This post originally appeared in Project Groundswell
Clad in a green dress, Fenja Blobel, EcoTuesday’s Silicon Valley Ambassador enthusiastically welcomed each participant to the first event of the year held at SimplyBe Salon & Spa in downtown Palo Alto in January. The meet-up was one of nine concurrent events across the country on the topic of sustainability. The Silicon Valley event featured Paul Kotta, owner of Mellow Monk Japanese Green Tea and was sponsored by Frey Vineyards, the first organic winery in the US, and complete with compostable cups from World Centric, located in Palo Alto, CA. After the first event held in San Francisco four years ago, EcoTuesday is now in nearly ten cities across the country.
EcoTuesday is a networking event held every fourth Tuesday of the month. Every event features a 20-minute keynote presentation by an industry thought-leader, followed by a circle in which everyone introduces themselves and what they are most passionate about on the topic of sustainability.
Silicon Valley Ambassador Blobel was born in Japan and spent six years living in Germany before moving to the bay area. “It’s pretty exciting in this area. There are so many green people,” she says. Blobel currently works as an Account Manager for Environmental Certification Services at Scientific Certification Systems, a third party certification company. “When I found out about the opportunity to grow the Silicon Valley EcoTuesday event organically I jumped right on it,” Blobel says. “I know Silicon Valley is full of eco-minded individuals that would also find it a great opportunity to be able to connect to the wide range of sustainability industries happening right in the bay.” Blobel has been the EcoTuesday Ambassador for Silicon Valley since November and reported that speakers are booked until April.
Nikki Pava, founder of EcoTuesday and now a sustainability consultant, recalls that the concept for EcoTuesday began over a cup of tea, however, Pava had been thinking about issues related to sustainability ever since working for Japan Times over ten years ago. When interviewing CEOs with Japan Times Pava worked on a project interviewing CEOs and managing directors, talking to them about the economic strategy in the regions they worked in, including Berlin, Bangkok and Dubai.
Writing articles about the leading companies in these regions, “was one of the pivotal experiences in terms of creating my path – bringing business and the environment together,” Pava says. Interviewing the CEOs, her last question would be about the environment or community relations. Talking to a property developer in Dubai, building a new hotel, “I asked him… ‘tell me about the environmental impact – how is it going to impact the water?’ He just looked at me and asked – ‘do you want some more coffee?’” Experiences like this had an impact on Pava, “I came home and I realized whatever I did next needed to integrate business and the environment. The biggest changes were going to take place with businesses.”
While Pava was pursuing her MBA in Sustainable Management at the Presidio School of Management, “A friend and I were talking about how we wanted to have an event where people could let their guard down and be comfortable.” At the time, there were few professional networking events in the sustainability sector, and there was a need for these like-minded people to come together. “Authentic relationships in business are really important,” she says.
The first EcoTuesday event was held four years ago in San Francisco. “We thought, we’ll just invite our friends and colleagues.” With over 60 people it turned out to be a great event as Pava recalls.
Over the past few years she has seen that “companies are starting to save money by analyzing their supply chains and going green.” By stepping up their Environmental and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, “companies are making a positive contribution to their bottom line.”
Pava remains hopeful for the future of the movement, despite her changing role within it. “There’s a lot of hope… What I do will evolve a bit, being a mom and analyzing the choices I make.” She would like to continue to “create awareness for healthier living choices for people. “What I am passionate about is creating awareness of all the choices that people have that are positive for the earth and the future of the planet.”
Pava sees room for tremendous growth for EcoTuesday in Silicon Valley. “There is a lot of momentum for a really successful EcoTuesday in the Palo Alto area. There are so many great companies and individuals in the area who want to connect with one another. The event could be as large as the event in San Francisco.” She added, “the whole region is a legendary idea bed. It is full of incredibly intelligent people who are doing great things in all of the different sustainability spaces.”
Bob Gerughty, a participant in the first Palo Alto events is an owner and Area Developer of Compound Profit. He says he likes the intimacy of the Palo Alto EcoTuesday meetups. “Smaller crowds and good topics,” he says. “There’s a lot of green in this valley – you just have to find it and you find it by going to events like these.”
4th Tuesday of Every Month, 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Price: $5 online or $10 at the door