The EcoGrrl Interview: Elizabeth



Elizabeth kinda rocks.  She was introduced to me by a friend earlier this year and it was instantly obvious that she has so much to say and so many incredible plans for her life and career and the world that surrounds us all.  Based in the Bay Area, her day job is in market research and product development in the technology field, but she also teaches pilates and is a tremendous advocate for women’s and social issues in the community. Check her out!

Who or what inspires you most? I am most inspired by the underdog hero archetype. I relate to any story, real or fictional, where the characters prevail and thrive spiritually despite odds being stacked up against them. Pretty much every character in Napoleon Dynamite inspires me. Bagdad Cafe is another movie that I revisit often. Harold and Maude. These films are all about connecting with those around you, and with your immediate environment, in unusual and surprising ways.

Patti Smith, Kim Gordon, Yoko Ono and Tilda Swinton are just a few of my major female inspirations. All strong, gender-bendy, unapologetic punk rock women who offer new ways to think and who are re-defining by action what it means to be in the second half of life. Men have had a longer history of being culturally supported to get finer with age, deeper into themselves. Women are supposed to either deteriorate entirely, or become this sort of mother-earth person. Women such as Kim Gordon and Tilda Swinton by their very essence propose that we too can get grittier, more defined, and simply be hot as we age. Frances McDormand is another example.

Margaret Cho, I just love her, because she can go from hilarious to serious in two seconds flat and she’s just so very real. I grew up with her.

Rachel Maddow is so brilliant. Wanda Sykes, Ellen DeGeneres, Jane Lynch — any person that has had the guts to come out in the last few decades, thereby changing completely the face of television and film (I’m just giving a few examples of women, but I am inspired by all the GLBTQ actors and personalities who have contributed to this movement).

Adele, Lynn Yaeger. Janelle Monae is a phenomenal artist. Melissa McCarthy. Queen Latifah. My list goes on and on and is very hard to edit. The common thread between all of these women is that each is unique and by her very nature inspires us to rethink notions of what is beautiful, desirable, intelligent. We’re in an exciting, evolving time presently. In the last decade of pop-culture we’ve seen both an emergence of women who are multi-layered, funny, brilliant and complex, as well as an honoring of women who’ve been around for a while but are getting a new kind of attention. I love it.

Drag queens are always hugely inspiring to me. In one of my gender studies classes way back when, there was a theory that drag queens are the most subversive of all to the patriarchal system, because queens have a choice, and they CHOOSE female-ness. They choose it. It blows my mind to think about this.

And of course, Harvey Milk, our San Francisco hero, is a singular inspiration to me.

What do you turn to when you need strength? I’m also a total introvert, so I maintain strength by spending time at home with my partner and my dog, and turn to meditation, Pilates and Yoga to down-regulate my nervous system when I need strength.

How can women best support and/or empower other women? Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, was recently quoted, saying “I think the world needs women who stop asking for permission from the principal. Permission to live their lives as they deeply know they often should. I think we still look to authority figures for validation, recognition, permission.”

As women we can support and empower each other by simply bringing dynamics such as Elizabeth’s observation to light, holding it up and saying, “What do you think? Is this true of you? Is it true of others around you? What can we do to transcend this? How can I help you to transcend this?”

To truly support and empower other women; we have to ask these questions not just to ourselves and other women, but also to everyone around us, male, female, and everyone in-between. This conversation needs to occur between employees and employers, between parents and children. It needs to cross the power divides. This is particularly important in today’s working environments.

Women make up half of today’s workforce in the U.S., and yet there is this vast social inequity that keeps women from advancing both financially and professionally. It’s unconscionable.

What do you love to grow? What would you like to try growing someday? I’m an old growth maintenance kind of soul. I’m really into caretaking and honoring what’s already in an environment. I love huge old trees. Someday I’ll try having a vegetable garden.

What are your creative outlets?  Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t? I still enjoy photography and visual design, which is what I studied in college. My partner and I have an idea for a series of animated characters that we dream about creating someday.

In what environment(s) do you feel most in your element? I like to joke that I’m a “Californian” (the SNL skits) but really, it’s true. Anywhere in California feels like home to me. I’m originally from Southern California, but San Francisco is my city no matter what. It was the first place I felt truly myself in life.

Who are your top three nonprofits you support and/or volunteer with and why?

  1. California AIDS Ride – I’ve both ridden in and worked for this event, which raises millions of dollars for essential HIV/AIDS services.

  2. The Names Quilt – this was started by long-time San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones, will always be close to my heart.

  3. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – I adore them! They do amazing work.

What recent “green” change have you made in your own life?  What’s next? We’ve eliminated all throwaway plastics in our kitchen – no more baggies or saran wrap. We store everything in glass containers and try to re-use bottles as much as possible.

I still feel like there is even more I can do to minimize my trash and recycling output, I’d like to keep working on new ways to buy products in bulk. It’s bothersome to me how obtaining almost anything involves buying plastic bottles, which then go right into the recycling bin. I’m glad to have easy access to recycling programs, but it’d be even better not to produce the waste in the first place.

Where in the world do you consider a sanctuary?  Why?    My inner-life and my home are my places of sanctuary. My parents’ home and neighborhood, where I grew up in Southern California, has also become a sanctuary for me when I visit. It reminds me of my deeper sense of self. It’s an older neighborhood, kind of wild in its beauty, with lots of huge old trees and a few neighbors that are still there after all these years.

What advice would you give to your younger self? I don’t think I’d actually say anything, I think I want to leave my life-trajectory alone since I’m pretty happy with the way things are. I might have to give myself the “It Gets Better” speech and let myself know not to worry about being a nerd-dork, because while it’s really hard being a nerd-dork when you are a kid, it’ll make you a totally awesome adult.

How can we as a society be more radical in supporting a healthy planet? By eliminating fear-based culture. This has to happen for any other movement to occur. And I’ve seen this happen, so I know it’s possible. It can be a sweeping movement, but it’s just as radical to do something teeny in one’s own social environment that eliminates fear and encourages openness to conversation. Our environmental ills are a symptom of our social ills.

What sparked your interest in environmental issues?   What’s the first “eco” thing you ever did? I had a colleague in one of my photography classes at UC Santa Cruz who did very classical, beautiful images of pristine landscapes, only when you really looked at it you’d see plastic bags floating around, or realize there was a landfill in the background. From then on it’s always in the back of my mind  – the state of this planet that I get such a short time to be on.

The first eco things I ever did were mostly about elimination, making concerted recycling efforts at work, not supporting businesses that didn’t have green practices, trying not to be a gross, wasteful consumer human-bot. I pretty much had to re-program myself on a lot of fronts. And I’m still working on it.

How do you live simply? Simplifying has been all about creating a sustainable day-to-day life flow. My partner is a professional organizer, and we’ve always been very minimal and organized, but we work together on keeping our material possessions organized and functional.

I prioritize time with my loved ones, and time for my body to recover from day-to-day stress. I maintain a sense of awareness, if I start to feel crappy I listen to my body. I’ve eliminated a lot of mental chatter in my inner mind. I actively practice enjoying quiet. And it’s all a practice. The goal is not perfection.

Could you leave us with a favorite quote of yours? “When young we have a vivid sense of basic values like trust and warm-heartedness, which we tend to neglect in today’s competitive world as we grow up, yet from birth we all have a need for affection. The emotions we experience today have not changed much over the last few thousand years, but the interest increasing numbers of people are showing in their inner world and how their emotions work is a sign of maturity.” ~ Dalai Lama


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