In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, and this year’s theme, #EachforEqual, we are featuring stories from our leaders and employees throughout the week of March 2, across editorial themes ranging from the importance of inclusivity to the power of allyship.

Humans have taken steps to transcend our planet’s boundaries, but for the majority of the 7.7 billion people on Earth, this is it. Anything humans consume or discard is limited to our earthly home.

My parents were raised in the 1930s and in our house growing up, behaviors reflected being raised in a time of scarcity. Many people have joked about Depression-era folks saving short pieces of string. Indeed, growing up we had a closet and drawer with string, rubber bands, short pencils, yarn, paper sacks, computer punch cards and various odds and ends that came in handy for home or arts and crafts projects. Very little was wasted and creative reuse was encouraged.

This sort of behavior — which goes back centuries — is what I consider the original sustainability initiative. Having limited resources drives conservation and the mantra of “reduce, reuse, recycle” (or the 3-Rs) contributes to grassroots (or household) conservation. In my home, like that of my parents and grandparents, wecompost food waste, reuse packaging and are generally more conscientious about consumption, also known as ethical consumerism.

To achieve the goal of sustainability, or the balanced coexistence of the Earth’s resources with human civilization, it’s not going to be as simple as saving bits of string, but it is rooted in the same sensibility on a larger scale. As we celebrate this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, #EachforEqual, I’m interested in how the ideology of collective individualism informs the need for a balanced coexistence with resources. I’ve always been told and strongly believe that maximizing opportunities for each person to contribute — irrespective of gender, age, race, ethnicity — benefits all people. #EachForEqual is meant to encourage individual actions that collectively support equality, which I feel is intertwined with sustaining our planet and resources.

At the intersection of my two interests — sustainability and gender equity — I am encouraged by the empowerment of every individual to contribute to a better planet. I have been inspired by recent developments to that end, such as improved small loan availability globally to women entrepreneurs, a group historically and culturally limited by access to capital and business networks. Who better to solve the world’s problems than those most affected by them? Consequently, we may see the greatest improvements coming from those who feel the greatest need for change.

Originally published 03.5.2020

Author: Rosa Gwinn