Women at Work: Kas & Heather of Bonneville Environmental Foundation

Bonneville Environmental Foundation's products representative Heather Schrock and Willamette model watershed director Kas Guillozet don't just help businesses become more sustainable. They're ushering in an intersectional wave of female-identifying conservationist leaders.

Tell us about Bonneville Environmental Foundation’s mission.

Heather: BEF is an entrepreneurial nonprofit that works at the intersection of climate and water. We work with businesses, institutions, schools, other NGO and governmental agencies to find innovative environmental solutions.

How did you both arrive in this field?

Kas: I got really into Pacific Northwest botany and Colonial histories in college at Evergreen State. I have been at the intersection of people and nature ever since. I studied forestry and social science in grad school and have been able to work and learn around the world. I have had incredible mentors along the way and feel fortunate to collaborate with great colleagues at BEF to advance creative programming in support of watersheds and the dedicated people who steward them.

Heather: I've always been passionate about the natural world. My career path has been a long and windy one. I actually started out as a professional singer, traveling the world on cruise lines and tours. It opened my eyes to the inequities of the world and inspired me to do something different that would make a difference for the planet and its inhabitants.

Are their certain challenges that arise from being a woman in your field?

Kas: Yes, it is still a man’s world in many ways. I am fortunate in that the people I work with continually inspire me, but working in the natural resource conservation means we often get fixated on very real, pressing ecological issues… We aren’t always the best at dealing with social dimensions of our work.

The default assumption can be that a woman may not know, understand or be capable of something, while a man likely is. This is an overly simple way of describing it, but it’s a dynamic that infuses a lot in our field and irritates the heck out of me.

The answer is not just to encourage everyone to be more assertive because humility and uncertainty are incredibly important in ecosystem stewardship. Slowly and surely, things are changing and thankfully between tomorrow’s leaders, today’s innovators and our elders, we have a lot of wisdom to tap.

What’s the biggest thing (a book, film or piece of advice) you were given that changed your values or priorities?

Kas: My dear mentor and friend Dot will be turning 90 this June. She’s the most vivacious, curious, strong, and fun person I know. She is an artist, activist, minimalist and outdoors-woman.She savors life and always has the right poem for every moment. One of my favorite Mary Oliver lines she recites is: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Just hearing that question changes my priorities.

Heather: Not one piece of advice, but the example my father set for me from a young age that there were bigger problems than my own and that I should try to learn about them and care about them, and DO something about them.

BEF works on private-sector environmental solutions, which isn't a commonly considered solution for global warming. What are some ways that readers can offset their carbon emissions through BEF?

Heather: Knowing your footprint is the first step. Readers can use our online calculator to find out what their own emissions are and then offset those amounts, or they can simply choose one or more of our offset bundles, like the Commuter Bundle or Offset My Outfit, which are approximations based on average use.

Heather takes a commuter glamour shot on Portland's Steel Bridge.

What special skills and perspective does being a woman bring to your work in natural resources?

Kas: I have a lot of privilege, but I think being a woman has helped me cultivate more awareness and place more importance on equity and environmental justice issues. The commonly cited heroes of the US conservation movement are mostly white men and we’re still a long way away from seeing all the ironies there.

We need to celebrate more ways of knowing, more struggles, and be a bit more realistic about how we got to where we are at and how we might spark change in inspiring, lasting and fun ways. Also, sometimes I think we don’t use enough plain common sense. Being a woman helps me remember that.

Kas (second from left) with some of the BEF team.

In regards to workwear, what are the aspects that you need to get your job done?

Heather: At this moment in my career I spend most of my time at a stand-up desk, so comfort and durability and general cuteness rise to the top.

What is in your pockets right now?

Heather: My phone has a secret compartment that holds my ID, Hopcard and credit card. That's pretty much all I carry when I go out. If I need more things, I wear a fanny pack or a backpack.

Kas: Wallet, lip gloss, keys, and an important receipt that should not have gone through the wash but did.

What’s your favorite part of wearing Moxie and Moss in the field?

Heather: Pockets in the right places and flexibility!

Kas: Also the knowledge that a trio of awesome women is behind these pants. People always ask me about my MMW pants when I wear them. I love them.

Learn more about Bonneville Environmental Foundation here.

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