Gretchen Gigley of Southface Reflects on Earth Month

April 24, 2019

We met Gretchen nearly a decade ago (!) when she came to Sol with the Clean Air Campaign. (OnAir is still one of our favorite projects of all time!) Now, she serves the incredible Southface Institute as a Program Manager on the Regenerative Places + Spaces team. She has inspired us for years to protect our planet, and we hope her words speak to you, too.

Gretchen Gigley

As long as we’ve known you, you’ve been passionate about the environment. What led to this passion?

I really think it started as a child and was a result of constant free play in nature throughout my formative years. I grew up on a farm and playing outside, in the fields and in the woods, was an everyday affair. My dad taught me all about plants and trees. We had a huge garden and grew all of our own vegetables. I had a favorite climbing tree and tons of animals around me at all times. I was personally tied to nature from the beginning and understood the need to protect it.

My intro into environmentalism revolved around saving animals. I was a member of every animal advocacy group possible in grade school. As I grew, I learned more about the interconnectedness of nature and so my passion grew. I studied environmental health and geography in college (as there was no ecology yet) and began to connect people and health to the environment. An educator at heart, my focus was to impact the community and environment through education. I’ve been on that path ever since. 

What does Earth Month mean to you?

I think for those working in the environmental field, it’s a month of celebration—to recognize how far we’ve come in this movement. Maybe it’s a celebration for all.  It’s a chance to get out and enjoy and appreciate nature, volunteer and recognize your role in the big picture. Every little bit, every small action adds up. 

Where’s your favorite place to go in nature?

There’s definitely nostalgia in going home to Southern Ohio—the rolling foothills of the Appalachians, the giant maple trees, the loud cicadas in the summer and bright fireflies. And, the sweet smell of grass, alfalfa and soil.  In general, I’m a mountains kind of girl. I love hiking, camping and just being in the mountains—especially out West.

What’s the most amazing natural wonder you’ve ever seen?

This is a tough one.  There are so many, but my travels to Alaska have probably been the most humbling—glaciers, Mount McKinley, the wildlife. And Patagonia! And the base of Mt. Everest! And the Redwoods! So many amazing things.  

Southface often talks about a “regenerative economy” and “responsible resource use.” Can you tell us more about that?

Southface is moving the needle everyday toward a more regenerative economy, responsible resource use and social equity through a healthy built environment for all. The regenerative economy is the idea that we should put back into the world what we take out of it. Each of our programs and services influence three key outcomes: improved quality of life, shared prosperity and thriving natural systems.

What would you like to share with others this Earth Month?

First, your actions matter—every little bit, every action, big or small. Find your niche and take one small action each day. It makes a huge difference.  Second, get out and see the world. Venture outside your comfort zone. It will revive your senses, make you appreciate the world and amaze you. And third, don’t forget to play in nature. Get outside. Every day.

Thank you, Gretchen!


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