Podcast Episode 34: Celebrating Mother Earth

We are celebrating sustainability and our environment this month in honor of Earth Day. In this podcast we are joined by Tricia Wilson, DHG Regional Managing Partner and a dear friend to mother earth, to talk about DHG Impact and what sustainability at DHG looks like.

Episode 34 Transcript

AGH: Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of our DHG podcast series. I’m Alice Grey Harrison, your host, and I love this venue because we get to hear about the things that matter the most to us: our people, careers, and flexibility - our Life Beyond Numbers. Today, we’re going to talk about Earth Day. We’re celebrating sustainability and our environment this month in honor of Earth Day which is April 22nd. In the corporate world, caring for our environment and promoting sustainability often falls within a bucket called social responsibility or corporate citizenship. Tricia Wilson photoWell, you know, at DHG, we like to be different, so we have coined this area as DHG Impact. DHG Impact describes how we care for our people, our community and the world around us. Tricia Wilson, a DHG Regional Managing Partner, co-leader of the Women Forward program, president of our DHG Foundation, and for today’s podcast, most importantly, a dear friend of Mother Earth, is joining us to talk about what sustainability looks like at DHG. Welcome, Tricia.

TW: Hello there.

AGH: Let me set this up for our listeners, I know Tricia really well, so this is easy for me to do. If you ever see Tricia walking from her car to the office, do not be fooled when you see her carrying a wine tote. Nope. Friends, that is not wine in those bags, it is glass bottles filled with water. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen Tricia without a glass bottle of water within arm’s reach, and at this moment, you all can’t see us but sure enough, there is a glass bottle of water sitting across from me as we record this. I’ve never ever seen you drink out of plastic. I mean, never.

TW: Never, nope.

AGH: I mean never. We were at a meeting one time and there were plastic bottles and you were like, “I can’t drink this.”

TW: No, I have a very hard time picking up a plastic bottle, I imagine if I were on a desert island somewhere and somebody handed me a plastic bottle of water, I would probably drink it. But I try very hard not to, I can say that.

AGH: That’s one of the many reasons why she’s the perfect person to share  perspective with us for Earth Day. So, as I mentioned, you’re very passionate about the environment, sustainability, how did this passion of yours evolve? In other words, what propelled you to be so "crunchy"?

TW: Well, my mother would probably answer that as “I came out crunchy” but, you know, when I think about my passion around sustainability and mother earth, I really can almost identify that different phases of my life. I remember as a child, we did a lot of camping as a family and I would wake up and walk out beside the lake - playing or whatever and I would see trash and stuff coming up on the lake side and it would just really disturb me. I would grab my father, or my brother, or my sister who didn’t care about the trash and try to get them to go with me to pick the trash up and clean up the area around this because it just made me crazy. So, like I said, my mom probably was right to some degree and I just always remember having some focus on it because I love to be outside, I do love our outdoors. Whenever I would see something harming it, that bothered me. I remember even in college, sort of an odd story, but I was in a sorority and I was the house manager for a couple of years and that kind of meant taking care of the grounds, and I can remember so clearly, this was before being environmentally conscious was very cool, especially in college. I was cool in college.

AGH: No doubt. Tricia Wilson paddleboard headstand

TW: I would stand up in front of all of these women and just sort of plead with them to not use so much paper and even tissue. I can remember seeing all of the trash as it was being emptied, you know how women are? They used tissue to take their makeup off and everything and just you know, waste baskets full of paper and tissue and that drove me crazy. I can remember trying to beg them not to do that, and then one other quick crazy story when I was a tax person at Arthur Anderson, I remember one time we lost a very important tax document and I had to go find it, and this was before the days of recycling and so I had to go down into the dumpster or the big trash bins. I had to dig through that thing to find the document and more important to me to find the document was the awe of how much waste and paper was in that big trash dumpster.

AGH: Did you find it?

TW: I did find the document, yes. Many hours later and disgustingly so. Now I’m old enough, I don’t care about how crazy people think I am about it, I really do care about the fact that we take care of this beautiful Mother Earth that we have. I know that we can do that collectively and individually.

AGH: Absolutely. So we’ll be recognizing and celebrating Earth Day, as I mentioned. Tell us what we’re doing here at DHG in honor of Earth Day?

TW: Okay, before that, maybe some of this folks don’t even really know what Earth Day is or why there is an Earth Day. Earth Day was really started by a senator back in 1970 who was quite frankly just really disturbed that an issue as important as our environment was not addressed in our political world or by the media. So he started this Earth Day as a kind of a way to raise awareness and now, I think I’ve read somewhere that over one billion people across the world celebrate Earth Day. That’s pretty darn cool.

AGH: Yeah, that is cool.

TW: DHG of course is joining the celebration now, technically Earth Day is April 22nd of every year, which this year happens to be a Saturday.

AGH: Saturday?

TW: Saturday I think. So we’re officially celebrating earth day on the 21st, Friday the 21st. What we are doing is Chuck a Cup Day. Now, the Charleston people, the people in our Charleston, South Carolina office aren’t going to be too bothered by this because we chucked the cup a long time ago. Which means, get rid of all the paper, plastic cups and only use glassware for that day. We’re hopeful that everybody across the firm, all 2,000 plus of us, will not be drinking out of paper or plastic that day and my real hope is that it will stick across some of the offices and people will decide that that’s a great way to go and they’ll quit using it permanently.

