Life as an EcoFellow: Morgan and Natasha

The Center for EcoTechnology (CET) is way ahead of its time. 

In the last three short years — from 2016 to 2019 — of its 40 year establishment, the Center for EcoTechnology has made a massive impact on consumer practices. CET is projected to help approximately 95,000 people and businesses in three ways. Firstly, CET is on track to reduce carbon emissions by 391,000 metric tons. This is the equivalent of taking 85,000 cars off the road for one year! Secondly, CET has helped to keep 80,000 tons of waste out of landfills. Thirdly, CET has saved the equivalent energy of powering 35,000 homes for a year. But, best yet, they have saved $70 million (that’s right million!) in lifetime savings for both individuals and businesses by “going green”.

Change-Agents Combating Climate Change.

This non-profit organization helps both individuals and businesses to “go green” by reducing energy and waste consumption. Their website has a fantastic step-by-step guidance system that discusses renewable energy incentives that are available at the local, state, and federal levels. Often these local, state, and federal initiatives work with Solar Access and are funded by both the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Department of Energy Resources.

These three organizations offer credibility to the Center for EcoTechnology’s mission. Between qualification, certification, and other forms of quality controls, CET clients are assured that “going green” can be profitable for both firms and individuals. Included in profitability metrics is also the inherent good generated by thoughtful, conscientious consumerism. In terms of the financial breakdown, the Federal government provides a 30% solar tax credit and Massachusetts also provides a 10% solar tax credit. These type of sensible policies are just one of many reasons why the solar industry is growing so rapidly!

Green Practices Galore!

Not only does CET focus heavily on waste reduction, but they also provide assistance on reduction guidance and how to optimize food donations, trash collections, which construction and demolition materials to use, and other topics on waste. Just like a for-profit organization that provides business to business (B2B) services, the non-profit matches people and businesses with recycling and redemption facilities. The Center for EcoTechnology truly maximizes ways to make recycling, reusing, and waste reducing easy. In Massachusetts, they rely on a partnership with RecyclingWorks to get the job done.

We at Counter Current love to write about the environment. Even more fun than writing about the environment is the ability to feature good people who are passionate about an environmentally-focused cause. Therefore, it was an absolute no-brainer getting the chance to interview a couple of recent college graduates, Morgan Laner and Natasha Nurjadin, who have delved deep in CET’s mission through their 11 month EcoFellowship Program

Morgan Laner

Morgan loves trash! While studying at Rollins College in Environmental Studies, she made the leap to study abroad her sophomore year in Australia. This decision is what sparked her passion about waste. While she was in Australia, Morgan attended a lecture. When she walked in and sat down, she initially thought it was just going to be like anything else — just a lecture. However, this one was different. The lecturer was enthusiastic about the material and discussed why the concepts of “zero waste” and “voluntary simplicity” matter in our society. Morgan recalled that it was at this moment when it all clicked. When Morgan returned to Rollins College, she increased her focus and became heavily involved in sustainability programs on campus. In particular, she focused her energies on reducing waste, increasing recycling practices, and she created the “plastic bag ban” at school.

Not only is Morgan an EcoFellow who focuses on Program Operations, but she also enjoys the challenge. Working at a nonprofit, the challenge she encountered was how to sell a free service. When she would cold call individuals, firms, and partake in other forms of outreach, she noticed most people aren’t used to hearing about free products. Her second love is crafting. In the EcoBuilding Bargains store, Morgan has demonstrated how waste can be diverted from landfills in creative and eco-friendly ways.

Another experience Morgan particularly enjoyed during her EcoFellowship was the opportunity to grow professionally. Such opportunities included shadowing other members of the CET team, talking with experts in fields she was interested in learning more about, and participating in a Career Day organized specifically for her and the other EcoFellows. For Morgan, she knows she wants to stay in the environmental sector and share her passion for waste reduction with others, so this opportunity was key toward reaching her future goals.

Natasha Nurjadin

Over the last 6 months, Natasha’s concern for the environment has really flourished! She credits the Center for EcoTechnology’s EcoFellowship Program as a key influence in developing her concern. Before her EcoFellowship, Natasha studied Earth & Environmental Science and History at Wesleyan University and was involved in the University Sustainability Office, accidentally. Her intent was to work in the Administration Office, but Natasha quickly shifted gears towards sustainability when a spot opened up.

