In praise of the women leading the charge for sustainability

Carl Lisek, executive director of South Shore Clean Cities and vice president of Legacy Environmental Services, speaks on the importance of women leading the way in sustainability.

women in sustainability

A woman’s ability to multitask never ceases to amaze me.

The women in my life, including my wife Lorrie, have a lot on their daily agendas. Lorrie is the president of Legacy Environmental Services, the environmental consulting firm where I serve as vice president in addition to my role as South Shore Clean Cities Executive Director. Lorrie is also the Executive Director of Wisconsin Clean Cities. While working full time running a company and managing a nonprofit, she also raised our two sons, cared for her parents, maintained our household, was active in school, church and community activities and has tried to keep me in line for the past 37 years.

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What strikes me is how all of these responsibilities, like those of so many women, have selfless care for others at their core. March is Women’s History Month and it occurred to me how many women – like my wife — are making history today in our Region by ensuring a healthier, cleaner, more sustainable future for generations to come.


The Region owes much of our environmental identity to Dorothy Buell, who in 1952 along with 21 other local women formed the Save the Dunes Council in her Ogden Dunes home in an effort to stop industrial development along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Early members included the late, great Charlotte Read, who championed the cause throughout her long, admirable lives. Their efforts led to the creation of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and ultimately, Indiana Dunes National Park.

Then there is the late Lee Botts, a small but mighty Miller woman who championed Great Lakes causes. Lee worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Chicago Department of Environment and served as an appointee during the Carter administration to the Great Lakes Basin Commission before founding the Alliance for the Great Lakes (today the Great Lakes Initiative) and the Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning Center.

While these amazing women are now gone and we all owe them our thanks and gratitude, there are others working to ensure a better tomorrow in their own way.

There is Sue Harrison, director of transportation for Michigan City Area Schools, who is leading the introduction of propane school buses into the fleet with the help of South Shore Clean Cities to ensure fewer emissions and cleaner air for students and drivers alike.

We also have women like Danette Garza, president and CEO of Jack Gray Transport in Gary, who is embracing sustainable transportation methods for her trucking fleet. And let’s not forget women like Kathy Luther, chief of staff and environmental director for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, who is leading environmental planning for the Region for decades to come. Kay Nelson, environmental affairs director for the Northwest Indiana Forum, is another trailblazer who understands a robust economy and healthy environment can coexit.

Then there are the women on our South Shore Clean Cities Board of Directors, including Jennifer Sanders of Clean Air Car Check, Belinda Puetz of Countrymark, Amy Hill of South Bend Transpo (who won the South Shore Clean Cities Empowering Woman of the Year Award at our Annual Conference last month), Alyssa Staley of the Indiana Toll Road and Patty Stovall of Hasse Construction Company. All of these remarkable women are dedicated to the South Shore Clean Cities mission and work tirelessly within their own organizations to support sustainable practices.

While all of these women are doing their part to ensure a better future, so are the countless Region women who decide to walk or bike short distances to keep emissions down, skip the drive through lanes so they don’t idle their vehicles, teach their kids to turn of lights and electronics they aren’t using to conserve energy, and who make purchasing decisions for their households that embrace more fuel- and energy-efficient practices.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to the women who came before us and those working today for a better tomorrow. Remember, it’s never too late to begin your environmental legacy.

Carl Lisek is executive director of South Shore Clean Cities and vice president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s. This column originally appeared in The Times of Northwest Indiana.




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