educational panels.

Tell us more about yourself.

I am a firm believer that women should be treated as equals to men.  That was how I was brought up and I didn’t encounter many obstacles as a woman until later in life. There are a lot of subtle things that need to change in the way women are treated before we can have equality, e.g., compensation, work/life balance, etc.  I like that WEN takes a positive approach to these issues by creating networking opportunities that empower women. 

What are some of your other activities?

I’m training in Aikido right now. Aikido is a great sport for women, as it is performed by blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on.  This can be a good way to deal with professional conflict as well. 

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Climate change and pollution. As an asthmatic cyclist and runner, I notice when pollution hangs in the air.  We should all be thinking about the long-term impacts of our decisions; whether it’s choosing to ride the train to work or participating in renewable energy options through your utility, everything has an impact.

Teresa Zhang

Teresa advises developers and investors of utility-scale solar projects as a consultant with Leidos Engineering.  On any given day, she may be touring a PV module testing facility, discussing solar resource variability with lenders, or modeling the energy production of a PV power plant based on design documents.  A life‑long environmentalist, she has worked and published in the fields of life cycle assessment, manufacturing, and robotics before finding her calling in renewable energy.  She holds degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT (B.S.) and U.C. Berkeley (M.S. and Ph.D.).

How long have you been a WEN member?

I joined WEN as soon as I heard about it, less than a year ago.  Having lived in the Bay Area for nearly 10 years, it goes to show that new opportunities may pop up at any time!

What do you like best about being part of WEN?

I certainly appreciate being a part of a like-minded community of women given the male-dominated nature of so many of our work environments.  However, it’s the diversity of WEN that most impresses me.  I’ve met women with deep knowledge of incredibly disparate aspects of our environment - fishery researchers, marketing gurus, community organizers – as well as women representing all ages, cultures, and personalities.  I especially appreciated meeting a mechanical engineer a decade or two my senior, who undoubtedly helped pave the path for me, as I hope to do for others.

Tell us more about yourself.

I was born in China and raised in Upstate New York.  Living at the intersection of two cultures exposed me to the impacts our consumption in a very tangible way.  As a kid, I remember taking a shower at my grandmother’s house in China after watching plumes of black smoke emanating from the nearby coal‑fired boiler building, the source of our hot water supply.  I’ve been composting, reusing, repurposing, and taking quick showers ever since.

What are some of your other activities?

I love commuting, grocery shopping, and exploring by bicycle.  One of my favorite trips was riding with my (now) husband on a tandem, with many friends on bicycles, to our wedding.  Since four bicyclists were hit and killed by drivers in my neighborhood (SOMA) in the last year alone, I’ve taken to regularly writing local leadership about the need for safer bicycle infrastructure, unbiased police handling of incidents involving bicycles, and better public transportation. 

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

For me, it would have to be overpopulation, with climate change, water supply, and environmental toxicity being the most pressing issues stemming from overpopulation.  Most people are familiar with the benefits of solar power in terms of reducing climate change emissions, but I see the tremendous water saving benefits of photovoltaic sources of power as even more immediately critical for us in the arid west. We use a lot of power to pump our water such long distances, and in turn, we use a lot of water to operate the cooling towers for traditional thermal sources of power!  

I’m also very concerned about the toxicity of waste products from mining, manufacturing, and especially fracking.  My family lives over the Marcellus Shale Formation and it’s outrageous that identifying (let alone quantifying) the chemicals being pumped into the ground is still only optional in most of the country.

Julia Heath

Hailing from Bear Valley, CA, Julia is a recent transplant to the Bay Area. She is passionate about environmental work and has been active in restoration and outreach for the last 10 years.  She is a published author and has written articles and blogs for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC.   She worked for the City of Arcata’s Environmental Services Department for 3 years where she assisted in multiple aspects of wetland restoration, coordinated environmental outreach and educational events, in addition to serving on the Solid Waste Task Force. She is currently the Corporate Accounts Manager at California Delicious, promoting local, organic offerings of appreciation. She holds an MA in Diplomacy from Norwich University in Vermont and a BS in Environmental Science from Humboldt State University in California.

How long have you been a WEN member?  

I have been a member since I moved to the Bay Area last April. 

What do you like best about being part of WEN? 

I enjoy attending WEN events and engaging in the various networking opportunities. I recently attended a WEN Career Panel and found it very enlightening. The experiences of the three panelists – Dian Grueneich, Jennifer Martin, and Paula Mints were profoundly inspiring and useful. I met several fascinating and accomplished women who were also very welcoming and helpful. I look forward to forming deeper bonds with WEN members and attending more WEN events 

Tell us more about yourself 

I am passionate about international environmental and agricultural policy development. I participated in the International Honors Program (IHP) with Boston University in 2002-03. We traveled to England, India, the Philippines, New Zealand and Mexico over the course of 2 semesters. Participation in this program influenced my perception of the world extremely and has absolutely shaped my current academic and career aspirations. The program began in Washington, DC. We interviewed a group of panelists at the World Bank days before the fall protests began, 3 months later we were living with Adivasi villagers in India who had been displaced by the making of the Narmada Dam project, which was funded by the World Bank. This example is indicative of the well-rounded view IHP afforded its students. This program inspired me to become more invested in learning about my cultural heritage. As a result, I moved to Latvia in 2007 to find my relatives and taught English to support myself. I met more than 15 cousins and a handful of aunts and uncles. I returned in 2010 to conduct research for my graduate thesis, focused on assessing the successes and failures of the post-Soviet agricultural reforms, which also discussed the affects on environment, culture and livelihood. After this project I moved to DC and began working for the Institute for Policy Studies where I created a green federal budget for the Converting a Militarized Economy project. I also had the great opportunity to publish an article on the dangers of Arctic drilling. I would like to be involved in developing sustainable international development strategies. 

What are some of your other activities 

I grew up in Bear Valley, California, a company ski town that ranges from about 60 full-time residents to thousands of tourists and second homeowners during the holidays or special events. I lead a very active and outdoorsy lifestyle and began skiing when I was 3 years old. We get an average of 30 feet of snow per year so the roads in the village are closed, requiring us to walk, snowshoe, ski or snowmobile into our homes. The closest high school is 55 miles away and 5,000 feet in elevation. Needless to say it was quite a task to run track and cross- country. My mother owned a scuba diving business in Key West so I was fortunate enough to learn to scuba dive at 12 years old and later earned a minor in underwater research at Humboldt State University. I grew up with a monumental respect for the power that the natural world can yield to bring profound rewards or immense tragedies. I have traveled to 19 countries and have studied or worked in most. I have studied 4 languages and am fascinated by stories and how different cultures interact with the natural world. I love to cook, read and garden and my goals are to practice sewing, paint & photography.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

I’m most concerned with water, food and forests. I have hiked through majestic rainforests and witnessed the abject poverty and pollution of mega city slums. I understand that there are extreme differences in access to natural resources and basic human needs. I would like to restore the natural environment and increase the voice of those who are struggling as a result of top down development approaches and increasing inequality nationally and internationally 

Wetlands are incredibly efficient and under-utilized filters for human waste. If you haven’t visited the Arcata Marsh, I highly recommend taking a tour of their impressive natural tertiary sewage treatment system.

I’m also very concerned by the conventional food industry. I visited the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and they housed an impressive seed bank and engineered incredibly expensive farm equipment. Their mission was to alleviate poverty; however, when we spoke to an assembly of farmers they revealed they had been struggling to afford the fertilizer and roundup ready seeds they had come to rely on.

I am very interested in sustainable forest management. Forests have always provided a sanctuary for me and hold a very special place in my heart. My IHP final project involved in-country interviews in India, the Philippines and Mexico to compare cross-cultural activism techniques in order to ensure sustainable use access to forests by indigenous and preservation from government and corporate clear-cutting.