Upon becoming an EcoFellow, Natasha found herself on the “Lifestyle Talk Shows” on Mass Appeal TV every Thursday morning. On the local station, Natasha had a platform to share her ideas with 1,000s of viewers. This platform exposed Natasha to become more comfortable with advocacy and public speaking. However, Natasha is still committed to finding a quantitative way through data management to provide an eco-friendly perspective to individual consumers and firms!

Natasha’s involvement on Building Science and Solar Access has led her to combining several atypical skills. In particular, she has learned how to incorporate urban planning with energy efficiency — not a practice most recent college graduates are familiar with! In the future, Natasha plans to continue her education in graduate school through an environmental program ranging from sustainability to urban planning. Her interests are expansive, but mesh together nicely!

In just half a year, these amazing women have done so much for the environment!

If you liked reading about Morgan and Natasha and want to meet more people like them, check out CET’s website! Further, if you want to be like Morgan or Natasha, then mark your calendars! The EcoFellowship Program Application is open and available until February 17. Follow them also on Twitter, @CETOnline!

Kier Mellour: Eco Bikini Girl

Be Glam and Give a Damn.

Kier Mellour is the hottest environmental fashion, beauty, and travel blogger to hit the L.A. scene. Her wildly successful “classy, sassy, over-the-top style” fashionista blog is emblematic of the true Kier Couture image. However, at first glance, many wouldn’t know that Kier Mellour lives a not-so-secret, double life. Just like Christian Bale was the best Batman of our generation, Kier Mellour is unequivocally the best “Eco Bikini Girl” of our generation. She demonstrates on a daily basis that it is possible to both take care of our planet and remain ever-so fashionable. Or, in her words, you can “be glam and give a damn'.

Boy Scouts, Water Taste Test, and An Instagram Friend

Kier’s life — like all great stories — starts in the outskirts of a small town. Growing up as a regular kid in the Pacific Northwest, she learned to foster a great love and respect for nature, animals, and the earth. She credits her father and his former experience as a Boy Scout for nurturing her love for the wild. Whether she was camping in the summer, growing their own food, or reading books inside when it rained, Kier learned what it meant to incorporate sustainable practices into daily life. For example, she would mend clothes and fix toys instead of tossing them or buying new. This lifestyle made her that friend who would talk about how to live an eco-friendly life in a consumer-based society. That’s a good thing. You want to be that friend because environmental causes are not fringe issues, they are universal common goods that impact the lives of everyone.

Q: “After your first photo and beach clean-up, what happened?” —Ryan

A: “I began to talk more about plastic and easy swaps people could make in my stories and I realize that my audience was really interested in hearing more… They started to ask questions and I started to get messages about how much I had inspired them to make changes in their life which just encouraged me further.” —Kier

In 2017, Kier wanted to create more videos for her Youtube channel. The idea was to conduct a blind taste test of water bottles in California. Oddly enough, California was also experiencing a severe drought, even though Kier was buying most of her water bottles from the state. How was the private sector able to sell water that originated from a state that, supposedly, was lacking water sources? After extensive research, she discovered how terrible bottle water was for the environment. She thought about what she learned until one fateful day at the beach. Kier could absolutely not just relax in the sun or lie in the sand, as plastics had washed ashore and were scattered around the formerly, pristine beach. Therefore, she took action. She spent the day cleaning up the beach and at the end, she had her picture taken. Nearly immediately, the photo spread like wildfire and her flame for the environment was ignited even more.

Eco Bikini Girl represents that “women can be intelligent, conscious, and compassionate as well as stylish, sexy, and beautiful.”

Following the first beach clean-up, Kier started to participate in clean-ups once or twice a month. She also began following an Instagram account @CleanOurSeas and quickly became friends with the account manager, Natalie. After several Direct Messages (DM) and with the goal to spread as much awareness as possible, Kier began to write “#CleanOurSeas” on Instagram posts to encourage others to cleanup the environment. Naturally, Natalie loved Kier’s work and featured the post on the @CleanOurSeas account. Unfortunately, a male — unnamed for this article — derisively degraded the purpose of Kier’s actions. He insinuated that she had only participated in these clean-ups for Instagram “likes” and not because she cared for the environment. At that moment, the “Eco Bikini Girl” was born and she hasn’t looked back.

