Sometime in the last century-1997 to be exact-I was offered a unique opportunity to take the helm of a small San Francisco-based nonprofit organization. As You Sow, with two part-time staff, had some big ideas and huge potential. I jumped at the chance to become Executive Director and lead an organization with lofty goals of corporate accountability, toxics reduction, shareholder advocacy, and environmental enforcement.
Now, 15 years later, I’m leaving my post, proud of As You Sow’s phenomenal growth, its myriad public interest accomplishments and as I ponder my next adventure, I’m proud to look back and consider some of the highlights of As You Sow’s work over the past 15 years…
- Confronting and exchanging ideas with Steve Jobs while presenting As You Sow’s shareholder resolution at Apple’s annual meeting. This resulted in a contentious but productive two hour face-to-face meeting with Jobs and four As You Sow staff that persuaded Apple to launch a game-changing e-waste and computer take-back and recycling program. They also began phasing out several toxic chemicals in their product lines.
- Convincing major utility companies such as IDACORP (aka Idaho Power and Light) to reduce their reliance on coal and move to incorporate more renewable energy into their power portfolio.
- Overseeing an aggressive environmental enforcement and litigation program that has achieved significant consumer safety and toxic reductions, including:
- Making millions of school kids safer by reducing or eliminating formaldehyde emissions from thousands of portable classrooms around California
- Educating consumers and especially pregnant women about the dangers of mercury in fresh swordfish, tuna, and other marine species by developing informative warning protocols at grocery stores and fish markets
- Reducing or eliminating lead exposure in children’s jewelry, herbal supplements, water valves, sports equipment and other consumer products Eliminating the use of known carcinogen perchloroethyline from hundreds of industrial and consumer dry cleaning businesses, especially in low income communities
- Eliminating DEHP and other carcinogenic phthalates from a wide array of vinyl consumer products, such as electronic earbuds and book bags
Proceeds from our enforcement settlements were donated to fund other nonprofits. The favorite part of my job involved reviewing grant applications and providing, over the past 20 years, more than $2.5 million dollars, to more than 110 fabulous nonprofit groups working on cutting edge of toxics prevention, awareness, remediation, clean-up, or environmental education.
I want to introduce Danielle Fugere, who will be filling my role as President and comes to As You Sow with decades of legal and advocacy experience. I am confident that As You Sow is in very capable hands, prepared to achieve even greater successes in the years to come. I am honored to join As You Sow’s Advisory Board and provide continuity and input for the As You Sow team.
My thanks to the As You Sow board, staff, funders, and grantees for all their years of support; my heart will always be filled with fondness for the work, legacy, and future. I’m sure I’ll continue to see everyone along the proverbial campaign trail. ONWARD!