Maya Nair

Maya is an environmental attorney and currently serves as environmental counsel to the United States Coast Guard in Alameda, California. Her practice covers a wide range of environmental law including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, among numerous other environmental laws. She has a Masters of Laws (LL.M.) in Environmental Law from the George Washington University Law School, a J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, and a B.A. from Revelle College at the University of California, San Diego.
How long have you been a WEN member?  If a Board member, please state your position and how you bring value to the team.
I have been a WEN member for two years and joined the board as Chair of Professional Development last year given my background in mentoring and running legal internship programs. For several years, I ran my office’s legal intern program which gave me the opportunity to focus on recruiting women into the Coast Guard’s legal program. In September, I headed up a WEN speed networking event in San Francisco. We had a great turnout and attendees had a fabulous time making new friends in the environmental sector.
What do you like best about being part of WEN?
Many of our professions (law, engineering, science, etc.) have always been and continue to be male-dominated fields. Although things have considerably changed over the last 50 years, I often think back to my law school dean telling our incoming class that she was the only woman in her entire law school graduating class.  I remind myself that it has not been that long since women were accepted into most professions.  It is essential that we never lose sight of our responsibility as women professionals to ensure that opportunities for women in our fields continue to grow. Organizations like WEN play a vital role in providing a place where we can go for support, mentorship, and an exchange of ideas that will enhance our careers and pave the way for women who would like to join an environmental profession in the future. 

Tell us more about yourself.
From 2009 to 2013, I served as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard JAG program. Being a Coast Guard judge advocate provided with me a breadth of experience far beyond anything I could have ever imagined, which included being a federal prosecutor and a legal advisor to the Federal On-Scene Coordinator during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a Coast Guard officer I also worked on several oil spills in California as a legal advisor, assisted the United States Attorney’s Office with the prosecution of maritime environmental crimes, and conducted the legal review of the Santa Barbara Port Access Route Study that was praised by environmentalists for protecting whales from ship strikes. My government service in environmental law goes back to 2008 when I worked as law clerk at EPA Headquarters, Office of Air Enforcement in Washington D.C., and in 2009 as a law clerk for the California Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resource divisions.
What are some of your other activities?
I spend the majority of my free time travelling and exploring San Francisco. I’m also a dedicated swimmer and recently placed second in my age group at a San Francisco Bay open water swim competition. I’ve been training in San Francisco’s Aquatic Park to swim from Alcatraz next year. 
What environmental issues are of most concern to you?
I have always been drawn to issues in maritime environmental law. For the last six years, I have been following the ever-growing regulatory regime for air pollution from ocean-going ships. Despite being a major contributor to air pollution in coastal regions like the San Francisco, air emissions from large ocean-going vessels have managed to be overlooked by our air pollution laws. The emissions that result from the burning of dirty heavy fuel from container ships, tankers, cruise ships, and other large ships are high in sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and harmful diesel particulates responsible for a range adverse health effects on coastal populations. Over the last decade, EPA and the California Air Resources Board have been developing regulations that will require ships to use cleaner fuels as they get closer to land.  Now that we are entering the implementation phase, I look forward to seeing how the new regulations will benefit coastal communities and how they will impact the shipping industry and international trade.

Simone Brant

Simone has been a WEN member for five years and is a co-organizer of WEN's Green Reads book club. She currently works on climate change research at the California Energy Commission (CEC). Prior to the CEC, Simone worked on international energy/air quality projects, most recently with biomass cook stoves. Simone has Master’s degrees in Public Policy and Natural Resources and Environment from University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and a Bachelor’s from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. WEN would like thank Simone for her continued membership and for making the WEN Green Reads program a big success!

How long have you been a WEN member?  

I joined the Women’s Environmental Network when I moved to the Bay Area five years ago, but became more active last year when I was looking to network. I joined the East Bay Green Reads program (WEN’s book club) and became a co-leader of the book club.

What do you like best about being part of WEN?

Being a part of WEN is a great way to meet like-minded people which is certainly useful for networking, but beyond that I’ve made some great friends through the book club.

Tell us more about yourself.

I grew up in the Boston area and gradually moved down the east coast to Philly and DC. I headed west to Michigan for grad school and continued my westward trek post-grad school to the Bay Area. I’ve been interested in the environment ever since I was a kid growing up hiking and camping. I was lucky enough to get a job at the EPA working on climate change after college and have continued working on climate change initiatives ever since.

What are some of your other activities?

I love spending time in the outdoors! I’m also devoted to Ashtanga yoga.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

I’ve spent my career working on climate change and it’s definitely what worries me most.

Sarah Canniff

Sarah became a WEN member in 2011 and has been a co-organizer of WEN's Green Reads book club since January.  She currently works as a Project Manager for AEI Consultants, an environmental and engineering consulting firm, evaluating potential environmental impacts of current and historic property use in the Northern California Region.  Sarah earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis and is passionate about enjoying the outdoors, long-distance running, and working to reduce our impact through awareness, conservation, and use of renewable resources.

How long have you been a WEN member?  

I first joined WEN in October 2011, and started attending the Green Reads book club when it began in early 2012.  In January, Simone Brant and I took over as co-organizers for Green Reads.  I enjoy scouring the libraries and book stores for up to date, entertaining and enlightening books on a variety of topics.
What do you like best about being part of WEN?
I have met and continue to meet like-minded, inspiring women that have a passion for the world around us and the things they can do to make it better.  These women also make great friends! 
Tell us more about yourself.
Before moving to the Bay Area, I attended college in St. Louis, and spent my childhood years in a small town in Michigan as well as Windsor, Ontario.  I enjoy watching hockey and have always loved living near a shoreline.
What are some of your other activities?
Most of my time is currently dedicated to training for my first full marathon... but when I'm not running, I love to plan trips around the Bay Area and Northern California to soak in all that it has to offer!
What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

I wish that more people would take an interest in learning how our actions affect the world around us - whether it is the waste we produce, the emissions we generate, or the food we eat.  On top of focusing my career towards clean-up efforts and renewable alternatives, I work to inspire my non-environmentally inclined friends and family, one food scrap at a time! 

Paula Mints

Paula Mints is the Founder and Chief Market Research Analyst of Solar PV Market Research (SPV) and Paula brings 16 years of experience providing solar market research reports and custom research products about solar technologies, markets, applications and customers. She began her career at Strategies Unlimited in 1997.  Strategies Unlimited was founded as a Photovoltaic Market Research Practice in the mid-1970s.  In 2005, she moved the practice to 
Navigant Consulting.  As a Director in Navigant’s Energy Practice, she continued her solar market research work. In 2012, she launched her own practice SPV Market Research, continuing the tradition of providing classic market research. Paula is a well-versed solarchampion and industry conference Chairwoman, speaker, and a frequent contributor to energy publications like Renewable Energy World and other news outlets.
The issues that are of most concern to Paula include the environment and our responsibility to it, encouraging more women to choose solar as a career – as engineers, marketers, researchers and CEOs and continuing to educate energy consumers.

Jamie Britto

Jamie is an accomplished environmental professional focused on business development, client and project management, and third-party assurance of greenhouse gases, environmental management systems, and sustainability analytics. She earned a Master’s degree from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management with a concentration in Corporate Environmental Management and Eco-Entrepreneurship. As one of the initial leaders of WEN’s Green Reads Program, she believes collaboration, innovative solutions, and unique business models will help create an exciting and more equitable future.

How long have you been a WEN member?

I joined WEN in February 2012 when I helped spearhead WEN’s Green Reads book club.

What do you like best about being part of WEN?

WEN offers valuable networking and professional resources to its members. I appreciate that feedback is often solicited from members and sharing your thoughts with the group and Board always feels welcome. It is a wonderful community full of interesting, warm, passionate and motivated women. 

Tell us more about yourself.

Some of my recent environmental achievements include helping a city government understand their carbon footprint and target reduction strategies, consulting for an electric utility company on the corporate sustainability reporting landscape, and providing third-party assurance of sustainability metrics for a progressive global food company.

What are some of your other activities?