Thoughts on Consumer Behavior and Environmental Stewardship

With respect to consumer behavior, there are two great options that Kier recommends. The first is re-homing products and the second is to buy secondhand. As a consumer-based society, the value of our dollar is important. In fact, we have the ability to vote for the society we want based upon the products we sell. Therefore, it is necessary to practice a certain level of mindfulness when browsing Amazon or shopping in L.A.

“Literally, I’ve posted “free clothes hangers” and had a friend come and pick them up within an hour. There is so much stuff already out there, but you could use this tactic in reverse, as well…”Does anybody have a blow up mattress I could borrow for a week” will not only save you money, but it might reconnect you with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. [Facebook] prohibits you from buying something that you might not need forever.” —Kier on Consumerism

Further, Facebook and other social media platforms are great tools when connecting with others. It’s more than possible and should be encouraged to reach out to friends and family when it comes to products you may need for only a short amount of time. Whether it is borrowing a blow-up mattress or giving away hangers, there is not a need to constantly “buy”. However, thoughtful exchange could revolutionize the way we interact with others by furthering friendships and protecting our planet at the same time.

Thoughts on Defining Success and Environmental Stewardship

Success occurs on an individual level for Kier. Whenever there is a shift in thinking from someone who did not recycle and now they recycle, refuse, reuse, and practice conscious green consumerism — that is a win. She definitely feels successful in proactively reaching out to others, but her greater goal is to curb cigarette waste. Cigarette brands ought to switch to compost-able, natural filters. As many readers may know, cigarette butts are the number one most littered item, so if there was a shift from cigarette firms (either through legislation or profitability metrics) that would be a huge success. The implementation is the difficult part.

Thoughts on Politics and Environmental Stewardship

As a libertarian, Kier often finds herself arguing with both sides and, generally, thinks government should stay out of a person’s life. However, as an environmentalist and as a libertarian that possesses a strong belief in limited government, she is very torn on the best method to decrease nonessential plastics. Taxes on nonessential plastics or incentives in the form of tax credits or subsidies often come to mind — however, she is conflicted.

In Oregon, the cash redemption value machines have had astonishing success — it would be excellent if programs like these could be implemented nationwide. Witnessing the “success of common sense laws” that allow for cashback or discounts help any person on a budget. Further, it keeps plastic, glass, and metal containers in a circular economy for longer without needing to be placed in a landfill or dumped into an ocean. Anecdotally, California could be massively improved by implementing machines that are more visible, in higher frequency, and socially encouraged. However, often times these machines are swarmed with homeless people which typically makes it less than appealing to most people — this is another social problem that ought to be addressed.

“We can’t trust the government to protect us — we need to be the change we see.”

On the flip side, our government is incredibly wasteful — “I don’t think they know anything about how to be sustainable!” If sustainability was a greater focus, recycling and redemption facilities would be more frequent and self-education on the topic would be less necessary. Similar to the idea of including the true environmental cost when taxing a company for using plastic, it is not that rough of a thought to consider plastic as hazardous waste. This term would require companies who produce it to be responsible for disposal and cleanup. This is a realignment of our consumer-based economy, again, to reflect the true environmental costs.

Clearly, any policy change would need bipartisan support. The easiest way to make a change now is to convince others to “vote with their dollar” and not buy plastic. Companies want to be profitable. Companies will realign their strategic vision and operations to what the consumer wants and that’s why the “consumer truly holds the most power”. Changing our actions on a personal level are a lot easier than changing laws that have undercurrent agendas.

Counter Current Parting Thoughts

This article is dedicated to Vivian. Vivian is Kier’s chihuahua who was laid to rest on January 30th. For the last 13 years, Vivian is the one who showed the world that “you can be small and make a huge difference.” Nothing will replace you Vivian and you are forever treasured in the hearts of so many. We love you.

If you liked what you read, be sure to subscribe to Kier’s YouTube channel, follow her Instagram, and pray for Vivian. All links are in the article.