AGH: Absolutely, that’s really cool. So in a broader sense, there are some things that DHG’s doing all along through DHG Impact in terms of sustainability and caring for Mother Earth, what are some of those things? Tricia Wilson biking

TW: Yeah, you know, people are always saying to me, “We can’t make that big of a difference, what can we really do?” What I’m really excited about is what you mentioned earlier through DHG Impact, one of our five focus areas is going to be sustainability. Sustainability falls right in line with what I believe our core values are; trust, relationships, innovation and passion. I mean, sustainability is just part of that. So as part of DHG Impact, two months a year will actually be dedicated to a focus on our sustainability efforts. You're going to hear a lot more about this in the upcoming months. So two months out of the year, our Impact Committees will really be focused on sustainability ideas and things that we can do to raise awareness and help everybody in our office and at DHG understand what we can do to make a difference.

AGH: And there are a lot of things that we’re already doing like, you know, when we have office moves, we are looking for LEED certified buildings. Our headquarters is in a LEED certified building, a lot of our offices now have the lights that come on and off as you leave. We are looking into different recycle programs in all of our offices. All of our paper is now recycled.

TW: Yes.

AGH: I mean, there’s no paper thrown away, it all goes into the shred bin, which is recycled. There are  a lot of things that we’re doing and we’re making progress.

TW: Yeah, I’m really excited about that. Even in most of our offices, we’ve gotten away from all of the K-cups.

AGH: Yes.

TW: The coffee Keurig cups and using that or ground coffee so we’re making a whole lot of progress.

AGH: And I rarely see plastic water bottles.

TW: We’re getting a lot better about that.

AGH: We still have some but most of the offices use water coolers.

TW: Yes, they do. I think where we could do a lot better on that is when we have meetings, when we have group meetings I still do see people bringing out water bottles as oppose to maybe water jugs with cups or glasses or whatever. But in Charleston you won’t find any water bottles.

AGH: Right. So as individuals, there’s got to be some things that we can do to make a lasting impact. What are some of those things?

TW: Yes, if you think about it, it’s very simple. I tried in Charleston to get them to go around and put it in everybody’s computer, “Think before you print.” Do you really need to print this document? Yes, we’re using paper that we recycle but do we need to use that paper at all? Cut off your computer before you go home at night. I can’t tell you how many times I walk around the offices and the computers are still on. That’s burning energy. Walk or bike to work if you possibly can, and if you can’t, carpool. And another thing a lot of people don’t think about is, even come to work at different non-heavy traffic times of day because you don’t have to idle. You don’t have to sit in idle in your car and burn more gas, if that’s a possibility for you.

AGH: Yeah. Plus, then you have hours back in your life that you’re not sitting idling in your car.

TW: Exactly, so that’s a win-win for everybody. We’ve talked about obviously using glass and if you have to use paper, eco-friendly paper recyclable paper. One of the things that everybody in this firm should do today is stop their junk mail. Sometimes when I go around offices and I am looking in the open mailboxes, there are piles of junk mail that we get that just burns paper. There are ways to go in and stop that junk mail from coming to you and reduce those people from spending that paper. (Click here to learn more about this.) You know, I hope most people are now in the habit of bringing their own bags to the grocery stores and things like that, eating more seasonal foods, gardening, getting rid of your toxic waste safely. As a firm, certainly looking at our vendors making sure they are more green. They are paying attention to sustainability and buying from eco-friendly vendors. I could go on and on but that’s just a short list.

AGH: Yeah, that’s awesome. I’ve heard you say a few things that I need to take away and begin doing. Now I did look one time into public transportation to get me from my house to our office here in Greenville, South Carolina. There’s so many amazing things about Greenville, South Carolina. Public transportation is not one of them. I figured this out when I was writing a blog and I was going to take the bus to work as something I have never done before. And it was going to take two and a half hours to go seven miles. Now people, I can walk that fast and I can’t remember how it all worked but I had to go to one terminal, wait 30 minutes for the next bus and then go to another and it was hard. So I won’t be doing that one but I heard a few others that I can do here in Greenville.

TW: Yeah, I understand the public transportation thing. One thing you can do is write your congressman or your mayor or your governor or whoever and try to help improve that process, because in a lot of cities that’s the case.

AGH: Yeah especially of this size. I mean this size of city is really hard. Okay, so I have you captive, she is in the room and the door is closed. So what is one piece of career advice? This has nothing to do with sustainability. I just have to ask you, you’ve been so successful as a female here at DHG and as a leader, what’s one piece of career advice that you would tell someone just beginning their career?

TW: Well that’s a tough one, only in that I have lots. But in fact I have done a whole little presentation, which I think you’ve seen, called Advice to My Younger Self because I do feel like there’s so much wisdom to share with people starting in their careers and so maybe this is one but it might be closer to about four.

AGH: Okay. You can do four.

TW: I just recently did a column in the newsletter and in it I talked about “knowing your why and you can endure any how” and what I mean by that is, understand your purpose in life but what I don’t like about that quote is that it says “endure your how” because really, I believe if you find out what you’re passionate about and why you’re here, you will be a success. So don’t be sitting somewhere in your career just enduring it. But find your passion, find why you are here, what you want to do. Never stop learning. I like to think every night before I go to bed, I can think of one thing I have learned. It is not necessarily a technical thing but about somebody else, about myself, about the world. Never stop learning but probably most importantly is just have fun. Enjoy it, enjoy the ride. Yes, absolutely. That’s awesome advice. Well thank you for sharing your perspective with us today. We appreciate it.

TW: Very glad to be here. Thanks for doing this.

AGH: Yeah and thank you all for listening to Life at DHG, our premier podcast series. If you like what you just heard, we hope you’ll tell your friends and colleagues. Be sure to check out our DHG blog, which is environmentally friendly, for more great stories about our Life Beyond Numbers. Join us next time for another edition of Life at DHG.

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