I love exploring Oakland.  I try and support the many local businesses and fabulous restaurants springing up everywhere.  A great organization that I am involved with is called Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO), whose focus is on improving neighborhood quality of life.  Having a puppy keeps me outside, you can often find me running with her around Temescal or traipsing through our beautiful East Bay regional parks.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Climate change demands more attention than it receives; food systems are broken and need repair; and unbridled consumption- resulting from unaccounted for externalized costs- is long over-due for a paradigm and infrastructure shift.

Trina Martynowicz

Trina Martynowicz currently works at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in San Francisco overseeing a national partnership to help bring clean air and energy technologies to market. The EPA initiative uses innovative solutions and non-traditional forms of funding to test and demonstrate technologies that will bring major emission reductions to the most polluted areas of the nation. Trina also works in the goods movement sector with the West Coast Collaborative, a voluntary public-private partnership to deploy cleaner technologies and fuels though various tools and practices. Trina earned dual Bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Science and Politics from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a Master’s in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University.

What do you like best about being part of WEN?

WEN serves both as a great professional resource and social outlet. I’ve enjoyed attending talks and lectures in areas I know very little, as well as networking with people who I would not have necessarily met if it wasn’t for WEN! The events are always of high caliber. I applaud the leadership of the WEN Board and leadership team- thank you for all of your work to help better educate and connect women in the environmental field!

Tell us more about yourself.

I’ve worked for the same employer, the EPA, since the day after graduating from undergrad 12 years ago! While in DC, I helped set guidance on cleaning-up the nation’s most contaminated military and DOE for several specific contaminants. I also oversaw a national work group that provided policy direction to the EPA to ensure the concerns of community members living around these sites were adequately addressed. I especially enjoyed working with Native American Indians, who unfortunately had to bear the brunt of these adverse environmental impacts. I helped create metrics and quantify our work in cleaning up these contaminated sites and developing EPA’s headquarters and regional budgets.

What are some of your other activities?

I feel strongly about engaging with and giving back to my community through volunteer and philanthropic activities. I serve on the leadership teams of the Full Circle Fund, an engaged philanthropy organization cultivating the next generation of leaders while driving lasting social change by providing financial and human capital assistance to local non-profits. Our newest partnership is with Impact Carbon, which helps people access new technologies like providing clean cooking stoves and water treatment systems to underprivileged Africans, through carbon and social finance while bringing these products to scale. I’m also on the Board of the Young Professionals in Energy, which provides a forum for networking and career development. I encourage you to check out both organizations!

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

California  has the worst air quality in comparison to the rest of the nation. Breathing highly polluted air, such as particulate matter or black carbon, can cause major health problems including respiratory and cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even premature death and birth defects. Black carbon, which is primarily emitted from diesel vehicles and wildfires, also contributes to climate change because of its ability to absorb light as heat. Southern California and San Joaquin Valley bear the brunt of air pollution, with 77% of particulate matter concentrated in these two areas with the highest number of people exposed than anywhere else in the nation. Through testing and demonstrating technologies that produce essentially no air pollution, such as electric trucks and cleaner fuels, I hope to significantly improve the air quality and health of people in these two regions!

Kate McGinnis

Kate McGinnis leads business development for energy storage at Chevron Technology Ventures. In this capacity, she evaluates new technologies and applications, develops partnerships, and manages demonstration project development. In her previous role as a Carbon Management Advisor, Kate was responsible for identifying and developing emission reduction projects. She successfully coordinated the issuance and commercialization of Chevron’s first ever carbon credits from a geothermal project in Indonesia. Prior to Chevron, Kate worked in environmental advocacy roles and as a consultant to the US DOE. She has a BS in Environmental Science from George Washington University and an MBA from Cornell.

What do you like best about being part of WEN?

WEN is an amazing network of individuals who share a common interest in improving or preserving the environment we live in. Though we all have that common desire, the diversity of approaches employed by WEN members towards this common cause never fails to amaze and inspire.

Tell us more about yourself.

I  grew up in Pleasantville, a suburb north of New York City. My journey to San Francisco passed first through DC, San Diego, and upstate NY. My earliest environmental memory from childhood is fighting with my father over the merits of recycling. I won, and he still sorts his trash to this day. My career has always centered around the environment, through nonprofit, political, and most recently corporate roles. The tremendous wealth of events, speakers, and creative people in San Francisco keeps me constantly learning. I’ve recently rediscovered twitter - follow me @katemcginnis.

What are some of your other activities?

I love outdoor sports - skiing, rafting, kayaking. I’ve played soccer all of my life, though an injury is keeping me sidelined for now. I’m also a travel nut - a favorite vacation formula is to plan a trip around a major hike, with a little city or beach time on the side.  Even better if I can combine it with business travel! I’m also a local alumni interviewer for my business school.  I’m a big fan of the food scene here in San Francisco - I cook at home from my farm box and I love the local content of our restaurants.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

I think that climate change is a problem that we don’t fully understand, and I fear both what the science predicts and what is still unknown. I work in energy because our current infrastructure is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and an area where I truly believe we can change the world within my lifetime.

Nikole Reaksecker

This month’s spotlight is on WEN Board member Nikole Reaksecker. Nikole has been a WEN member for two years. As WEN’s Secretary, she reads every email that comes into our account! Nikole specializes in sustainable business, marketing and change management. Her current BIG dream is to create an environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling human presence on the planet. To achieve this goal, she founded a consulting practice called EcoEngage and teaches a transformational process that helps people “face the mess” we are in without going crazy!

 How long have you been a WEN member?

Nikole has been a WEN member for two years. As WEN’s Secretary, she reads every email that comes into our account!    

What do you like best about being part of WEN?

According to Nikole, “WEN is an amazing community of women who are engaged in the world.”  She is deeply inspired by people who dedicate their lives to making the world a better place and is committed to creating empowered, engaged communities of support for people on that journey.

Tell us more about yourself.

Nikole grew up in the Napa Valley, yet knows very little about wine. She studied chemical engineering at U.C. Davis and is a graduate of the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute. She holds an MBA and a M.S. in Natural Resource Policy. She specializes in sustainable business, marketing and change management. Early in her career, Nikole worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency where she earned a bronze medal for her work on environmental justice. Her work resulted in a $7M settlement and the establishment of a health clinic in Wilmington, California to diagnose and treat respiratory diseases.

More recently, Nikole managed The Energy Coalition’s PEAK Student Energy Action Program. Under her leadership, PEAK received the 2010 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award for the best children’s environmental education program in the State of California.

Nikole’s current BIG dream is to create an environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling human presence on the planet. To achieve this awe-inspiring goal, she founded a consulting practice called EcoEngage and teaches a transformational process that helps people “face the mess” we are in without going crazy!

She also enjoys hiking, yoga and travel. In May, you’ll find her exploring Peru!

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Nikole is most concerned about our connection to the natural world and is passionate about educating the public about how our choices impact the planet.

Alice Liddell

Alice Liddell is currently a Manager at ICF International -- she has over fourteen years of experience in energy efficiency implementation, energy policy development, carbon cap and trade policy design, and transportation policy.  Alice joined the WEN board in 2009.

How long have you been a WEN member?                                                                                               

I have been a member since 2008 and have held various roles on the board since 2009, including the events side of the newsletter 2009-2011, WEN Board president 2011-2012, and I’m currently an At Large member of the Board 2013.



What do you like best about being part of WEN?
I really like how WEN fosters networking opportunities for professional women in the environmental field. I love helping to plan many of WEN’s events such as speed networking, career panels, hiking trips and happy hours, not to mention the pleasure of meeting other women in the environmental field.  


Tell us more about yourself

I grew up in New York City and since high school I knew that I wanted to have a career in the environmental field.  I attended Bowdoin College in Maine and majored in environmental studies and government; I later earned a Masters in Public Administration from Columbia University.  I have worked for a variety of consulting and non-profit organizations in MA, NY, CT and CA where I have focused on climate and energy policy and energy efficiency in both the residential and commercial sectors.  My husband Jay and I moved to CA in 2008 and currently live in Sonoma. 

