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Environmental Heroes: Michele Grossman

by on April 22, 2014

There are people who dedicate themselves to conservation, sustainability and general eco-do-gooding every day, not just on April 22. Here at Findery, one way we’re celebrating Earth Day is by acknowledging our environmental heroes. Over the next week, we’ll give you the chance to get to know them better and find out more about what propelled them into careers as professional tree-huggers and earth-savers.

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Image via SF Environment.

First up, meet Michele Grossman, Managing Principal at Waste Management Sustainability Services in San Francisco. Waste Management is the largest recycler in North America, and many of its customers are also large corporations. In her position, she has a lot of influence. Grossman learns about these businesses to help them understand how to best prioritize sustainability. That could mean incorporating sustainability into policies and contracts, figuring out how to talk about it publicly, or taking all the sporting events they sponsor to zero-waste.

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Image via Creative Commons. Gay Head Cliffs, Martha’s Vineyard. By Alberto Fernandez.

Findery: Where were you the first time you were truly in awe of nature?
MG: Growing up in Western PA, I was familiar with the beauty inherent in woods, streams, ponds and lakes. These I took for granted. However, I did not actually see the ocean (aside from when I was two, which I don’t remember), until I was 16! My parents took my sister and me to Disney World and, on the way back, we stopped at Jekyll Island. That’s when I was truly in awe of nature.

Findery: What was it that really moved you or blew your mind?
MG: The sand, the clouds, the blue, blue sky, the sound of the waves, the intense power of the ocean; how it all came together to create a hugely different landscape than anything I’d spent time with before.

Findery: How did this experience stay with you and inform your career?
MG: After that experience, I knew I wanted to be closer to the ocean. During college, I spent summers on Martha’s Vineyard and after college, I lived there year-round for a spell. That first ocean experience, while fundamental, was nothing compared with LIVING near the ocean, seeing it day by day, at night, any time. I also started farming on Martha’s Vineyard, so I developed a fondness for that particular land, as well as the sea. I realized while I loved the Vineyard, I wanted to be part of something bigger, to make a greater impact on the world. I decided to go back to school for Environmental Science. I have been working for the environment every since.

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Image via Creative Commons. School of hammerhead sharks at Wolf Island, Galapagos. By daren_ck.

Findery: What’s one place in the world that you haven’t been that you’re dying to see? Why?
MG: I would love to go to the Galapagos Islands, on a National Geographic tour while rereading On the Origin of Species! Some friends of mine went and they were just blown away. Aside from the fact that the islands won’t be around forever, they offer so many experiences you just can’t have anyplace else with volcanoes and animals and sea creatures in this pristine environment. Just imagine being on a ship with people who can answer ALL OF YOUR QUESTIONS about the amazing things you see!

Findery: Is there anything else that’s on your mind?
I think Earth Day should be renamed People Day or something like that. Because if we don’t do something pretty tremendous to slow down the accumulation of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, it’s the people and animals that will suffer. The Earth will be rid of us in no time, geologically speaking. We’re the ones that need to be saved.

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