In Spotlights

Founder, Because Health and Director, Collaborative on Health and the Environment (PhD, MSc)

Karen is the Director of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, a national environmental health science non-profit. She is also the founder of Because Health, a non-profit environmental health lifestyle site that does research, interviews experts, finds non-toxic products that actually work, and creates engaging content. Karen completed her PhD in Strategic Management, focusing on healthcare economics, at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. Karen also holds a MSc in Earth Systems and a BA in Economics from Stanford University.

How did you become interested in environmental work?

Growing up in Texas I spent a lot of time outdoors, which fostered a deep love of the environment. I became increasingly interested in the intersection of public health and the environment through my work and education. When I worked in international development and food security issues, I saw that environmental issues often determined whether or not an agricultural system could provide healthy nutrition and could sustain local economies. During my PhD, I learned how environmental factors directly impact health and costs in the US healthcare system, yet these factors are often ignored in preventative healthcare practices.

What environmental issues are of most concern to you?

Toxic chemicals are an environmental issue that don’t get a lot of attention, but affect both planetary and human health. Generally, things that are bad for your health are also things that are bad for the planet. We know that chemical pollution has had disastrous impacts on our environment, and it’s becoming more and more apparent that chemicals are also wreaking havoc on our bodies. Toxic chemicals have become ubiquitous in our lives due in large part to consumer products, which is why Because Health focuses on consumer education. I am also very concerned about how climate change will interact with toxic chemical issues, and the impact on human health.

What inspired you to start your business and how did you take the leap to start it?

When I got pregnant, I realized that even though the science is very clear on the importance of limiting exposures to toxic chemicals for lifelong health, there was a lack of clear resources that spoke to my generation. I decided I wanted to create an online resource for environmental health concerns that my peers and I could connect with. Because Health uses website articles and social media to share actionable, positive, and science-based resources to a predominantly millennial audience. We highlight how environmental issues like pollution, toxic chemicals, and climate change can impact our health in the same way that working out and eating habits do. We’re, big fans of simple, easy-to-implement tips. One easy thing you can start today is taking your shoes off at home. We track lots of lead, pesticides, and other toxic chemical particles into our homes on the bottom of our shoes. Perfect excuse to buy some cozy slippers!

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

Because Health is a great resource to learn about environmental health. Our website and Instagram account both provide informative, easy-to-digest content about how environmental health issues affect your health, individual actions that you can take to be healthier at home, and how to connect with market-based campaigns and legislative issues for a healthier future for all. We also produce a triweekly newsletter that keeps you up-to-date with recent news from the environmental health field. Our content makes it easy to become a conscious consumer who is educated about environmental health issues. Talking with friends and family is another great way to get people involved in broader environmental issues, like plastic pollution and climate change. Some people might not care about polar ice caps and the Pacific garbage patch, but if you talk to them about how environmental issues affect their and their family’s health, it’s a great way to connect on shared values.

Want to connect with Karen? Connect with her personally on LinkedIn. You can also follow Because Health on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; or Collaborative on Health and the Environment on Facebook and Twitter.