What are some of your other activities?
I love to hike, golf, ski and I always have my camera on me since I am passionate about photography.  We just moved to Sonoma 

and I am really enjoying learning about wine and hiking in the area.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?
I wish more people understood energy efficiency and the benefits since it is a great win-win-win!  It is the lowest cost, least polluting type of energy and reduces the need for utilities to build more power plants.  I am also concerned about all aspects of water issues.  A safe and sustainable water supply is critical to everyone’s well-being and that of our community.   I am interested in the nexus of energy and water issues and feel that both energy and water efficiency will become more important as we deal with the effects of climate change.

Sapna Thottathil 

Sapna Thottathil is currently a Senior Program Associate for the nation-wide Healthy Food in Health Care program of Health Care Without Harm and Physicians for Social Responsibility, where she is promoting large-scale sustainable food purchasing in health care institutions, and preparing for an active legislative year on antibiotics in animal agriculture. She joined the the WEN Board in December as the East Bay Events coordinator. 

How long have you been a WEN member?

I've been a member since September 2012.

What do you like best about being part of WEN?
I respect how WEN fosters mentorship and networking opportunities for professional women in the environmental field. WEN works hard to create a support system for women, and also celebrates our valid and important achievements, which I believe is very important, given the many glass ceilings still left to reach. I look forward to WEN events, where women can share success stories, tips, and information about the environmental field and their lives. I hope to plan more events that revolve around sustainable food and agriculture.

Tell us more about yourself
I just received my PhD from UC-Berkeley in December 2012. I had been conducting ethnographic field work (with the help of a Fulbright fellowship) on organic farming movements in the state of Kerala (in India) for the past 6 years. Prior to that, I researched consumer attitudes around food miles, Fair Trade foods, and local foods, for my Masters degree from Oxford University. I’ve also worked for the EPA in Washington DC, and I am a recipient of the Udall Scholarship for Environmental Excellence

What are some of your other activities?
I love browsing recipes and cooking! I think about food all the time. What to eat (and drink), what to make, the politics of it all, my vermicompost, etc. I’m obsessed with food. I also love hiking in our state and national parks, and identifying wildflowers and birds (although my West Coast taxonomic knowledge is not up to par with my East Coast knowledge – I was born and raised out East).

I’m an avid reader. I have too many books. And, I love maps.  

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?
The impact and abuses of industrial agricultural production concern me – the labor violations, the use of toxic chemicals as pesticides, run-off in our watersheds, corporate control of seeds, the loss of biodiversity, the exploitation of animals, etc., all within the context of contentious free trade agreements and a changing climate. I’m an advocate of sustainable agriculture, which I believe can feed our world’s population, and can also be culturally-sensitive. 

January 2012

Paige Miller

This month’s spotlight is on new WEN Board member Paige Miller. Paige currently holds a communicati

ons role with the S

an Francisco Department of the Environment and joined the WEN Board in December as the Social Media Manager. She is passionate about urban planning and ways that individuals can develop livable, transit-oriented communities where the people, economy, and environment are all in good health. That's why she loves living in the Bay Area where she can take MUNI to work, bike to the beach, and walk to meet friends for coffee all within a stone's throw from her house. 

How long have you been a WEN member?

I've been a member since September 2012

What do you like best about being part of WEN?

I love being a part of WEN because it provides the unique opportunity to build relationships with like-minded women in the environmental sector for networking, learning, and friendship.

What are some of your other activities?

I love riding my bike, making pizza from scratch, and hiking through the Presidio and Golden Gate Park. 

What do you like most about living in the Bay Area?

This city has spirit. From sports, to music festivals, to roller skating dance parties to Thriller in Golden Gate Park, people are always looking for a reason to go outside and have a good time. 

December 2012

Dilara Su Muftuoglu

Our final spotlight for 2012 is on East Bay WEN member Dilara Su Muftuoglu.  Like most of our members, she is a busy and focused woman. Dilara's current work involves finding solutions to help the poor overcome poverty.  Her organization, 
Innovations for Poverty Action, “
designs and evaluates programs in real contexts with real people, and provide hands-on assistance to bring successful programs to scale.”

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in beautiful Istanbul and moved to California seven years ago. After moving around all over California, I finally moved to the Bay Area when I transferred to Cal two years ago. I recently graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Economics and Policy. During my time at Cal, I started working as a research assistant for Professor Ethan Ligon. After graduation, I was lucky enough to continue working for Prof. Ligon as a consultant through Innovations for Poverty Action.

How long have you been a WEN member?

I’ve been a member since May 2012.  My fellow alumnus and friend Elizabeth Chan discovered WEN and told me about it.

What do you like best about WEN?

WEN creates a platform for driven, energetic, and social women to meet with one another. When I go to WEN events, I am always amazed by how I am surrounded by smart, like-minded women who are passionate about the environment. It’s very inspiring and reminds me that I am not alone. I’ve never met anyone via WEN whom I did not take an instant liking to.

What are some of your other activities?

When I am outdoors, I like biking, kayaking, swimming, and going to concerts. When I am indoors, I like cooking, and sewing. Currently, I am sewing a birthday present for my best friend. Don’t tell her! :)

What is your favorite thing about living in the Bay Area?

Right now? The Giants.

November 2012

Families for Clean Air

This month's spotlight is on Families for Clean Air.  A big thanks to WEN member Patti Weisselberg, who suggested we get in touch with executive director Susan Goldsborough, to find out more about the important work done by this local non-profit.

Families for Clean Air was formed by a group of concerned parents in the San Francisco Bay Area who felt that many parents were simply unaware of the consequences of wood smoke pollution.  The organization strives to educate people about the health dangers associated with wood burning.  On the next Spare the Air Day this fall/winter, keep in mind the efforts undertaken by this group to make the air we breathe a littler bit cleaner and safer.

What is the mission of Families for Clean Air?

Our mission is to protect the public's health from residential wood smoke pollution through advocacy, education, and community involvement.

What is the history of your organization?

Families for Clean Air was founded in 2006 to work on the passage of a Bay Area Air Quality Management District regulation to ameliorate residential wood smoke pollution which is the largest source of harmful air pollution in the Bay Area from November through March.

What are the current top priorities for Families for Clean Air?

Currently we are concerned with educating the public about the public health hazards of wood burning. Wood smoke is 12 times more carcinogenic than the same amount of cigarette smoke, is the second largest source of dioxin in the Bay Area, and is a significant factor in global warming.  People don't realize that heating with wood is not a sustainable act. 

Our website notes that hundreds of studies have now documented the harmful health effects of wood smoke pollution. Yet many people remain unaware of the facts―or refuse to accept them. The current situation is similar to the way we used to treat second-hand tobacco smoke―by the time the public finally accepted just how hazardous second-hand smoke was, there had already been incalculable damage to human life.

The fine particle pollutants from wood burning are so small that they infiltrate even the most well-insulated and weather-stripped homes. Scientific studies have shown that particle pollution levels inside homes reach up to 70% of the pollution levels outdoors.

What is one unknown/interesting fact about Families for Clean Air?

We are helping people with wood smoke problems all over the U.S. and abroad. Our website and printed materials have been used by the EPA, air districts, two counties, and a number of cities.

October 2012

Cara Goldenberg

This month’s spotlight is on Cara Goldenberg, a WEN board member who always brings much enthusiasm, dedication, and smart ideas to the group.  A native Californian and outdoors enthusiast, Cara is passionate about climate change and its impact on the world’s environment.  With a background in environmental economics, she is applying her skills and interests analyzing energy and related issues for a San Francisco consulting firm.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in sunny San Diego and moved up to the Bay Area for school six years ago. I graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.S. in Environmental Economics and Policy and took away with me a growing interest and passion for environmental and energy issues. I spent my summer after graduation in Mozambique where I worked with International Development Enterprises (IDE) focusing on micro-irrigation technologies for smallholder farmers. After a brief stint in the legal world, I am now working as a Regulatory Analyst for former California Public Utilities Commission Commissioner Dian Grueneich at her small, strategic consulting firm. I am responsible for researching and analyzing California and U.S. energy regulatory matters, particularly relating to energy efficiency, demand response, and renewable energy.

How long have you been a WEN member?

I have been a WEN member for over a year now, and a board member for just as long.

