My day job is sustainability coordinator for the City of Middleton. I just joined the City of Middleton team and am excited to have a role where I can affect sustainability at many levels, including policy recommendations. This is a new position for the City and was created in response to residents’ overwhelming support of a 2016 referendum asking whether the City should be actively working to reduce the risks of global warming.
I’ve always been interested in issues around sustainability, and had my literal light bulb moment when I was working in the private sector. A co-worker, who’d just seen An Inconvenient Truth, asked me whether climate change was real and whether things like changing our light bulbs made a difference. I remember contemplating the impact of her changing a bulb in her apartment and then looking down the hallway at our work and realizing just how many light bulbs there were on that floor and in that building and the difference I might be able to make working with the business community. I went back to school and got a degree in sustainable management and had an internship and later a job with Sustain Dane.
While in that role, I was involved with a variety of committees related to efforts in Madison and Dane County around climate change. I was exposed to the process of policymaking and became intrigued by the idea of playing a more active part in sustainability-related change.
My focus isn’t just about energy efficiency: it’s about creating a sustainable, equitable community that works for everyone in terms of quality of life, waste management, transportation, jobs, water and more. I’ve always been a bit of a rabble-rouser and don’t hesitate to ask why something’s done a certain way—and whether there’s a better way. I want our community to help every resident be resilient and thrive.
My most memorable caffeine was the Guayaki Yerba Mate I had at the company’s headquarters in Sebastopol, California. I was visiting friends who were taking me to the Sonoma wine country and wanted to introduce them to Yerba Mate. It’s not just a drink, it’s an experience, and originated in the rain forests of South America (it comes from a plant that grows in a variety of South American countries). It involves a shared gourd and a straw that acts as a filter and is a communal experience.
Yerba Mate is quite powerful—one of my roommates once said it gave her the energy to clean her room!
My current caffeine of choice is Re-animator coffee from Just Coffee.
I really like Just Coffee—it’s a co-op and has an awesome model. The company is B Corp certified, which is a third-party designation that goes beyond fair trade to include things like governance, how a company treats their employees and their environmental record.
Re-animator is an awesome dark roast, plus it’s a nod to a great horror movie from the 1980s (I’m a big horror movie fan). It’s what’s I call “good gore” and includes great special effects and crazy overacting. The people at Just Coffee were obviously inspired by the movie: Just check out that zombie/ lumberjack packaging.
The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Eleanor Ostrom, Stephanie Kelton and Elizabeth Warren.
You probably know Shelley because she wrote Frankenstein, which is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. Her mother was Mary Wollenscraft who was one of the earliest feminists. One hundred years before the feminist movement really took off, she was pushing for women’s rights and decrying women’s role in society. Unfortunately, Wollenscraft died in childbirth; Shelley was raised by her father William Godwin. Both of Shelley’s parents were known for their work related to social justice.
Shelley wrote the book as the result of a challenge with friends, but had a hard time getting published because she was a woman. I love the horror genre, so it would be interesting to sit down with Shelley as an author and a woman ahead of her time on feminist issues—Frankenstein is filled with allegory.
Eleanor Ostrom is the only woman to have been awarded the Nobel Prize in economics. Her work revolved around the idea that it was possible for government to create systems that addressed the tragedy of the commons (the overuse of shared resources).
Dr. Stephanie Kelton is a professor who was the economic advisor for Bernie Sanders and is one of the leaders on modern monetary theory. Since the recession the federal government has tended to have a bent toward austerity and has embraced the idea that the government’s budget has to be like a household budget where a dollar in equals a dollar out. Kelton posits that that is not how government spending actually works. Instead, it can work as an investment that will have strong and measurable payback that goes far beyond the initial cost. The New Deal would be a similar example to this.
My last pick, Elizabeth Warren, is someone I feel is looking out for consumers’ rights, especially when it comes to the banking industry. I used to get out the popcorn and watch her confront bankers on C-SPAN.
World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: our over-reliance on plastics (check out this interesting article in the National Geographic). I think people are overwhelmed by climate change and feel they can only make a difference if they’re “perfect.” But we could each make an impact on plastics use just by making small changes every day, like opting not to use a straw or getting the reusable cup at the coffee shop. If Yerba Mate could get my roommate to clean, just imagine what other great things caffeine could fuel.