In Spotlights

Sustainability Consultant, City of Menlo Park

Sara is an environmental professional with experience worldwide, having lived and worked in four different countries. She is an avid reader, hiker, home cook, photographer, and traveler. Sara also enjoys volunteering at the California Academy of Sciences as a docent in the ‘Water is Life’ area, teaching guests about the academy and science. In her free time Sara enjoys discovering new restaurants or backpacking/camping in the beautiful California landscape. Sara hopes to share her sense of adventure and environmental inclusion with WEN’s members and board of directors. She joined WEN’s board in June of this year.

What is the educational and career path that led you to your current career?

I received my Bachelors of Science in Environmental Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Upon graduation, I entered the working world to gain industry skills and further refine my path. After working in the engineering field for eight years, I had the opportunity to work in Christchurch, New Zealand. This work was highly rewarding and offered an interesting perspective on how a city rebuilds important infrastructure after a catastrophic earthquake. During my time there I had the opportunity to work directly for the government in a liaison role, utilizing both my engineering and stakeholder management skills. This was a highly interesting role that allowed me to see the important connection between technical and nontechnical roles.

Post-New Zealand, I worked on another project focused on disaster mitigation, but pre-earthquake. This was in San Jose, Costa Rica and Pasto, Colombia working with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). After this project ended in 2017, I began working in the San Francisco Bay Area.

My current work is still heavily related to the environment and how humans are impacting it and involves implementing aspects of the City of Menlo Park’s Climate Action Plan.  Working in local government has been a great opportunity to showcase my stakeholder management skills and drive successful projects for the city.

How did you become interested in environmental work?

I grew up on a farm in rural Michigan, where nature and the environment was always a component of my life. My family has been farming and acting as stewards of the land for over 100 years. Seeing people protect nature when I was young inspired me to want to continue the practice. I saw an article about phytoremediation in my last year of high school and realized that was how I wanted to make a difference—helping to clean contamination out of our environment utilizing natural methods. This is why I decided to pursue my degree in environmental engineering.

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

I feel the challenges facing women in the environmental movement today are a lack of teamwork and burnout potential. There are so many issues screaming for attention, and working in the Bay Area is highly competitive. We need to remember why we are working towards a solution, and that we need all people to come to the table to participate. There should be no single-track path to the top; everyone is necessary for a solution.

It is also highly important to check in with yourself along this journey to ensure you are acting consistently with your goals and vision. It is easy to get sidetracked by a sparkly issue that will not help you reach your goal.

Want to connect with Sara? You can connect with her here on LinkedIn.