What do you like best about WEN?

The events! I have had so much fun hiking, crafting, eating, socializing, etc. with such an interesting group of women.

What are some of your other activities?

On the weekends you can find me either traveling, reading, running, going to the movies, or cooking (or trying at least!).

What is your favorite thing about living in the Bay Area?

The mix of a bustling city situated in awe-inspiring natural surroundings.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Climate change and all that is relate

September 2012

Los EcoAmigos 

This month’s spotlight is on Los EcoAmigos (LEA), a unique and young organization that understands how crucial education is for community development and self sufficiency.  LEA advocates throughout the Bay Area for greater environmental awareness within minority populations.  It is run by Elena Velez, who believes that the wealth of sustainability information and programs should be ethnically inclusive.  She seeks to enlighten every individual to realize that we all share one planet that should be cherished and nurtured instead of taken for granted.
What is the mission of Los EcoAmigos?
Los EcoAmigos (LEA) believes that having the Latino population actively participating in the triple bottom line - people, planet, and profit - as a daily behavior will immensely aid the fight against global environmental decay.  The organization’s main mission is to build a strong foundation between the environmental organizations and the Latino community. LEA enables the Latino Community in the Bay Area to retake their sustainable living practices via bilingual education and advocates for healthier and self-sufficient families while reducing costs. Programs includes topics such as water conservation, edible gardening, nutrition classes, daily living practices (recycling, compost, etc), air pollution, smart transportation and energy efficiency.
What is the history of Los EcoAmigos?

LEA was founded by Elena Velez, who realized while working in waste reduction recycling programs, that regardless of the magnitude of the Latino population, especially in the Bay Area, the Latino Community had no access to sustainable education.  This was mainly because of the language barrier.  After almost three years, Elena decided to do something about this and connect the dots  - lovely people in need of knowledge, free environmental education in Spanish, and LEA’s caring, multilingual educational skills.  She is joined in her work by a group of consultants, professionals, interpreters, translators and educators that support her efforts on promoting bilingual environmental education.

A single mother of two fantastic young men (14 and 18 years old), Elena works as a consultant and facilitates the communication process within different fields. She is busy meeting many people all over the Bay Area, looking for existing environmentally-friendly organizations that recognize and support the mission of Los EcoAmigos.

What are the current top priorities for Los EcoAmigos?

Los EcoAmigos priorities are to:

Obtain financial support to engage the Latino Community and promote its programs

Integrate the Latino Community with global environmental purposes

Create a “Cultura Verde” which aims for self sufficiency - especially with the high unemployment rate affecting the Latino Community

Encourage active participation and integration through bilingual environmentally- friendly workshops

Become The Latino Green Resource Center

What is one unknown fact about Los EcoAmigos?

An unknown fact is that Los EcoAmigos (LEA) will represent your organization only if you have a meaningful purpose, if you respect and value the Latino Community, and if you agree that this community deserves to be included. If you see yourself there, LEA will smile and deliver your message with a culturally engaging marketing strategy as if it was ours.

August 2012
Suzanne York

Suzanne York is a writer and advocate for women’s reproductive health. A member of the WEN board since 2010, she currently works as senior writer for the Institute for Population Studies in Berkeley (  Suzanne recently returned from the United Nations’ Rio+20 conference in Brazil, where she joined thousands of other advocates gathered to chart a path forward to a more sustainable future. Empowering women in developing nations will be essential, she says. “Study after study shows meeting basic needs helps women and everyone cope with the effects of climate change and protect and manage resources better,” she says. “It is critical that people became better informed on how empowering women leads to healthy families and a sustainable environment.”

Where do you currently work?

I am a writer with the Institute for Population Studies in Berkeley; aka  Our goal is to raise public awareness of the fundamental cause of (and solutions to) social and environmental issues, so that all people are empowered to determine a sustainable population size for their families, regions and the planet.  We explore the links among population growth, women's rights, access to family planning, education, social justice and environmental challenges, including urban sprawl, water rights, climate change and  consumption.

I'm fortunate that I get to attend some very interesting events for my job. I recently traveled to Rio de Janeiro for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development/Rio+20.  I went on behalf of both the Institute for Population Studies and also the Sierra Club's Global Population and Environment Program, with whom I volunteer.  Rio+20 was exciting, exhausting, informative, and frustrating.  There was a final outcome document that governments agreed upon, but most environmentalists and reproductive rights activists and many others were not happy with it.  The best things happened at the conference side events, where new collaborations and connections were made amongst diverse sectors for future work and campaigns.

And after Rio, I went straight to Colorado for the Aspen Ideas Festival, a gathering of “top thinkers” on a range of pressing issues.  This year they addressed population growth in a week of sessions called Our Planet: 7 Billion and Counting.  

My articles on the conferences and other issues can be seen at  I also have a personal blog focused on India, environment, and human rights called Taming the Tiger, located at

What environmental issues are most important to you and how as individuals can we personally support these issues and increase awareness?

Most of my writing reflects the issues that most concern me, namely population growth, women's empowerment, reproductive rights, over-consumption, alternative economic indicators, and protecting the environment. 

My background has been working on the effects of globalization on the environment and human rights/indigenous rights.  I've been very excited to transition into writing about population issues and advocating for women's empowerment, since I feel that these are key issues and solutions to many of the problems the world is facing today.

When we empower women, it reduces stress on the environment and resources.  The latest statistic is that 222 million women in developing countries want to avoid pregnancy, but lack effective contraception. When these women are educated, given choice and access to voluntary reproductive health services, along with improved economic opportunities, their communities and the planet benefit.  Study after study shows meeting basic needs helps women and everyone cope with the effects of climate change and protect and manage resources better. It is critical that people become better informed on how empowering women leads to healthy families and a sustainable environment.

What type of WEN events do you most enjoy?

I really enjoy being a WEN board member and collaborating with very interesting and talented women.  We plan many great activities, and the ones I like best are hiking excursions, brunches, and speed networking.

July 2012

Christine Sculati

Christine Sculati is a development consultant and writer for  nonprofits in the Bay Area. The UC Berkeley graduate has run her own business since 2001, helping small- to medium-size non-profits rally support and volunteer engagement. Sculati is an avid outdoors woman and rock climber who also write a blog to highlight ideas, news and resources for nonprofit and community innovation. 

Tell us a little about yourself.

I like to help organizations solve tough community problems by effectively engaging people in their causes to offer volunteer and philanthropic support. Currently, most of my work focuses on helping two of my wonderful clients through development director transitions. I have run my own business since 2001.

Before I changed directions in my career to focus on nonprofits and philanthropy, I worked in the private and public sectors as an environmental consultant.  I started interning in this field before I graduated from the environmental sciences program at UC Berkeley and continued on for nine years.  My work ranged from regulation development and oil spill prevention inspections for the Environmental Protection Agency to helping California businesses and nonprofits to prevent pollution and find and implement green business solutions. I wrote proposals, developed budgets and managed projects. I also took a sabbatical to live, volunteer and travel in South America for six months, which likely spurred my eventual career change.

What are some environmental issues that concern you?

A number of environmental issues concern me, but right now the California state parks crisis is on the top of my mind with the date of July 1 looming, by which time parks will close and museum artifacts will be packed up and shipped to warehouses in Sacramento. Last year, 70 parks were slated for closure due to budget cuts. At least 30 of those now have a temporary reprieve, but the whole system is under siege due to under-funding for many years. Proposition 21, which would have helped us rebuild and sustain a world-class state park system in California, failed at the ballot box in fall 2010. My concern is that Californians and youth are becoming increasingly disconnected from the outdoors and environmental issues. Youth, our future environmental stewards, need opportunities to experience the benefits of parks and wilderness areas offer. It is hard to believe, but some urban youth in San Francisco have never been to the beach or seen the Golden Gate Bridge.

How long have you been a WEN member?

I have been an avid reader of the WEN newsletter since 2007. That year I attended my first WEN event and remember being impressed that it was "zero waste" with compostable plant-based utensils, cups, and plates, including vegetarian tamale husks.

