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Nurturing Sustainability: Insights from Lake County Sustainability Programs Manager, Robin Grooms.

Updated: Jan 5

In a world where environmental consciousness is no longer a buzzword but a necessity, the role of sustainability consultants has never been more critical. Green Pulse Education, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing environmental literacy, recently had the opportunity to sit down with Robin Grooms, the Sustainability Programs Manager for Lake County. Grooms, an enthusiastic advocate for sustainable practices, shared her invaluable insights on her journey into sustainability, her work with Lake County, the challenges she has faced, and her advice for average citizens, as well as her vision for the future of sustainability.

Grooms' path into the world of sustainability was rooted in her passion for environmental issues. After studying environmental policy at Northern Illinois University, she gained practical experience through internships with Cook County's environmental programs. Grooms loves sustainability not only for its environmental benefits but also for the passionate community that thrives within the field. She enthusiastically rejects the “cutthroat competition” often found in the corporate world, asserting that in sustainability, the overarching goal is to enhance the well-being of residents. Sustainability officers, she explains, frequently engage in a dynamic exchange of ideas, “we all want to do the best we can for what makes sense for our residents.”

As the Sustainability Programs Manager for Lake County, Grooms plays a pivotal role in overseeing sustainability efforts within county facilities and community projects. The county has set ambitious sustainability goals, aiming for a net-zero carbon footprint by reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2040. Grooms and her team are diligently working on a comprehensive roadmap to decarbonization, which involves fostering communication, conducting commute surveys, and implementing a variety of sustainability initiatives.

One notable program under Grooms' guidance is the Tree Initiative, which focuses on reducing invasive species, increasing native canopy cover, and addressing racial inequality in tree distribution. Her approach is holistic, addressing not only carbon emissions but also social equity and biodiversity.

Grooms also notes that going to the state level can sometimes be more effective than sticking to local initiatives. Her efforts to make buildings bird-friendly are an excellent example. When she lacked the authority to make it a local policy, she collaborated with ornithologists and initiated legislation at the state level, demonstrating how persistence and creative thinking can drive change.

Nonetheless, Grooms candidly acknowledges that sustainability often necessitates change, a prospect that frequently faces resistance. She places great importance on maintaining a positive and proactive stance when confronted with obstacles. She imparts a valuable insight, "It's about meeting people where they're at – the first 'no' often just means I need more information."

Grooms believes in the power of individual actions and encourages early engagement in sustainability efforts. She stresses that there is a supportive community ready to help each other on this journey. According to her, “change starts at the local level”, and everyone can contribute to a greener world.

Looking to the future, Grooms envisions sustainability becoming an even more integral part of our lives. New technologies are transforming the field, providing data-driven solutions and making sustainability more accessible. She also hopes to see sustainability efforts include more co-benefits such as community connectivity and the reduction of single-use plastics. For Grooms, sustainability is not just about reducing carbon emissions but fostering a holistic approach to building a better world for all.

As we at Green Pulse Education and environmental advocates as a whole often grapple with the apparent inertia of change, Robin Grooms stands as a radiant beacon of hope. She embodies the spirit of sustainability through her journey, work, and vision, exhibiting unwavering dedication to fostering a more sustainable community and an unyielding resolve to confront challenges. Her story serves as an inspiring testament for individuals and communities venturing on the path toward a greener and more sustainable future.

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