Walking the Talk: An Interview with DEP’s Green Team Member, Barbara Fonseca

April 18, 2019
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Environmental stewardship is central to Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection’s mission.  Recognizing that our individual actions have a large collective impact, we each pledge to take actions that conserve natural resources, minimize energy use, cut waste and reduce pollution. In doing so, we hope to model environmental responsibility to the community we serve – this is the pledge that DEP Green Team members, along with other DEP staffers, signed.  Barbara Fonseca, one member of the DEP Green Team, takes this pledge to heart, and she is a catalyst for change.

Barbara Fonseca works as a Business Waste Reduction and Recycling Program Specialist II for Montgomery County where she helps businesses, schools and non-profits identify additional material streams for recycling to maximize waste reduction and recycling efforts. Originally from Brazil, she credits her interest in recycling to her time spent as a kid playing by a local creek behind her house. Noticing litter in the form of water bottles, plastic bags and tires that ended up in the stream encouraged her to want to get involved in the community to try and find new creative solutions to our everyday environmental problems. She has been a Montgomery County resident for most of her adult life and in her spare time, enjoys gardening, kayaking and rocking out on the guitar.

Here is a little more about Barbara and what drives her as a member of DEP’s Green Team:

Why are you involved in the Work Green initiative and DEP’s Green Team and how do you see its work evolving?

I joined DEP’s Green Team and the Work Green initiative because as a Business Recycling Program Specialist for the County, I wanted to model the environmentally responsible behavior I encourage in the community.  With over 70% of my time spent at work, I am very aware that the actions and choices I take while on the job ultimately has a big impact on the environment. What drew me to the Work Green initiative is its vision to foster a more sustainable workplace within DEP operations and County Government at large. I see the Green team’s role as a facilitator and champion of sustainable behavioral change in the work place by helping County employees set aside time, space and resources at work to engage in “green” acts like office cleanups, clothing swaps, recycling of less common materials and food scraps and to bring awareness to other tools, tips,  purchasing practices and actions we can take to reduce our environmental footprint at home and in the community.

How significant is sustainable behavior in addressing climate change and other environmental problems?

In our society, people, planet and profit are all connected. The World Bank estimates that the US takes up only 5% of the world’s population but comprises about 33% percent of global consumption. The-day to-day choices and actions we make from how we commute to work, how we power our homes and electronic devices, the car we drive, the food we eat and the products and packages we use ultimately takes a global environmental toll. Sustainable behavioral change is a way to minimize our impact on the natural resources that we depend on and enjoy today so that future generations can lead productive lives. “Being green”, doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not always easy to know which actions make the least environmental impact. Researching sustainable options and behaviors takes time, communication, investment and planning. But the more time we spend learning and engaging in green behavior, the more likely the habits we take will stick and the more likely our actions will inspire someone close to us.

What sustainable actions do you take daily at work?

I try and reduce my environmental footprint by taking public transportation to work when possible. A benefit of being a County employee is that we can ride the Montgomery County Ride-On bus system for free by showing our C-Pass on the back of our employee badges. Taking the bus helps me save money, reduces my need to drive in traffic and encourages me to get out and walk. I am also a fan of packing my lunches to work and planning my meals for the week ahead of time to avoid over purchasing food. The food scraps recycling program available at the EOB cafeteria is also a nice perk. I try and bring any food scraps like orange rinds and banana peels I have from lunch down to the compost bin in the cafeteria kitchen. To minimize the amount of waste I produce each day I try to reduce the amount of materials I print and bring reusable mugs and water bottles to meetings and staff events.

Any words of encouragement to the skeptic or the disheartened?

While news stories on climate related emergencies, diseases, floods, fires and strife can be disheartening, I think with every challenge brings a real opportunity to evaluate, develop and embrace new solutions. It only takes 30-45 days to really develop a new habit and thanks to technological advances and apps, we have more tools available to us today than we have ever had to help us on our path towards sustainability. The first step is being willing to try!



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