What do you like best about WEN?

I really enjoy the newsletter to get a pulse on what is happening in the community of women working in the environmental fields, especially because several members work with nonprofits. Last year, I participated in a couple of great events with inspiring conversation, including a brunch and hike to Tennessee Valley and a craft night and potluck for the holidays.

What are some of your other activities?

When I am not working, I like to spend as much time as possible in the outdoors, experiencing nature, wilderness and adventure with my husband and friends.  One of my favorite places in the world is Yosemite National Park, where I have spent many weekends camping, rock climbing and backpacking.

I also write a blog to highlight ideas, news and resources for nonprofit and community innovation. Since September 2011, I have dedicated that space to follow the current California State Park funding crisis, drawing attention to nonprofit leaders who have stepped up to save our parks and park system. I treasure our state parks and think it is devastating that these beautiful places are endangered.

What is your favorite thing about living in the Bay Area?

The Bay Area has it all – from arts and culture to some of the best places to experience nature and wilderness within a very short distance from urban areas. I also love how bicycle friendly it is here.

  June 2012

Andrea Kopecky

Many Women’s Environmental Network members might recognize Andrea, a member of our board since last October. An attorney who works for the non-profit San Francisco Baykeeper, Andrea is working to protect and improve water quality in the Bay.  Lately Andrea has been focused on enforcing the Clean Water Act (CWA) by bringing citizen suits against industrial facilities that are in violation of their CWA permits. “It has been a very rewarding job that incorporates both my science background and my legal knowledge,” Andrea says. 

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in Indiana and started becoming interested in environmental issues in sixth grade, due to a very passionate science teacher that taught us about recycling before anyone recycled.  I studied biology at Purdue University and went on to the University of Texas (UT) for a Master’s Degree in marine science.  After graduating, I worked on a research project studying nutrient cycling in some highly polluted streams.  After focusing solely on science, I decided I wanted to shift careers in order to have more of an impact on the environment.  I decided to go to law school at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, focusing on environmental law.  After graduating from law school in 2010, I moved down to San Francisco to start my current job as an attorney for San Francisco Baykeeper.  

How long have you been a WEN member? 

I have been a WEN member since last summer, when I first heard about the organization.  I found out about the newsletter and went to one of the happy hour events.  I really enjoyed it and decided to get more involved right away, so I joined the WEN board in October.  It has been great!

What do you like best about WEN? 

I like meeting and talking with women who are passionate about the environment.  I think we can learn a lot from each other.  WEN is also important to me because I work for such a small organization that it can be difficult to network and meet others with similar interests.  I also recently got involved with one of WEN’s book clubs, which has been really fun.  

What are some of your other activities?

I love being outdoors as much as possible.  I enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, and scuba diving.  I like going on walks in the woods and bringing along my camera.  I also enjoy reading, Scrabble, going to farmer’s markets, playing the piano, and traveling.     

What is your favorite thing about living in the Bay Area? 

My favorite thing about the Bay Area is being surrounded by water, whether it’s the Bay itself, the ocean, or the many lakes and streams.  It makes me happy to be walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, along the beach, or on one of the many piers in San Francisco.  It reaffirms my passion for protecting our beautiful environment.

What are some environmental issues that concern you?

For my job, I focus on water pollution in the Bay and its tributaries, but I am also concerned about many other issues.  A big issue in California, especially in the Central Valley, is contaminated groundwater.  This is already a pervasive problem affecting many communities that rely on groundwater as a source of drinking water.  I am also very concerned about the impacts of climate change, especially how drought conditions affect food production across the globe.  Our biggest environmental problem in the future is too many people and not enough natural resources!

May 2012

This May we're focusing on TechWomen, a professional mentorship and exchange program created to enable technical women from the Middle East and North Africa to reach their full potential. Based in San Francisco, TechWomen connects and supports the next generation of women in technology sectors by providing them the access and opportunity needed to pursue careers in technology. Formed under Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's leadership, TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The Department of State is partnering with the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology to implement this initiative.

Currently, TechWomen is seeking women in the San Francisco Bay Area to serve as Professional and Cultural Mentors to the 2012 group of TechWomen Mentees from the Middle East and North Africa. Harnessing the power of business, technology and innovation, TechWomen brings emerging women leaders, many working in the sustainability and environmental fields, together with their U.S. counterparts for a professional mentorship and exchange program in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and the greater Bay Area.
The TechWomen program is based on a framework supported by two types of Mentors: Professional and Cultural. Professional Mentors are women who work in technology fields in the San Francisco Bay Area and host Mentees at their companies. Professional Mentors coach Mentees on projects of mutual benefit for the Mentee and host company. Many 2012 TechWomen finalists have technical expertise related to environmental development, such as organic agriculture, sustainable water management, renewable technology, and biodiversity. Mentors and Mentees develop an engaging and relevant project together prior to the Mentee’s arrival in the U.S.
Cultural Mentors also live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mentees are matched with Cultural Mentors based on common interests to facilitate opportunities for mutual understanding. Mentee-Mentor pairs participate in activities together such as neighborhood festivals, sightseeing trips, shopping, family dinners, book readings, professional networking and enrichment, art exhibits, dance performances and community service opportunities. 
One Cultural Mentor had the following to say: “The TechWomen experience was truly fulfilling, rewarding, and inspiring for me particularly because we all got an opportunity to contribute and learn from each other. This program has not only opened our minds to world but also out hearts. We have formed lasting relationships with the Mentors and Mentees in the program.”

 If you are interested in fostering the next generation of women leaders from the Middle East and North Africa, apply now! Questions? Please contact TechWomen at or (415) 362-6520 Ext. 207.

Read more on the TechWomen website at:

Seema Ghosh
April 2012

We’re delighted to feature Seema Ghosh, one of WEN’s East Bay Green Reads book club leaders who discovered WEN through the Women of Wind Energy group. 

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in the Seattle area and studied electrical engineering at the University of Washington. After working for the power utility in Seattle for two years, I knew I wanted to get into renewable energy. I went to graduate school at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) to study electrical engineering. After graduating I joined Black & Veatch in their Portland, OR office doing substation design. Within a year I found Black & Veatch's renewable energy consulting group in the Bay Area and transferred here. I've been working for Black & Veatch for almost 5 years. 

How long have you been a WEN member?

I've only been a WEN member for a few months. A friend of mine introduced me to Women of Wind Energy (WoWE). I have been working with them for about two years. Through WoWE I found out about WEN. I'm very excited about being part of this great group of people.

What do you like best about WEN?

I like meeting people in the environmental field in various facets. I've met people who do environmental consulting, help small businesses, work for non-profits, do green marketing, and so on. I'm excited to be part of WEN and look forward to meeting more of its unique and diverse members.  

What other activities are you involved in?

I'm on the Women of Wind Energy leadership team. WoWE puts on events such as tours of wind farms or green winery's, lectures, and joint ventures such as the Women In Renewable Energy (WIRE) career panel events. Aside from these things I love cooking, reading, and spending time with my dog.

Favorite thing about living in the Bay Area?

The Bay Area is unique in so many ways. The weather is wonderful and there is a great diversity of people and culture here. But what I think is really great about California, and the Bay Area in general, is how progressive things are. I love being on BART and overhearing people talk about green building, renewable energy, or sustainability; these kind of ideas are not unique around here!

Back to Earth Outdoors

March 2012

Back to Earth Outdoors is an inspiring Bay Area organization dedicated to introducing wilderness to people who have not spent much time in it, or for those who have, strengthening that connection. The organization strives to facilitate experiences of connection with the Earth that inspire lasting change in how we conceive of our relationship with the planet. 

One of the Back to Earth Outdoors signature programs is the Intro to Backpacking for Women trip. The purpose of the program is to train women in backpacking skills so that they can organize and lead their own trips, and overcome any intimidation in doing so. The outing also aims to connect and empower women to have a positive relationship and impact with nature. 

