After a little over two months at Clean Water Action, I have been able to learn so much and improve my understanding of how our organization works and fits in as a larger piece of the nonprofit world. By being able to not only sit in on meetings at the local level such as one-on-ones with our director Avonna Starck but also be included on Communications Department meetings at the national level, my understanding and appreciation for effective communication has grown immensely.
Additionally, my summer internship has shown me how important it is to be able to connect to your work on a personal level. While collaborating with each member of program staff, I easily saw how care for their work and dedication to their concerns outside of the office helped propel change in our community. My understanding and appreciation for Clean Water Action steadily grew during my time, and I am excited to take my experiences and dedication to meaningful causes forward as I continue in my studies at the University of Kansas and future career.
A personal connection to your work has continually been shown to be so important to my job during my time this summer. While working alongside Avonna, we had many discussions about at-home practices we follow or have adopted to remain stewards of clean water. One I identified with was “phasing out” versus “replacing”. As many household chemicals are toxic to our health and taint the water they end up in, adopting safer practices such as natural cleaners and biodegradable products becomes very important. Instead of throwing everything out at once and replacing with nontoxic items en masse, it is much safer and efficient to phase out the cleaners already used at home and integrate alternatives as older products run out. I believe this is an easy way to remain committed to safer environmental practices while also being economical. By being able to do this in my own life after learning from Avonna, I was able to add another tool to my toolkit and create a personal connection to my work.
While working with Jen from our Comms team, I was able to see how personal connection can go far to demonstrate meaningful work. While Jen and I did more typical tasks such as designing graphics and aggregating data to share with the organization, I also sat in on an environmental democracy call with her. The members of this coalition were scattered throughout the nation, but all came together to discuss the current battle around environmental legislation and at the same time highlight recent victories. Through the passion shared by the members, I could see just how much their concerns mattered to them professionally and personally. By being able to sit in on a discussion of this kind I was able to pick up helpful information and a spark of passion to carry into my own life. Although not everyone may have this opportunity, by staying educated about the state of our democracy and specifically stances on the environment, we can all hold our representatives more accountable and continue the fight for clean water. If you feel strongly, joining a similar panel can be a great way to start and create change (simply listening helped me a lot)! My time with Jen helped show me how far our Comms teams extends in different directions and what a passion for one’s work does for their motivation!
As discussed in my second blog, I was also able to collaborate with our ReThink Disposable organizer, Chloe, on her work in the metro area and St. Cloud converting restaurants from disposables to reusables for their dine-in. Accompanying Chloe to various businesses showed me the most important part of advocating for a cause is to make sure the person who believes in it the most is YOU. When Chloe pitched to a restaurant, I could easily see how easy it was for her to talk to the owner because she believed in the things she was saying. In the blog, I included a detailed description of Chloe’s main points and how she leveraged ReThink Disposables' benefits to earn interest and sign-on signatures from businesses. After observing Chloe’s pitch and then writing the blog about the experience, I can say with confidence the belief in your own cause can go miles for how successful it becomes.
On a similar theme, while working with Sasha on Environmental Justice, his passion also shined through as I worked alongside him. As we went back-and-forth conversing about topics such as Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) for marginalized communities in the Twin Cities area, I could see how his genuine care for these groups of people motivated him to go above and beyond in his work. Through this, I was also shown how families and neighborhoods in our community are put at a disadvantage because of factors such as garbage incinerators and unfair exposure to toxics. But through dogged advocacy work and passing of robust legislation (which I learned about during my time with Sasha), these communities can be protected and flourish with the help of environmental standards such as the ability to hold companies accountable through CBAs.
By educating yourself about the surrounding community, inspiring care in not only you but those around you, can go the distance to make sure we are able to elevate everyone.
As Avonna told me on my first day, one of our main goals is to help people live more sustainably. With the tips I shared through my learnings with our Minnesota office, I think there are numerous ways to be able to do this not only in your own life but be able to help inspire others in the same way. Tangible actions such as “phasing out” versus “replacing” are great, along with educating yourself about legislative goals and victories. But by embarking on aspirational goals such as believing in an advocacy topic of choice and making sure you truly have care for the people of concern can create a fantastic avenue to be a steward of clean water and our environment, too!
These ideas were all exemplified to me during my time at this wonderful organization and I cannot wait to apply them at school and also into my career. Unfortunately, with the conclusion of my third blog, I will be departing Clean Water Action for my upcoming junior year at the University of Kansas. I am excited to add I will continue to be a guest contributor including my thoughts on various topics from my classes including essays I write or topics I am concerned about regarding current events. Thank you for following along and I look forward to sharing more in the future!