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Making it easy to be green: Sarah’s EF journey

Making it easy to be green: Sarah’s EF journey

Sarah, Project Manager for Market Development in EF Educational Tours, has always had an interest in sustainability. A graduate of the University of Vermont, where she says, “social justice is integrated in everything you do,” Sarah knew she wanted to bring that with her—wherever her career took her.

Some soul searching after graduation led Sarah to a stint in sustainable farming in Ometepe, Nicaragua. “As much as I’m passionate about food, I don’t have a green thumb at all,” Sarah laughs, remembering her experience. “I really struggled to find a job that aligned with my values but would give me the skills to create transformative change.”

At the recommendation of a friend, Sarah found EF Education First, and immediately realized it was the perfect match for her skills and interests. “When I went on the website, I just fell in love. I just knew I had to work there,” she says.

Sarah started as a Tour Consultant for EF Educational Tours, where she helped teachers bring students on immersive tours across the world. “I started to think of how we could prove that our customers care about the environment, and what our stance on that is,” she says. “I worked to design a survey to figure out how our students and teachers engage with different issues. It was very much a grassroots thing.”

Over time, more and more conversations about sustainability made their way to Sarah. “I had a few people reach out to me saying, ‘I heard you’re really into the environment and you’ve done some research on this,’” explains Sarah. “It just seemed like the perfect time to see who was interested in learning more, and how we could brainstorm ways to address sustainability at EF.”

Sarah says there was a small “green team” at EF when she first started, but it didn’t seem to get off the ground. “The approach was more about asking EF to change and address issues, rather than looking at how we could empower staff. It didn’t feel like we were making much progress.” As her conversations with colleagues increased, Sarah realized the time for a refresh had come.

Sarah took a new approach and focused on getting her colleagues excited about making more sustainable decisions, both at home and at work. “We looked at what issues do we want to address and how can we work on it?” says Sarah. For Earth Day in April, Sarah and the Green Team worked to build awareness by putting up signs about energy usage throughout the building, reminding staff to bring in their reusable mugs and showcasing green products they loved, even raffling off a to-go kit of utensils.

The event was a huge hit, so when Lingo—the on-site restaurant in EF’s Boston office—started to think about getting rid of single-use plastic, they approached Sarah to get her thoughts. “They wanted to make it an easy breakup,” Sarah says. “So we made it fun and created a ‘five stages of grief’ over the course of the breakup.” The stages included “breakup therapy,” talking about what Lingo was breaking up with and what alternatives are available, and provided educational opportunities and trivia around environmental issues.

The move has worked—more and more staff can be seen walking around with stainless-steel straws and reusable mugs and water bottles, some of which the Green Team has helped source. Sarah notes plastic is still available for those who ask for it, but she’s been thrilled with the positive response from staff and the progress the Green Team has been able to make.

“It’s fun to see there’s bigger buy-in and that you can do more,” she explains. “I think a lot of people choose to work at EF because they align with our mission of opening the world through education, and the awareness that both individual and business decisions can have. The Green Team gives people a platform to learn more about the environment and empowers people to be the best version of themselves.” Sarah smiles, “I think a lot of people here are looking for that greater good.”