I spent the weekend at Sustainability Workshop at the University Michigan. During this process, I was able to think about my journey to where I am today…ENJOY!!
Everyone has a story. I am no different. But the difference between me and another candidate is that I actually practice what I preach when I go home every night. Growing up, I had a pretty normal childhood (minus the picket fence), but the times that affected me the most were the times we spent helping others. My family did a lot of volunteer work, from delivering meals to cleaning out the bathrooms of a homeless shelter near a landfill. For the past twenty years, my family has spent every Christmas helping others instead of exchanging gifts; this has defined my character and the character of my family.
Getting to know the citizens of the shelter really changed my life. Not only were they considered the “un-loved” (illegal immigrants, members GLBTQ community, people with HIV, etc.) but somehow we were all connected. During their stories, I would notice trash heaps at the public landfill and I felt instantly guilty of the candy wrapper I threw away moments before. Little did I know, my life would come full circle to this moment.
I went to Penn State and studied Supply Chain and went to work for some of the largest companies in the world. I learned a lot about the full life cycle of products from cradle to grave. The projects that changed my life included: reduction of truck idling in large cities, designing alternative transportation plans, and cutting a simple raw material in one of our best-selling products that saved cardboard from entering the landfill. In all of these experiences, I was able to add growth while making an impact. However, these were only side projects, and sustainability wasn’t involved in my personal life(yet).
Being the researcher that I am, I realized that no hybrid car would make a larger impact than changing my diet. A vegan diet not only saves a hundred thousand gallons of water a year but also helps with the treatment of animals and employees and (don’t forget about the emissions!). But this wasn’t enough, I learned that children who live close to landfills have a higher risk of asthma and certain cancers; these students are usually absent from school more than other students, so I learned to live a simpler life by making my own cleaning and laundry products, and only living with a recycling and compost bin. Through it all, thiese experiences have made me more cognizant of all of my actions and how they effect others. Now, I blog about my crazy experiences to about an audience of 700 viewers a week.
Because of my experience in consumer products, I know I can make a difference in the sustainable development world. My experience in water conservation through urban water projects in our community and building sustainable farming sites in Haiti would prove invaluable for the global movement by knowing the need of people of all walks of life. My creative but controversial idea on waste reduction on Purdue’s campus through a large display of trash in the common area of our business school, rightly named Mt. Trashmore, showed that about ¾ of what was actually thrown away could have been recycled, not going to the landfill. Possibly, the same landfill near the homeless shelter that changed my life. My life journey has been rich because I was able to express my true passions every step of the way, I can honestly say, with me, what you see is what you get. I live the sustainable life from the time I go wake up and walk my vegan dog with biodegradable poop bags to before I go to bed and feed my 3,000 worms in my vermicompost. This sets me apart from other candidates, I am not afraid to accelerate my own personal impact and change the status quo (thanks Net Impact!); to save the future generations of those who lived in that shelter that changed my life forever.