UNIVERSITY OF SAN DIEGO / Spring 2009
[eco-parties]
Easy Being Green
Saving the planet, one household at a time
by Carol Cujec

A dozen women of all ages sit in a cozy Dana Point living room. Perched on sea-foam green sofas, they swap tales about light bulbs and plastic bags over pot stickers and spinach dip.

This is a “green power hour,” led by Katie (Pierce) Avila ’04 and Kiley (Jarrette) Riggs ’01. Their mission? To save the planet, one household at a time. With the title of “green coach,” they work for a fledgling direct sales company called emagineGreen. In the style of a Tupperware party, the pair gathers groups of women together, in hopes of selling them eco-friendly products like reusable water bottles and grocery bags, which will lead to a healthier environment.

“Women are the CEO of the household,” declares Riggs. “We spend about $1.7 trillion a year on household products. That’s not on purses or shoes; that’s on things like paper products and plastic cups.”

Encouraged by a former business associate, Avila attended a pilot emagineGreen workshop in Arizona early in 2007 and then quit her job at a private investment firm to become their first green coach in California. She went on to recruit fellow alums Riggs and Kathy Hamor ‘04 in 2008 and estimates that so far the company has kept 1.5 million plastic bottles and nearly 420,000 plastic bags out of landfills.

Educating women about the environment is job one, along with helping them adopt — albeit with baby steps — a greener lifestyle. Toward that end, meetings begin with a mini-lecture, complete with workbooks. “Who knows what fossil fuels are?” Avila asks the group. They move on to discussions about water usage and “power vampires,” plugged-in appliances which suck up energy even when they’re not turned on.

Wearing a black t-shirt that says “Listen to your mother” (Mother Earth, of course), Avila shares her own eco-journey, confessing to previously tossing trash haphazardly into her recycle bin. Her “a-ha” moment came upon visiting a local landfill and seeing rolling green hills overlooking the ocean filled with trash, and clouds of plastic bags dancing in the wind (only 1-3 percent of these bags are actually recycled, she reports).

“I was filling up my trash can every week, and every week it would disappear. I thought, ‘How much trash have I generated myself?’ It would fill up this entire house, and I’m just one person,” she says. “I came back and took some steps and it was so easy. Not only was I helping the environment, I was simplifying my life and feeling good.”

For her part, Riggs shares tips on motivating her husband to change his habits. “He saw the energy bill go down $30-$45 a month and said ‘Okay, Kiley, what else do you have up your sleeve?’ ”

“We don’t believe people are green or not green,” Avila says to the group. “Everyone is somewhere on a spectrum, on an eco-journey moving forward. Hopefully tonight you can take one small step forward on that journey.”


To learn more about emagineGreen, go to www.emaginegreen.com.