Archive for January, 2015

Miss the Roundtable on Sustainable Collaborative Leadership? Listen Here!

Contributed by Dr. Sarah

If you missed the rich conversation on January 21st, 2015, with master global bridge builder Nadine Hack and collaborators in the social enterprise, corporate sustainability and collective leadership space, fear not!

You can listen in to Nadine Hack, Nancy Goldstein, David Wilcox, Dean DeCrease, and Melissa O’Mara shared their wisdom, struggles and insights on how we can move the sustainable leadership needle:

(Pay no attention to the misleading zeros, press play on the left to hear the audio)

We are exploring the possibility of a second event to allow for more in-depth analysis into the complex and challenging topic of Sustainable collaborative leadership. Stay tuned!

January 29, 2015 at 3:50 am Leave a comment

Top 5 Ways Our Family Went Green-er in 2014 – Part II

Contributed by Dr. Sarah

In the last post (Part I) about how our family continued the process of going green in 2014, I talked about several lifestyle changes we made, from getting a new water filter system to buying an all-electric NissanLEAF (aka The Silver Leaf). In Part II, I share the top two ways we went green-er in 2014.

All of our lifestyle changes are well and good. We need to alter the way we orient ourselves to the day-to-day actions that impact– and often deplete– the natural world that sustains us.

And we need to use the power of social influence to create a new normal that respects the limits– the “limitedness”– of natural resources like water, and create a sense of “enoughness” so that we can appreciate all that we have– not just our stuff, but the people in our lives.

That said, we need to go beyond individual lifestyle changes in order to achieve the scale of change required to ensure future generations a world that we can be proud to leave them.

Hence, the top two changes I made in 2014.

#2. Expanding My Spheres of Influence

The Spheres of Influence platform now has over 10,000 followers, across this blog and social media outlets such as Twitter (@drsarahsviews for the lay public and @sarahbwarrenphd for the professional audience).

We all have various spheres of influence— our homes and families, our schools, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our purchasing power, and the all-important voting booth.

I’m continuing to expand and use both my face-to-face and virtual spheres of influence to engage the “un-enlisted” as well as my sustainability colleagues in dialogue about how we can most effectively ensure a viable, sustainable future.

The Spheres of Influence Virtual Fireside Chats continue to bring together national and international experts and thought leaders with the lay public to share insights and inspiration about how we can move the needle.

Yes, I believe that using our spheres of influence has greater cumulative impact than any single lifestyle act– even driving a green car.

#1: Using My Voice as a Voter for Our Kids’ Sake

Using our voices and our votes is the single most important, powerful action we can take. Maybe I should have used caps there. That’s how crucial using our voices to policy makers is if we want to protect the quality of life for the children and grandchildren we love.

When the KeystoneXL Pipeline vote came up in November, 2014, Illinois Senator Durbin was the lone undecided vote in the Senate. I called his office that day, along with many others. He voted against KeystoneXL.

It took about one minute, maybe two, including looking up the number.

KeystoneXL– and other crucial matters– are far from over. We will have a chance to use our voices again!

I know you’re probably overwhelmingly busy. I know I am. I’m a self-employed, divorced mother of two young kids who had two major orthopedic surgeries in 2014. But I made that phone call to my US Senator’s office.

The photo that says it all appears again in Part II of the two-part series on how we went green-er in 2014.

The photo that says it all appears again in Part II of the two-part series on how we went green-er in 2014.

When President Obama was in the US Senate, I wrote a letter via his Environmental Legislative Assistant about climate policy. Then-Senator Obama’s Legislative Assistant called me, an ordinary citizen. We had a series of conversations. I was amazed.

Turns out our elected officials are listening– which I didn’t know until I used my voice.

Since then I’ve learned that often a legislator’s vote can be tipped by personal contact from as few as five or six concerned voters. I have a friend who is a former legislative assistant who said just one compelling story can affect how a legislator votes. Just one voter!

It’s worth taking the time to be an engaged eco voter, because the scale and urgency of our ecological problems require changes at the policy level.

And I’ve discovered that using my voice is empowering. Who knew?

Looking ahead to 2015

Let’s see… In 2015, I plan to get our household composting.

