The EcoGrrl Interview: Sarah



The light bulb to begin this new column came on during my first coffee with Sarah back in November.  So with that, I am honored to present to all of you, my first EcoGrrl Interview…I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I have.

Sarah is a recent graduate of the University of Portland’s Environmental Ethics & Policy program, and is currently interning for the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI).  I first met Sarah after a speaking engagement when my co-presenter said, you MUST meet her – she’s got so much passion!  Indeed she does, and she’s putting it to good use!  I can’t wait to see where she goes next…

What or who inspires you most? I’m inspired by people who are passionate about an issue and are working to innovate or create positive change, even if it isn’t in an area that I am particularly interested in or know much about.

What do you turn to when you need strength? I talk to my family.  Usually my mom.  Or I go for a run.  Either of those activities help to put things in perspective.

How can women best support and/or empower other women? The best way to empower women IS to support then.  A rising tide lifts all boats, right?  And, like many other issues of equality, speak up when someone you know says something that does not further the idea of equality, and start a dialogue.

What do you love to grow? What would you like to try growing someday? I should preface this with, I like to grow things, but I would, by no means, say that I am good at caring for plants.  I love the idea of it and wholeheartedly support it, but I just don’t have the greenest of thumbs.  I’m currently living in an apartment so my garden is limited to a few pots and jars of basil, mint, rosemary, and a succulent.  I really like having the herbs in the apartment, especially the basil.  I would eventually love to grow tomatoes and any (other) type of fruit when I have an actual yard.

What are your creative outlets?  Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try but you haven’t? I really, really enjoy cooking.  I think part of this stems from the fact that I haven’t really had to cook for myself before this point in my life.  I also enjoy photography; taking photos and appreciating the work of others.  Off the top of my head, I can’t think of the next thing or outlet that I would like to try.  I’m definitely open to suggestions!

In what environment(s) do you feel most in your element? I grew up in Hawaii, so I definitely feel in my element when I’m in the sun and when I’m in the ocean.  However, Oregon definitely has a special place in my heart, and I enjoy the rain (as long as I have a rain jacket and a pair of boots for splashing in puddles).

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

  1. Street Roots: I think they have a great business model that is extremely empowering.  (Want to know what it is?  Buy a paper!)

  2. SOLVE: I think they provide great opportunities for people looking to volunteer just once and on a regular basis.

  3. Friends of Zenger Farm: I’ve visited the farm a few times, and I really like their commitment to environmental stewardship and community engagement.  They also have a really cool worm bin!

What recent “green” change have you made in your own life?  What’s next? I have a confession: A recent change in my life has actually made me less “green.”  Since moving into my apartment, I no longer compost.  It is simply no longer convenient to do so.  When I lived on-campus and in a house, it was extremely easy for me to compost my food waste.

(Side note: I think this clearly shows that if we create systems in which composting and recycling are easy and accessible, people we change their habits.  Additionally, I think it is important to remember being “green” is a constantly moving target that we can all work towards. And it is equally important to be able to recognize when we have moved away from the target; but maybe that is coming from a place of self preservation.  Haha.) 

So, my next project or action is to find a way to compost my food scraps.  I’ve been toying with the idea of building a worm compost bin to live under my kitchen sink.

Where in the world do you consider a sanctuary?  Why? A specific beach on Oahu comes to mind.  I love being in the sun and ocean.  I also really enjoy being in the kitchen and cooking.  There is something very centering about cooking a meal and then eating it.

What advice would you give to your younger self? Uh that is a tough one.  Really cheesy things are coming to mind.  Maybe can I wait until I’m a little older to start handing out advice?

How can we as a society be more radical in supporting a healthy planet? In some circles it would be radical to think of environmental justice as a social justice issue.  In reality, environmental justice IS an issue of social justice, and we cannot truly have a sustainable society unless people and the planet are thriving.

What sparked your interest in environmental issues?   What’s the first “eco” thing you ever did? Hmmm this is tough.  I’m not sure if I can pinpoint my interest in the environment and sustainability to one moment; I think there have been a series of formative events.  And things like recycling cans, plastic bottles and paper were the norm at my elementary school and we sang about it all the time.  Reading ‘Fast Food Nation’ in my high school English class (and then our assignment to cook an entirely local meal for our family) definitely opened my eyes to the connection between food and sustainability.

My very first few “eco” memories are of planting things in both my grandparents’ yards.  Both my grandpas are really good a growing things.  The green thumb gene somehow didn’t quite make it to me.  Haha.

How do you live simply? Living simply means living intentionally and being present. To some people, the idea of living simply implies living without or having to give up things.  And while part of that is true, when you’re living intentionally, you don’t notice or miss the things you end up living without.  I didn’t really give much thought to the concept of living simply until I participated in the Northwest Earth Institute’s Discussion Course on Voluntary Simplicity.  I highly recommend reading the discussion book, and I think it is even more valuable when the book is used in the NWEI’s discussion format.

Could you leave us with a favorite quote of yours? “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

~ Margaret Mead


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