Back to Earth trips can alleviate any fears women may have about spending time in the wilderness, or planning their own outing, says Dashielle Vawter, the organization’s director. She thinks the connection with nature helps remove some of that fear and any obstacles that could be standing in the way. The trips contain a stewardship aspect and are designed to build participant’s kinship relationship with nature. Dashielle believes that part of being a woman is connecting with nature, and that for too many years the earth and women's bodies have been a battleground for those in power. Yet women have a unique relationship with the environment, with a rich experience as traditional nurturers and caregivers, and that relationship should be cultivated

A longtime outdoor enthusiast, Dashielle had a calling to protect nature and help engage other people. She has a strong belief in creating personal relationships with the outdoors and that we all can become more powerful in the ways we relate to nature. It ultimately boils down to making the relationship your own, incorporating concepts of fellowship, community, and empowerment. 

The women's backpacking trip involves a range of activities, from map reading to building leadership skills, and along the way showing participants how they can complement each other’s strengths and inspire one another. 

Are you ready to go? Check out their website for full details. The next Intro to Backpacking for Women trip is scheduled for this coming June, in gorgeous Sequoia/King's Canyon National Parks. 

And special thanks to WEN member Kathren Murrell Stevenson, who led a Yoga, Arts and Ecology Backpacking Retreat trip last year with Dashielle and BTEO and wanted to share this incredible experience with other women! 


Member Spotlight: 
Osprey Orielle Lake

How did you become interested in environmental work?

Early in my life, I was inspired by the northern coast of California where I spent much of my childhood hiking along remote beaches and in the redwoods.  This beauty deeply touched me and I knew that I wanted to do all that I could to protect these special places and to bring more awareness to the need to protect the natural world.  I understood this early on because I had experiences of seeing the devastating results of magnificent old growth forests that were clear-cut; forests that I loved and knew were irreplaceable.  It broke my heart open.  The words of Rachel Carson also guided me at that time, especially when she wrote, “I believe that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

For many years I have been involved with environmental and societal change organizations, and last year I founded the Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus (WECC), which is a branch of State of the World Forum.  As the director of WECC, I have the honor and opportunity to collaborate with extraordinary women here in the US and in other countries.  We are developing alliances that can assist, as an example, the most vulnerable communities in Africa that are dealing with the devastating effects of climate change.

What environmental issues are most important to you and how as individuals can we personally support these issues and increase awareness?

We are focused on women because empowering women benefits entire communities as well as society overall.  United Nations’ studies show us that worldwide, when women are empowered, local economies improve, populations stabilize, and children’s health and education improves.  In many countries, women get out the vote and vote more often.  Where the environment is concerned, women are the main recyclers in the home, and often decide how the family income is spent.  Women decide some 80% of family financial decisions in America.  Imagine that market power focused on demanding a new clean energy economy!

We also need to bring light to, and take action on, the disproportionate burden women face, especially in low-income communities and developing countries, from the impacts of climate change.

Right now, in addition to convening WECC sessions, I am on a tour with my new book “Uprisings for the Earth: Reconnecting Culture with Nature”. The book weaves together history, science, the arts, women’s leadership and governance in order to map out an integral approach to working in partnership with nature.  When we embrace our connection to the natural world and to each other, and combine that with the lessons of our ecosystems, we have a better capacity to find answers needed to create sustainable living models.  In this sense, the mystery, wonder and elegance of the earth have been at the core of my inspiration.

We gladly welcome more participation in WECC! Please see and welcome to my book launch in Berkeley on October 26, 2010.


Nonprofit Spotlight:
The Watershed Project

What is the mission of your organization?

We all live in a watershed, although it can be easy to forget in a place like the Bay Area where we’ve paved over our waterways and bay to make way for urban development.  The Watershed Project (TWP) seeks to remind us that we live in a fragile, damaged ecosystem and works to inspire Bay Area communities to understand, appreciate, and protect our local watersheds.  If we reconnect with our physical environment and recall that humans are part of nature, we will strengthen the web of life that sustains us.

What is the history of The Watershed Project?

At its inception in 1987 as the Education Department of San Francisco Estuary Institute (a nonprofit devoted to research and monitoring of the San Francisco Bay), TWP primarily served to educate Bay Area residents about the environmental and health hazards of urban runoff. Ten years later, the department broke away to form an autonomous nonprofit, The Aquatic Outreach Institute, changing its name in 2004 to The Watershed Project.

Since acquiring 501c3 status, TWP has expanded programming to include community work days for creek and coastal restoration, community education focusing on healthy urban, riparian, and coastal ecosystems, extensive experiential learning programs in Bay Area schools, and coordination and financial/technical assistance for the numerous watershed stewardship organizations in the Bay Area.  Additionally, TWP has proudly endured the recent economic downturn through the support of tireless staff and outstanding internship program.

What is the current top priority for The Watershed Project?
The Watershed Project currently supports five major initiatives:

CLEAN SHORELINE INITIATIVE-Litter in our waterways is not inevitable.  TWP is working with schools, businesses, community members, and stewardship groups to clean up our watersheds.

LIVING SHORELINE INITIATIVE- Our Oyster Monitoring and Restoration Program offers vital habitat for fragile native oysters through hands-on student monitoring and community volunteer efforts.

GREENING URBAN WATERSHED INITIATIVE- Historically, urban development has had disastrous environmental impacts, but it doesn’t have to. TWP focuses on creek restoration, bioswales, rain gardens and other community-driven low impact design projects to educate local residents and promote sustainable urban practices.

BUILDING A WATERSHED MOVEMENT- TWP coordinates and supports other stewardship groups through partnerships and technical assistance, as well as monetary grants.

ENVIRONMENTAL CAREERS INITIATIVE- In an age of environmental destruction, we must rely on the innovations of the next generation for solutions,  TWP’s Green Academy and internship program inspire at-risk youth, college students, and graduates to positively contribute to the environmental sector.

What is one unknown fact about The Watershed Project?
Zealously dedicated staff and volunteers sometimes get locked in regional/state parks during restoration projects.  At TWP, we don’t stop when the sun sets!

Member Spotlight:
Maeve Murphy, Turtle Island Restoration Network

I work at Turtle Island Restoration Network, a registered nonprofit based in west Marin County that works to protect marine life and habitats worldwide. TIRN’s main programs are the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, which works globally; Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN), which works locally to protect the largest remaining population of coho salmon in California here in west Marin; and the GotMercury Campaign, which raises awareness of the dangers of mercury in seafood and promotes effective policies to prevent high-mercury seafood from being sold to the public.

 I used to have a career teaching English as a Foreign Language. But over time I was becoming more and more concerned about the health of the planet and the harm I saw humans doing to it through the way we live and the way our economies work, especially in the West and in so-called ’developed’ countries. I realized we needed to change our basic way of living on the earth and relating to the environment and wanted to somehow be part of a movement to help bring about that change. Since I was already teaching, I got a qualification in Environmental Education and Heritage Interpretation. This led to several years working in nature study centers and wildlife reserves with school children and the public on programs through which they explore and connect with the environment. From there I moved into advocacy work with a nonprofit in the UK working on household waste issues, a topic I am passionate about. Meanwhile I was also exploring my interest in marine species and their protection. I volunteered for a program protecting sea turtle nesting beaches in Greece, became a certified scuba diver, and also volunteered for an expedition in the Bahamas, which involved daily dives to survey coral reef habitat for a planned Marine Protected Area. I learned a great deal about threats to marine species and ocean health, and when the opportunity arose to work for TIRN and develop skills in fundraising, grant writing and nonprofit development to help endangered marine life and habitats, I jumped at the chance.

All environmental issues are interconnected and important. But the ones I am personally drawn to most are the huge amounts of unnecessary waste we humans living in ‘developed’ societies produce, because it’s so avoidable; and because I love the ocean (and seafood!) so much, the declining health of the oceans and the plight of so many of its amazing creatures, including sea turtles, that are suffering because of human actions. Of course these two issues are related, since waste directly impacts the health of the oceans. We need more ecological literacy; each person needs to really understand how our actions impact the environment for better or worse, and to take responsibility for it. After all we are our environment and it is us. What kind of world do we want to live in, and how can each one of us help create that kind of world? We need to internalize that knowledge and act and live accordingly.

