EDN Spotlight: Dana Schroeder | Earth Day Network

Meet Dana Schroeder, Outreach & Engagement Specialist in the University of Virginia’s Sustainability Office. Dana’s primary roles with UVA’s Sustainability efforts include organizing events, coordinating the Green Workplace Program, and facilitating various committees, subcommittees, etc. Dana holds a Bachelor of Science in environmental economics from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. She is particularly interested in behavioral psychology as it relates to the adoption of sustainable behaviors. She is also interested in yoga, live music, and exploring Charlottesville on foot.

At Earth Day Network, Earth Day is every day. Tell us what you’re most proud of doing — personally or professionally, big or small — to be earth-friendly or fight for the environment.

I am proud to work at a university, where I get to help train the next generation of leaders. It is so incredible to see a student get hooked on sustainability over their four years at UVA. Right now, we have an intern in our office who I recognize from the social media photo where she was featured receiving her reusable bottle on move-in day years ago! Even if my day-to-day work (i.e. handing out reusable items on move-in day) seems small, I know what a difference it can make to reach passionate, intelligent students at this critical point in their lives. Based on even a few small interactions, these students may decide to spend their whole lives and careers fighting for our planet.

What or who motivates you?

It motivates me that so many sustainable solutions are win-win-win. Making them happen is just a matter of helping facilitate change at all scales, from global policy to individual behavior. People (and governments, for that matter) often prefer to keep doing things the same way they always have. But if we can be transparent about the many diverse benefits of things like active transportation, renewable energy, sustainable food, and more, we can all be happier, healthier, and more Earth-friendly!

What’s one simple act of green or earth-friendly resolution you wish everyone would take?

Simplify! Minimalism isn’t just trendy, I like to think of it as a sort of reversion to the good old days. The way our grandparents did things were often so much simpler… you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever been kept from your morning cup of coffee thanks to an error message on a Keurig machine. I like to ask myself, “Did my grandparents have this?” before I buy a new appliance or something that only has one function (many as-seen-on-TV items come to mind). I find that I’m a lot happier breaking the consumption cycle on items like this, because my life is more manageable & organized — PLUS I avoid the environmental impact.

What do like to do on Earth Day each year?

I like to be around people, be friendly, and be curious. Last year, Charlottesville’s Eco-Fair happened on Earth Day with 50+ organizations tabling with information about their work and ways to get involved. Some people shy away from events with this format, but I started enjoying them more once I realized that I didn’t have to ask smart questions of the people at each table. Now I can build community by just smiling and admitting, “Wow, I know nothing about this! What is your group all about?”

What gives you hope for the future?

I am so encouraged that these days social and economic sustainability are getting the attention they deserve! Environmental issues themselves are motivating to some people, but our environmental health is SO connected to other topics. Today we are getting more people to make Earth-friendly decisions by emphasizing health gains, monetary savings, our duty to our neighbors and children, etc. I think we are learning to avoid “doom and gloom” or accidentally becoming the “green police” when we talk to people about the relationship between their behaviors and the planet.