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Let's Talk Sustainability & Environmental Justice
This article is part of our Humans in Business initiative to introduce amazing people that clearly inspire us every.damn.day. as they continue to work their asses off. This month we're featuring Teresa Lang, Senior Sourcing Manager, North America for climate solutions company South Pole.
"There's something about the calm peace of a sunrise surf, with the occasional surfing dolphin or pelican, that just makes you feel one with nature," says Teresa Lang about her passion for climate justice. Solving the climate crisis is number one on the list of priorities for the Senior Sourcing Manager, North America for climate solutions company South Pole. She became obsessed with helping the environment from being drawn to the natural forces around her, which is not only inspiring, but life-changing to every one of us living on the only planet we really have.
According to NASA, carbon dioxide from human activity is increasing more than 250 times faster than it did from natural sources after the last Ice Age. This puts our climate in crisis due to harmful human activity since the Industrial Revolution. With Teresa's help and the many others who dedicate their lives to environmental justice, we can pivot our path to global warming and find immediate solutions. South Pole works on bringing these solutions to businesses while also facing a moral case for climate action. Failing to meet the needs of the growing crisis is detrimental to millions in communities that are vulnerable to social and economic consequences of global warming. South Pole strives to make climate action the new normal. And we're all here for it.
We (virtually) sat down with Teresa to chat about how everyday is Earth Day and how you can personally take the steps to fight climate change. Her work with South Pole improves the lives of others by saving wildlife, forests and also helps aid communities in countries such as Zimbabwe and Colombia, alongside many more across the globe.
DYLANLEX; So, Teresa, tell us! How did you get into sustainability?
Teresa Lang: Growing up on the westside of Los Angeles, I always cared about the environment, hiking, camping, snowboarding, the beach, you name it!! But it wasn't until after college, when I was living in Costa Rica and began surfing everyday, that I realized I wanted to make taking care of our environment and mitigating climate change, through the lense of corporate sustainability for my career. There is something about the calm peace of a sunrise surf, with the occasional surfing dolphin or pelican, that just makes you feel one with nature. After living in Costa Rica for 6 months, I moved to New York and got a job at the Clinton Foundation and simultaneously applied to a Masters program at Columbia University, where I studied international affairs and environmental policy. When I finished my masters degree, I began working first at environmental non-profits working in conservation, climate policy, and eventually carbon offsets. After 7 years at my last job, I realized I really wanted to work with companies who have such a significant climate and environmental impact.
DL: What are some tips / things you do personally to prioritize the environment / sustainability in your daily life? What do you do that makes everyday Earth Day?
TL: Flying is absolutely the biggest part of my carbon footprint, or at least it was pre-COVID, and I think this is the case for many people. I can't wait to travel again, but when I do, I try to keep my emissions as low as possible. I think twice if I really need to fly (can I drive or take a train instead?). I never fly first class, as it's about 6x the emissions per passenger vs. coach (think about how much more space it takes up!), and I try to prioritize direct long hauls over layovers (take off and landing have the highest emissions!). And I make sure to offset my emissions. I either buy a ticket with an airline that offsets the emissions of your flight in the cost of your ticket, like Jet Blue. Or I make sure to purchase them either checking the box to do so when I purchase my ticket, or using a flight emissions calculator and purchasing offsets at the end of the year.
I also have been really making an effort to reduce my meat intake -- a lot of people ask me if I'm a vegetarian or vegan (I'm not -- I like cheese, eggs and the occasional steak or hamburger too much), but I am trying to really be thoughtful about my meat intake, and am cooking at lot less meat at home.
DL: How can we be more thoughtful about our shopping and purchasing habits?
TL: All the stuff we buy has a footprint -- to make it, to use it, to eventually dispose of it when you are done using it. So I've been trying to think twice before I order yet another pair of shoes or jeans. I'm trying to buy more second hand and vintage, and when I buy new I try to only support brands that make high quality, long lasting pieces, as well as those that have a strong environmental ethos. The fashion industry is one of the hardest on the environment, but I was particularly horrified how bad the footprint of jeans are! Reselling or donating clothes and stuff when you no longer use them is also key, and swaps with friends can be fun -- for example, I just scored a second hand toaster oven this week from a friend of a friend who was moving and was going to throw it away!
DL: What are the main things you usually recommend to people to be more sustainable?
TL: I think the key is to start with baby steps. Buy a more fuel efficient car. Walk or bike instead of jumping in the car. Get a sense of your carbon footprint, or at the very least your travel footprint, and offset it!! (You can set up a free account to calculate flight emissions and purchase offsets on my company's website: https://market.
For me, the key is to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Small changes add up to big ones. One skipped hamburger, one less pair of new blue jeans, or one less water bottle isn't going to single handedly save the world -- but if all 7 billion people on this planet skipped that hamburger once or twice, it starts to make a big difference!
Check out South Pole and their many initiatives to fighting climate justice.
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