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Nonprofit Spotlight:
TransFair USA

What is the mission of your organization?

TransFair USA, a member of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), promotes sustainable development through Fair Trade. The organization audits transactions between U.S. companies that offer Fair Trade Certified™ products and the producers of these goods in order to ensure that Fair Trade standards are met. These Fair Trade standards encompass principles that include fair prices, fair labor conditions, direct trade, democratic and transparent organizations, community development and environmental sustainability.  In addition to certifying Fair Trade products, TransFair USA publicizes and promotes Fair Trade and Fair Trade Certified products in the United States.

What is the history of the organization?
Inspired by Fair Trade certifying organizations in other countries, Paul Rice founded TransFair USA in 1998. Rice, who is president and CEO of TransFair USA, had gained experience with rural development through work in Nicaragua and felt that Fair Trade could best promote sustainable development in producing communities. In 1999, TransFair USA began certifying Fair Trade coffee in the United States. Over the past decade, TransFair USA has moved beyond coffee, and it now certifies a range of products that includes tea, cocoa, sugar, spices, produce, flowers, wine, honey, grains and other goods. The Fair Trade market in the United States continues to grow.

What is the current top priority for your organization?
TransFair USA hopes to expand Fair Trade in multiple ways. In addition to deepening the financial benefits for current Fair Trade producers, TransFair USA is expanding the range of producers it works with by entering new markets, such as the apparel market, and researching other areas in which Fair Trade can make a difference. At the core of this mission is TransFair USA’s focus is on promoting Fair Trade products and spreading awareness of Fair Trade, because ultimately consumers do the most to support Fair Trade producers. Fair Trade already has a strong presence with leading brands in the United States like Ben & Jerry’s, Green & Blacks, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, and now TransFair USA’s priority is increasing awareness among consumers throughout the nation.  

What is one unknown fact about your organization?
TransFair USA is a nonprofit organization, but it operates on a market-based model that draws support from conscientious consumers. While many people may think that the global recession has dampened consumers’ appetite for Fair Trade products, this isn’t the case. In fact, Fair Trade sales expanded in the face of the recession in 2009, reaching an estimated $1.2 billion in the United States. In one example of Fair Trade bucking the economy’s general downward trend, TransFair USA certified more than 100 million pounds of Fair Trade coffee in 2009 and provided farming communities with $45 million in additional income, $14 million of which will be invested in development programs in these communities.

Member Spotlight:
Marcy Straw, Pacific Environment

Where do you currently work? 

I serve as Deputy Director for Development & Operations at Pacific Environment.  Pacific Environment protects the living environment of the Pacific Rim by promoting grassroots activism, strengthening communities and reforming international policies.  We work in China, the Russian Far East and Siberia, Alaska and California, dedicating over 1/3 of our budget each year to funding and nurturing grassroots organizations on the frontlines.  We confront taxpayer-funded banks that back oil, gas, mining and timber extraction and the companies that profit from these often environmentally devastating projects.  We support and encourage sustainable fishing, renewable energy and initiatives that put environmental protection and communities first.  It is a long-term and leveraged approach that gets results.

Discuss the career and educational path that led to your current employment.

I have held positions as executive leader for Bay Area arts organizations Teatro ZinZanni and earlier, the Midsummer Mozart Festival, among others.  For six years, I led marketing, sales, and sponsorship at California Shakespeare Theater, and prior at ODC Dance/San Francisco.  I spent over ten years as the owner of a music consulting firm to international recording artists.  I received my B.S. in Business Administration from John F. Kennedy University, and am pursuing an MBA in Strategic Management.

What is your typical day like?

They are never the same!  I am responsible for development, communications, and operations. I develop and oversee our fundraising and outreach efforts, including grant-writing and foundation relations, individual and major donor outreach, electronic communications, media relations, and event production, and also oversee operations, including human resources, financial accounting, technology, and office management.  On any given day I wear many hats:  personnel, forecasting revenue, making donor calls, board recruitment, planning a fundraiser or strategic planning – or approving expense reports. 

What environmental issues are most important to you and how as individuals can we personally support these issues and increase awareness?

I believe climate change and excessive energy and resource consumption are the core issues.  Our dependence on fossil fuel is accelerating global warming, along with the insatiable desire for consumer goods that requires ever-more aggressive resource extraction in fragile habitats, costly transportation of raw materials and finished goods over longer distances.  Short-sighted energy policies are threatening indigenous cultures and their traditional lands at an alarming pace.

While my professional focus is to support efforts to combat these problems, there are things we can all do. It’s about mindfulness: embracing that often-quoted, but true “think global, act local.” 

Choosing a cause to support and dedicating a portion of your income and/or time is incredibly important.  So is sharing your concern for issues with your network and those who represent you and your interests.  Let companies and merchants know if their practices do not align with conservation values.  Vote with your pocketbook.

At home we compost and recycle obsessively (yes, I wash foil) and are enthusiastic urban farmers.  It’s been fun to learn how to can, pickle and preserve the bounty of our garden.  I’m addicted to salvage yards, and nothing tickles me more than the annual clothing swap with my girlfriends to re-purpose our wardrobes.  Using public transport, planning auto trips carefully, and even observing the speed limit all help. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Nonprofit Spotlight:
Sea Turtle Restoration Project

What is the mission of your organization?

The Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP) protects endangered sea turtles in ways that make cultural and economic sense to the communities that share the beaches and waters with these gentle creatures. With offices in California, Texas, and Costa Rica, STRP has been leading the international fight to protect sea turtle populations worldwide by partnering with activists and communities to protect nesting beaches, establish marine conservation areas and reform fishery practices and policies.

What is the history of the organization?

STRP was founded in 1989 by biologist Todd Steiner, under the guidance of David Brower at Earth Island Institute. Steiner founded the project after learning that sea turtles he worked to protect in Central America were being legally slaughtered after they migrated into Mexican waters. STRP is now the largest program of Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN), a nonprofit organization incorporated in 1997.

STRP’s most recent success was threatening legal action which compelled BP and the U.S. Coast Guard to protect sea turtles from incineration by halting their oil burning operations in the Gulf. Other past successes have included creating policy reform that instituted 200,000 square miles of protected foraging habitat for the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle off the U.S. West Coast; preventing the reopening of drift gillnet fishing in the Leatherback Conservation Area off the U.S. West Coast for the 2006 season; compelling Mexico to end its legal harvest of sea turtles and closing a sea turtle slaughterhouse; compelling twenty nations to use turtle-saving gear in their shrimp fishing operations; and catalyzing California to require posting of mercury-in-seafood warning signage in California supermarkets and restaurants.

What is the current top priority for your organization?

Our current priority is drawing more attention to the plight of the rare Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, which nests exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico. The Kemp’s has in recent years returned from the brink of extinction, yet now faces the devastating consequences of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill on its survival and habitat. We have been fighting for years to strengthen protections for this smallest of sea turtles from shrimp trawling, beach development, pollution and other threats. We are now responding to the oil spill by: (1) learning rescue protocol and participating in on-the-water sea turtle rescue; (2) compelling federal wildlife officials to undertake emergency actions to protect threatened and endangered sea turtles in the Gulf; (3) develop grassroots support and legal action to compel BP and the federal government to protect endangered sea turtles as required through the Endangered Species Act; (4) provide the media with needed footage on endangered and threatened sea turtles affected by the oil spill, as well as other marine wildlife and habitat impacts; (5) intensifying our demands for stronger protections from shrimping operations in Kemp’s habitat; and (6) extending our sea turtle education and awareness raising work with schools and the public from Texas to all states in the Gulf region.
What is one unknown fact about your organization?

STRP takes on campaigns that are difficult to win and we find ourselves facing naysayers in larger environmental organizations. But as the campaigns pick up, we see that our efforts and willingness to take on hard actions catalyzes larger groups to action. We now recognize that acting as a catalyst for the involvement of larger groups is one of our strengths, as are our agility to choose campaigns, and our persistence in seeing them through.