by Nurieh Glasgow, class of '97 & '00
Emily Mitchell (class of '02 & '03)
currently works to promote the utilization of green energy as an Assistant Program Manager at the U.S. Green Building Council
, but her commitment to environmental and social service began long before this.
Mitchell first became involved with volunteering because of her parents, “My parents are both civic-minded and they exposed me service at an early age.
When I was 11, I participated in a camp called the Children’s International Summer Village, where other 11year-old ‘delegates’ from different countries spent a month together learning about and exploring topics like peace and service. By the time high-school and college came around, service was something I did on my own.”
After completing her undergraduate degree, Emily searched for a way to dedicate a significant amount of time to service, and learn more about her career interests in preparation for grad school.
AmeriCorps NCCC was a perfect fit! NCCC gave her the experience in community development and she didn’t have to pick and choose from all the important issues. “I felt NCCC touched on social equality, environmental and economic equity issues which are all equally important and I was able to address them comprehensively.” In all aspects of her service, from the Beacon House, a tutoring and mentoring program in D.C. for lower-income youth, to a forest restoration project in Pittsburg, Emily found reward in being part of the process where people enjoyed learning and getting involved with making both themselves and their neighborhoods more vibrant. And as a Class IX team leader for NCCC, at the Capitol Region Campus, Emily was determined to not only help the community but dedicated to helping create the best experience for her team. When times got rough, she and her team didn’t balk at the challenges they faced. “I remember, and I’m sure my team remembers, when we got to a city for a project and the logistics had not been finalized! My team had to sit down and spend many late nights working on solutions to the challenges presented to us. There was a lot of unexpected leg work but my team and the community were on board with us. It was daunting in the beginning, but in the end I was proud of my team and the challenge built our team unity.”
Following AmeriCorps, Emily went on to graduate school to study sustainable development in hope of continuing to work on grassroots community development projects. She spent a semester in Costa Rica and through an internship at Southface (www.southface.org) in Atlanta, Georgia, she found a love for green building. After working at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, she took a position at the U.S. Green Building Council (www.usbgc.org) as the Affordable Housing Fellow charged with overseeing work to ensure the residential green program would be amenable to affordable housing developers and is now the Assistant Program Manager.
The U.S. Green Building Council (U.S.G.B.C.) is the nation’s foremost coalition of leaders from every sector of the building industry working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. “The way that we look at green building is holistic,” says Ms. Mitchell. USGBC’s green building rating systems include strategies to improve energy and water use, site-specific issues and selection, indoor environmental quality, materials selection and use, and education for the building occupants. “Basically we look at components like, site selection (where the house is and where the lot is (landscaping, storm water, proximity to transportation/community amenities, indoor environmental quality (air quality), and home owner awareness (owners get credits for creating a manual for a new owner or tenant explaining what green features are part of the house to educating them about what is unique about the home and how to maintain the green features).”
It sounds like a lot of work, but Emily broke it down very simply. Green building is just one way both commercial and residential builders can help protect our planet. “Everybody can take a look at the way they go about their day: from your environmental footprint to carbon release and see what areas you personally can change. Do an inventory to see what you are already doing to help in a big way and look at ways you can do better. If you’re a house owner or a tenant look at the small things from changing your light bulbs (compact lightbulbs) your transportation choices (mass transit, bike), your food sources (buying local helps minimize the transportation effects on the environment) or even the paint and sealants you’re using (low or no VOC-volatile organic compounds). Some of the choices are going to have a higher cost at first, and I certainly believe we have the proverbial vote with our dollars because how we spend those and our time can influence the way market goes. So there are ways to shift the way we think about our spending patterns. For example, compact light bulbs last longer and your electricity bill will be less. Look at what will save you in the long run. Even looking at your food choice to see how you can adjust because every little bit counts. Most of us are on a tight budget and buying organic is expensive but the price will go down. Buy a little organic at a time and buy organic from a nearby city or state because going local means less energy has been used to get it to your plate. The two-fold piece is that the mass population needs to know what is going on with our planet, do something about it and educate others. Once an individual is educated the next step is to spread the awareness through educating others, to speak, to work in the field…find what you are good at, like a stream restoration maybe, and use your skills in the areas you are or become passionate.”
Emily has found her passion in both environmental justice and in green house gas reduction efforts. “I try to address this with the work I do but also looking at my spending patterns and my transportation choices. I also love to show people how environmental justice can affect families and communities but also how they can become involved and effect change through public meetings to interact with elected leaders, educating them on their legal rights and the different powers of using the media, print, internet, TV networks to leverage information dissemination.”
So how does she get all the work done? Emily is not only fueled by her passion but inspired by others who do the work with her. “There are so many affordable housing developers who are working to provide green affordable housing for low-income families, and they are fearlessly working with a variety of stakeholders and on tight budgets to make more units of healthy, durable, resource efficient housing available.”
Emily has now become part of a larger team which includes those who have worked with her in the past and those who will continue to work with her, who will hopefully help her realize her hope for the future: “That we are able to co-exist in a just, equitable and healthy way, all resources are shared and we develop local solutions for future sustainability in all countries in the world.” A dream that will come to fruition by each of us committing to making changes in our lives, whether small or big, because every bit counts!