April 2015 Sustainability Spotlight: Gillian Schultz
Gillian Schultz knows firsthand what the phrase “fog like pea soup” means, and it isn’t a pleasant memory. “I grew up in the North of England at a time when coal was used extensively,” the Viridian Senior Consultant recalls.
“There was a lot of soot—in the air, in our noses. Believe me, in the winter when it was cold, damp and foggy, the fog was a thick, green color—that’s where the term ‘fog like pea soup’ came from.
Gillian, who has owned an electronic systems integration company for 34 years, is surrounded by engineers now and was surrounded by engineers growing up. “My great grandfather created a more efficient method of extracting gas from coal by inventing the vertical retort,” she shares. “Creating gas from coal contributed significantly to the emissions and dirt in the atmosphere. We also had coal and gas fires and a paraffin stove at home,” she elaborates. “I was aware of the negative impact of emissions from a very early age.”
“Natural gas made a huge impact on the air becoming cleaner. England became conscious of the need to reduce emissions and coal fires were banned.” Gillian quickly saw the difference in air quality between there and other places she travelled with less-strict standards. “I guess you could say that every pore of my body recognizes the value of pure, clean air and pure, clean water.”
It was why she joined Viridian as an Associate in late 2012, and it was why she volunteered for her first sustainability event in the fall of 2013. Her passion for the environment also drove her to lead the Sustainability Task Force a year ago. Now she is on the 2015 Associate Sustainability Council, and she hopes to make a difference there as well.
Viridian aligns with her personal values, Gillian declares. And the company has increased her interest in renewable energy.
“I had been looking for another service to recommend to clients, preferably in the sustainability field,” Gillian relates. Bearing in mind the company’s long-term relationships with clients, it was important to her that this would be a positive experience. “I really looked and thought long and hard before I made my decision. However, I felt very comfortable with Viridian’s mission and its responsible, affordable energy. I continue to be reinforced in my belief that I made the right decision.”
She runs her company full-time and works on her Viridian business part-time. Her first sustainability event was the Morton Grove Restoration Project, held twice yearly at St. Paul Woods in Morton Grove, IL. Here, volunteers learn about the harm non-indigenous plants can bring to an ecosystem and help clear away these plants so that native plants and trees can flourish. The next Restoration Project is scheduled for April 11. (Download the flyer here.)
This year during Earth Month, Viridian Associates in Illinois will also be clearing out winter debris and repairing beds on a garden that’s used to teach young children about plants and gardening. (Our Earth Month page at LiveViridian.com features information on these and other events to volunteer for.) Other events this year include helping with a native grass replanting/prairie restoration project at a nature preserve, invasive plant removal in several other forest preserves, trash clean up and clearing one of the ravines that is a watershed to Lake Michigan. The Task Force leaders are hoping to include educational forums on building and sustaining rooftop gardens, as well as on the impact of bees. Chicago has an official beekeeper, and at many of the rooftop gardens, the gardeners maintain beehives, Gillian points out.
“I love being physically active, working with plants and working with people. It pumps me up to be outside,” Gillian says. “I come away from these events with very sore muscles. It reminds me for several days of the positive work I’ve done.”
When Gillian joined the Sustainability Task Force, her background in both marketing and event planning gave her the know-how to create a collaborative event planning structure for Viridian Associates in Illinois. The state hosted 7 events last year and 10 are planned for this year. “I’m an organizer by nature and I believe in collaboration. Everybody’s point of view has value.”
She feels that being selected to the Associate Sustainability Council will give her more opportunity to contribute. “Each of us has a very different perspective, and I think together we’re really going to introduce some great ideas.”
Gillian sees Viridian playing a big part in a sustainable future, both for the environment and for herself and her husband. It’s led her to consider some long-term projects in places she’s enjoyed visiting such as Mexico, Central America or Peru. “I want to do something of value in one of those areas, not just for a few days but for months at a time. This is a very strong part of my ‘Why?’ What I’m doing with Viridian is helping me to really sharpen my focus,” Gillian says.
She also believes that her work has changed her husband’s level of involvement in environmental causes. “I’m gratified to see him become more in tune with the environment,” Gillian shares. “It was very much me; now it’s very much us.”