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Denise Luke: July 2015 Sustainability Spotlight

Denise_Luke_Sust_Spotlight_July 2015
Mention the name “Denise Luke” at Viridian corporate headquarters and in the field, and a string of accomplishments inevitably accompanies it: Bermuda trip winner, Massachusetts 2015 Sustainability Task Force leader, standout sustainability event coordinator, global change agent, and oh yes, mother of five. Every day in this energetic Lead Director’s life proves the axiom “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person to do it”—a very busy, eminently likeable person who makes it a point of pride to rise to every challenge in her commitment to “live Viridian”.

A month after returning from Bermuda, Denise is still inspired by both the sustainability initiative our trip winners had the opportunity to participate in, and the people she was finally able to meet. “Bermuda was the first trip I qualified for, and it was incredible in so many ways. The island itself is truly a paradise, and the sustainability part gave me a taste of the 7 Continents in 7 Years experience. Like everything I do, I go all out, so even though I wasn’t as ruggedly dressed as I should have been for the invasive species removal, I started by being one of the “gatherers”—getting in there pulling all that rough vegetation—and was soon “promoted” to being one of the “cutters”. It was hard, challenging work but we all enjoyed it (like all Viridian endeavors, we get a little competitive!) and it was pretty inspiring to see what an impact we were able to make in just a few hours.

“It’s just so nice to look at a place, remember what it looked like before, and see how it looks like after, in just 3 or 4 hours. It’s amazing what you can do—a real embodiment of individual choice, collective impact. And that collective impact just keeps getting bigger and bigger, the more events we do.

“And of course, the luxury part of the trip was truly luxurious. You’re in this breathtaking place with amazing food, a gorgeous beach, the chance to experience a beautiful boat ride and incredible snorkeling. I so loved getting to spend actual face time with people I’ve been talking on the phone with for all these years. It was great meeting Monica Keith, Sheila McCormick, and some of the other Associates from my area who I don’t really know—really forging those connections and putting the names and faces together. I do a lot of cross-line support, so it was a real pleasure to network and hang out with those people.

“That’s part of what I love so much about sustainability events, too,” she continued. “I always make a point to attend the corporate Earth Month event in Mill River Park. It’s good to see the people who make things happen for us at Viridian headquarters, and get to know them as people. We make cleanups fun by throwing a little competition into it: who has the heaviest trash bag, who collects the most bags, that sort of thing. My kids get into it, too, and I always try to have at least one of them with me. One time my six-year-old son pulled a TV out of the woods! He’s still talking about that, as you can well imagine. My three-year-old has been coming with me since she was born. And at my daughter’s Kindergarten graduation last year, her teacher told me “Oh, you’re the mom who’s a Viridian Associate! Your daughter talks about Viridian all the time.”

Denise is grateful that Viridian’s culture of sustainability has permeated her family culture as well. “You can’t be around a company like this—people like Viridian Associates—and not have it change you. Even if you came into Viridian for the money green, you’ll stay in it for the environmental green. Viridian becomes a part of you, and you become a part of Viridian. In our home, we live out our commitment to the reduce/reuse/recycle chain primarily through reuse. I can’t stand unnecessary packaging, and really try to find some way to use it if I can’t recycle it. I haven’t bought a roll of paper towels in 17 years. [Editorial note: Let’s pause for a moment and reflect on that last statement. Five children between the ages of three and eighteen. No. Paper. Towels.] My kids are conscious of not throwing things out that can be used—not contributing to the waste stream except when absolutely necessary.”

When Manager of Sustainability Hannah Wells asked Denise if she would serve on the Sustainability Task Force this past April, Denise happily threw herself into the role. “It’s great working with all the different people and focusing on events—finding a way to put some sustainability into every initiative, even sneaker drives or can drives. Our goal is always to try to bring some Viridian into it, and remind people that it’s not just about energy: Sustainability is why we’re in business.

“What I do with the MORE Foundation exemplifies that. The program promotes sustainable farming practices in Africa, financed through donations of gently used athletic shoes. Every 600 shoes will provide enough training for a year’s worth of training in sustainable farming practices in Ghana: practices that will not only yield better crops, but will protect and enrich the land. Whenever I can, I try to talk to other leaders and ask if they can collect shoes at local meetings. It’s near and dear to my heart. And my Viridian family comes through for me.

“The truth is, what sustains all of us is each other. You can’t be successful and not be plugged in. You have to attend events—at least one event every other week. You need to listen to the Power Calls, read VTalk, do everything you can to stay connected to the community. And by doing so, Viridian really becomes part of you. When you talk to a customer, the words just flow out of you. It’s almost like an athlete’s muscle memory—it always comes back to you. Even if you need to take a break for a short while, if you’ve been steeped in Viridian you can always get it back. But there are no shortcuts: You just have to be there to feel what Viridian really is.

“And here’s the most important thing: You have to go to PowerUP. I can’t explain the feeling you get from it—what it does for your business, what it does for your psyche, what it does for you as a total person. You have to go to get it yourself. You just have to go. Once you get it, you get it.”

We’re sure looking forward to spending some time with Denise in Philly this September. And you heard the lady: You’ve got to be there, too.