A Love for Trees Turned Into a Life’s Work
As a kid, the concept of landscaping never made sense to me. I can remember standing on the lawn, looking at the trees that were my forts, my hiding spaces, my benevolent branched protectors, and I could not understand in what world my parents would see cutting them down as an improvement to our home.
They tried to explain it to me, and as stoicism has never really been my strong suit, I had the predictable response of uncontrollable sobbing while hugging the trees and begging my parents not to kill my friends.
While this may seem like an adorable anecdote about an over zealous kindergartner, my life story has been very much shaped by those early experiences, and I’ve made “begging adults not to kill my friends” my life’s work.
I see so much of my true self in the 5-year-old, sobbing tree-hugger. I’ve become better at controlling the sobbing in public, but I have never lost my deep emotional response to our indiscriminate and destructive behavior to our planet.
And since sobbing uncontrollably in public is generally not something that serves you well in a professional setting, I’ve channeled that emotion — that pure, raw indignation — into a career that allows me to pragmatically, strategically and powerfully take steps to change the world.
At first I thought saving the world would come in the form of sustainable architecture. I loved the idea of transforming buildings into vehicles of change and reversing the idea that development had to come at a cost to the environment.
I poured myself into school at Savannah College of Art and Design, pulled hundreds of all-nighters, and set out to change the world one building at a time. My internal sobbing 5-year-old was soothed and I felt her smiling as I walked across the stage to receive my master’s degree in architecture.
But as fate would have it, the best-laid plans (and graduate school investment) does not a linear career path make.
After years doing my most enthusiastic rendition of perfect architecture post-grad, I realized that there may be a more efficacious route to making an impact that had less Auto-Cad and more tree planting. So me and my internal, smiling 5-year-old decided to start a new journey with We Are Neutral.
After years of getting my hands dirty planting trees; providing carbon offsets to businesses, music festivals, homes and sports teams; and evangelizing the power of reducing your carbon footprint; I now serve as the director of We Are Neutral. To date we have planted over 45,000 trees, retrofitted over 750 low-income homes and helped over 50 businesses achieve carbon neutrality, and the best is yet to come.
My story is summed up by honoring the indignation of my younger self by pursuing proactive solutions and using my life, and my career, to make a difference in our community, our country and ultimately protecting the global community and the planet that provides our home.