I will continue to convene the Spheres of Influence community, and to use my voice as a voter because it’s the most important action any of us can take. I hope you will join me in reaping the rewards of being an engaged voter.

Won’t you join me in using your spheres of influence to protect the natural world for the children we love fiercely?

Share your story in the comments area!

January 13, 2015 at 1:03 am Leave a comment

Top 5 Ways Our Family Went Green-er in 2014 – Part I

Contributed by Dr. Sarah

photo 1-2A fellow eco citizen’s car– and bumper sticker– says it all.

Going green is process, which is why I’m sharing our family’s ongoing efforts to reduce our eco impact and use our spheres of influence to protect the natural world for future generations.

From water filters to cars to voting– from lowest to highest impact green actions– in Part I, here are three of our family’s top five eco actions in 2014. Part II to follow!

#5. Buying a New Water-Efficient Water Filter

Over the past few years I’ve gone from wasting water without thinking– at all– to appreciating its preciousness to life.

When I learned that our under-sink kitchen “reverse osmosis” water filter wasted 4 of gallons (0r more) of perfectly good water for every gallon it gave us at the tap– I looked into water filters that clear out the toxic junk such as heavy metals without wasting water.

On Amazon I found the Value Line 2 Stage Water Filter. It was more expensive than the reverse osmosis filter system I’d previously bought at Home Depot, but it lasts a lot longer. And it cleans out the toxic stuff from the water that I don’t want to put in my body– or my kids’– without wasting gallons of precious water every day.

And I learned that water filter cartridges are recyclable through some programs:

Learn more about the pros and cons of different home water filtration systems here: ( is a great organization for both information and eco advocacy.)

#4. Using a Real Green Dry Cleaner

I got snagged by dry cleaners’ advertising their “green” or “organic” cleaning. It took me several years to wonder and then ask “What are you using?” I learned that it wasn’t toxic perc, but it was a hydrocarbon. As in petroleum. Not in fact eco-friendly. At all.

I don’t like to spend a lot of time being angry, but green-washing scams of any sort make me angry. So I used that anger to propel me to find a real green dry cleaner.

It’s a bit hard to find dry cleaners that are using genuinely environmentally responsible methods such as “wet cleaning” or C02 cleaning, but they exist. There’s one at the forefront — it just happens to be in my neck of the woods in Chicagoland– The Greener Cleaner. They pick up and deliver for free, too.

Learn about their green methods:

Learn more about the dry cleaning green-washing scam :

#3. Driving Green

I committed to purchasing the greenest car I could afford.

In 2014, I leap-frogged from a conventional gasoline powered car over a hybrid car, straight into an all-electric NissanLEAF.

No, buying an all-electric car is not the highest impact action we took because it’s an individual lifestyle action, not an action on a collective scale. But it still counts.

To be precise: My conventional 4000 lb. Toyota, which we drove about 8,000 miles a year, generated about 8200 tons of CO2 year. If we accept that an electric car is “zero emission”– the non-renewable electricity source notwithstanding– that means my family is putting 8200 less pounds of global warming pollution into the air.

To put that in perspective, the average U.S. household “carbon footprint” is about 50 tons CO2 a year. The single largest source of emissions for a typical household is from driving gasoline cars.

Not only is the NissanLEAF quite affordable (as low as $200 a month), there’s no maintenance cost, and no cost for gas. Ever. The numbers pencil out amazingly– even with gas prices at their current low.

And my ten-year old son says the lines of the headlights as “cool.”

Calculate and learn more about the contribution of your car– and household–  to global warming pollution here: (This calculator is hosted by Bonneville Environmental Foundation,, a credible source.)

Follow the chronicles of our family’s adventures with “The SilverLeaf” here on this blog!

Next Up in Part II

In Part II we’ll talk about the highest impact (collective impact!) actions we took in 2014.

Part II of this two-part post on how we went greener in 2014 will be posted soon!

January 10, 2015 at 6:56 am Leave a comment

10% of all proceeds are donated to the Academy for Global Citizenship.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. You'll get tips and inspirational stories about "unlikely environmentalists!"

Join 5,594 other followers

Dr. Sarah’s tweets

Follow me on Twitter

Newsletter Signup Form

Sign up for the Spheres of Influence Newsletter! Subscribe to the Newsletter