The EcoGrrl Interview: Melissa



Melissa and I have gotten to know each other over the years when she first moved to Portland last year from New York and wanted to learn about the tech field. It’s been so fun hanging out with her – we have had some great conversations and I look forward to more! 

What or who inspires you most? Right now, there’s a gal named Anandi Premlall who inspires me. She’s really active in the community that I grew up in, and has made a lot of strides in getting it environmentally friendly.  Right now she’s working on a “Rails to Trails” program, turning an abandoned LIRR station into a park for everybody to use.  She’s someone who does more than she says and is making a huge impact in my old community, and I have nothing but respect for her.

Who do you turn to when you need strength? My husband. He’s my rock, and can often help me figure out alternate perspectives when I’m feeling upset or unsure of myself.

How can women best support and/or empower other women? I’m going to turn this answer into an internal one.  This is really hard for me, because I am constantly struggling with this issue.  In recent years, I’ve found myself more conscious of how I compare women in my mind, which is something I feel has been ingrained in me.  For instance, thinking about someone acting “like a little girl” when they’re whining or acting pansy.  Or shifting my perception of how I used to value women that didn’t work full time — women who chose to stay home and watch their children, women who decided to be a housewife, basically women who chose to live their life the way the want to live it.

What do you love to grow? What would you like to try growing someday? I would really like to grow herbs in my apartment one day — set up a few small planters that can hang outside my windowsill.

What are your creative outlets?  Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try but you haven’t? I really love playing the guitar or xylophone and singing. It may not be the best sounding thing, but I love to do it.

In what environment(s) do you feel most in your element? The city, any city really – as long as it has basic amenities including sidewalks, mixed-use streets, mixed-use buildings, and walkable businesses. I just can’t be somewhere that I can’t walk to the grocery store, walk to grab a drink, walk to socialize, etc.

What is your Eco passion, if you had to choose one? Alternative transportation– whether it be taking mass transit, walking, or biking to get to places. I believe that street infrastructure should be able to handle and welcome mixed-use transportation.  This doesn’t necessarily mean a street needs to have a bike lane, but it would need to provide a safe haven for someone who bikes or for people who cross the street.

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

  1. Bike New York – BikeNY is really about educating people who want to bike – from learning to ride as an adult or child, to learning how to confidently navigate busy NYC streets.  I used to teach adults from ages 18-80 how to ride a bicycle and man, was it the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done!

  2. Community Cycling Center – The CCC is my new favorite nonprofit.  They’re really ingrained in the community that they’re based in (N. Portland) and have a great program where they help people who can’t afford a bike – get one! Their series educates the rider and upon completion, the rider gets a bike!  I’m going to start co-teaching a class in September for new bicycle commuters looking to gain confidence and skills sharing the road.

  3. New York Cares – They have this awesome Christmas time program, where you “adopt” a kid that may not be getting a gift for the holidays. The kid sends “Santa” a letter, and then you fill their request, or just get them an appropriate gift.  It’s really cute.  The only catch, is you don’t end up seeing the child open the gift.

What recent “green” change have you made in your own life?  What’s next? I think moving to Portland has been a recent “green” change.  Composting here is so easy , it has definitely made me more recycle-conscious.

Where in the world do you consider a sanctuary?  Why? Almost any park in NYC.  It’s the greatest place to feel pleasantly alone, despite the many people that walk through.  There’s a lot of anonymity and safety amongst many strangers.

What advice would you give to your younger self? Don’t go into Political Science for undergrad.

How can we as a society be more radical in supporting a healthy planet? Drive less. If your grocery is less than 2 miles away, consider taking a bike.  Less than 1 mile away, consider walking.

What sparked your interest in environmental issues?   What’s the first “eco” thing you ever did? Ha.  It is totally by accident, actually.  I’m not sure I have as much of an interest in environmental issues as much as the fact that the interests I care about coincide with environmental issues. For instance, I prefer to walk and bike over driving, not so much because I love the environment, but more because doing so makes me feel more free and conscious over my time and money.  In terms of recycling, I just hate waste, but I’m not really thinking about the environment. I shut off the lights in my apartment, because it helps me save the money.

How do you live simply? I share a small apartment with my husband. We don’t own a car. Shut the lights off in my apt when not in use, and recycle as much as I can!

Could you leave us with a favorite quote of yours? “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” ~ Douglas Adams


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