A Personal Journey: Synchronizing Environmentalism and Technology

2009 May 4

This is an article I wrote for Elephant Journal as I am also a Featured Host of the Titans of Tech Panel @elephantjournal’s Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, this Wednesday May 6th at the historic Boulder Theater.

Grace Boyle and her Fantastic Journey Between Green and Tech

I’m an eco-chick. I was raised vegetarian, eating all organic and with the daily practice of meditation and yoga in my family. I thought everyone composted, recycled and didn’t have a microwave in their house. This lifestyle helped to form my passion for the environment and sustainability.

When I arrived to Champlain College in the Green Mountain state of Vermont, I was filled with vigor. “How do I change the world?” I asked, bright-eyed.

Professionally, I turned to Seventh Generation, a Burlington, Vermont-based business for environmentally-responsible products for a healthy home. As a freshman, I began to work with Gregor, the eclectic, wildly intelligent Director of Corporate Consciousness (see picture below) and Sara, the manager of Community Cultivation in their blossoming corporate responsibility department.

Seventh Generation

Working part-time at Seventh Generation for two and a half years, while being a full-time college student, continually inspired me. Gregor encouraged me to organize and help develop their donations program. This reinforced my belief that giving is life, which I feel deeply.

The company is firmly rooted in ethics and they don’t compromise. They’re holistic and their name is derived from the Great Law of the Iroquois that states, “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” What a thought. Think about our imprint not just in this life, but for the seven generations to come!

My next internship, turned employment during college was at ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, an environmental non-profit, focused on Vermont’s local habitat as an educational aquarium and science center. Housed on the lakefront of Lake Champlain, in their LEED-certified building I worked in their events department. I saw the ups and downs of a non-profit—the joys and passion of people who want to be where they are because they believe, so strongly, in their mission.

As I was finishing up college, I spent a semester at Marketing Partners, Inc. a marketing agency specializing in research-based social marketing for mission-driven organizations in health, environmental and issue-based campaigns (say that three times fast). I then worked with famously independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for a healthcare career awareness campaign, and for projects with NRG Systems, a Vermont company that’s a global leader in wind measurement technology.

Seventh Generation. ECHO. Marketing Partners. Each heavily rooted in environmentalism. Doing good. Giving back.

Moving, right? Yes. But while I couldn’t put my finger on it, something was missing.

At the end of my four years at college I took a step back (I’m usually going at 80+mph) trying to figure out what the missing puzzle piece was. I mulled over it, but wasn’t sure. In the meantime, I decided to pack my bags (job-less, apartment-less) and move to Boulder, Colorado, to continue my eco-chick idealism. I figured with my environmental background and portfolio I could land a job in the growing Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) industry. For one reason or another, I instead found myself in the technology industry—I landed a spot at the funky tech startup with a sweet name, Lijit, in Boulder.

I was already geeky and familiar with technology; I had been blogging and using Twitter while also learning about innovative technology in college, but hadn’t connected the dots. In my work at Lijit, immersed in social media, I had my long-awaited ‘aha’ moment. The missing piece: in order to grow and keep the pulse beating, the environmental companies I loved needed technology. Not just basic technology like a fax machine, but the growing wave of accessible and mostly free, social media technology. Reaching your audience on a different level, reaching entirely different audiences, leveraging the control of change and community on Twitter, creating a viral video on YouTube about a campaign or blogging about your company’s culture and growth instead of wasting paper on a newsletter.

You can stomp your feet all you want. Go in circles about the issue you’re directly dealing with from you respective environmental cause—but there needs to be something more than your passion or belief. You need a vehicle to make that passion manifest.

I believe online technology is that vehicle.

I’m still passionate about the environment, but now I’m passionate about the intersection of the environment and technology and how the two can oscillate and grow together. It’s a powerful combination and it can range from environmental technology like solar panels to using technology for social good like Seventh Generation’s blog, launching a moving website for technology challenged companies that Marketing Partners gives back to or creating a Facebook channel and fan page for the ECHO center to bring youth back into local environmental education.

Technology is a movement. At Lijit I work with blogs to integrate our customized search tool, stats and advertising network and although I’m not at an environmental company, I feel part of a movement that is pulsing. I may not be directly connected to environmentalism, but knowing where technology and environment intersect, and that the opportunities abound, excites me.

I’m now dubbing myself, eco-geek chick. I like the ring to that. I’m still mostly a vegetarian, practice yoga and care for our environment in my daily actions, but now I know a way to leverage my belief and passion to help. That’s the geek part of being an eco-geek chick.

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  • http://www.lifeschocolates.com sameve

    I think it's totally awesome how you have integrated your various passions into your life. Instead of giving up on the environment when you got a job in technology, you have found ways to make them work for and with each other. Technology is such a big part of our lives and yet many people and organizations don't take advantage of the opportunities it provides. The reach of the Internet alone is evidence of how powerful a tool it could be for worthy causes. A great post by the coolest eco-geek chick I know!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Sam Thanks! I totally thought I would remain in the environmental (or LOHAS) field, especially when I got to Boulder but now, I absolutely love working in Tech and Online Social Media. I think that the two can still work together and like you said, the Internet alone is evidence of how powerful a tool it can be for worthy causes. Thanks for the props, Sam :)

  • http://www.lifeschocolates.com sameve

    I think it's totally awesome how you have integrated your various passions into your life. Instead of giving up on the environment when you got a job in technology, you have found ways to make them work for and with each other. Technology is such a big part of our lives and yet many people and organizations don't take advantage of the opportunities it provides. The reach of the Internet alone is evidence of how powerful a tool it could be for worthy causes. A great post by the coolest eco-geek chick I know!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Sam Thanks! I totally thought I would remain in the environmental (or LOHAS) field, especially when I got to Boulder but now, I absolutely love working in Tech and Online Social Media. I think that the two can still work together and like you said, the Internet alone is evidence of how powerful a tool it can be for worthy causes. Thanks for the props, Sam :)

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  • http://www.MadlyInLoveForever.com Diane Denbaum

    You nail it everytime dear Grace. Love, Diane

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