March Climate Leader: Nina Goodrich

Nina Goodrich-sm.jpg

Nina Goodrich is the executive director of GreenBlue, a Charlottesville-based environmental nonprofit “dedicated to the sustainable use of materials in society.” She is also director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a membership-based collaborative that brings together hundreds of companies in support of packaging sustainability. Nina brings a deep level of industry, leadership, and consultancy experience in R&D management, innovation and sustainability strategy to her work, and frequently speaks and writes about the convergence of sustainability, innovation, and technology.

How did you get involved and passionate about the environment?

I have always been interested in science and the outdoors. I lived in Canada for many years and started to notice that the migratory birds were arriving earlier and earlier. I also got involved in native plant rescue efforts to replant in regeneration areas. That was when I learned about ecosystem services, the things we get from nature for free like clean water, air to breath, pollination. Ecosystems also regulate our climate. When I realized that these services had no applied value and were being exploited, I became very concerned and wanted to learn more. I read about places on earth where we had pushed nature to the point of desolation and became passionate about changing my career to activate change.

What are you hopeful about right now?

I am hopeful that the recent concern over plastics in the ocean will be a turning point for our society. It’s hard to understand what we can’t see. We can all see plastic in the ocean and perhaps it can be a proxy for all the other things we do to the earth that we don’t mean to do.

In your opinion, what is one thing that is holding the state or local community back from greater progress?

Using economics as an excuse. I hear time and again if it costs more, we can’t do it. That applies to using recycled content, switching to more environmentally friendly materials, sourcing sustainable products, using renewable energy. What’s the cost of not doing it? I think we have to take a more progressive view and recognize we are falling behind. The companies and communities that move first will be rewarded because they will be the technology leaders in the future.

What is a climate action personally or professionally that you are proud of?

I am very proud of GreenBlue’s staff and programs. Collectively, we have helped our members understand how to make their packaging more sustainable. This includes carbon footprint as well as many other environmental indicators.

What is one thing folks can do today to help reduce climate pollution?

Folks can recycle and compost. Paper and food waste create methane in a landfill. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, 25 times more potent than Carbon Dioxide. Charlottesville has a year-round compost drop off at McIntire. It would be wonderful if more residents used it. Using recycled content in new packaging allows us to create new materials at a lower carbon footprint than was required to make the item the first time.

This is challenging work! What is your favorite way to recharge and rejuvenate?

Gardening, hiking, bicycling and kayaking are my favorite activities. Shenandoah National Park is a wonderful place to rejuvenate.