We recently chatted with Cassandra Krul, a program analyst and green team leader, to talk about the EPA’s focus and her background in sustainability.
Cassandra Krul has worked at the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 for over three years. During her career there she has managed grants, led and assisted with special projects, in addition to leading the EPA Region 7’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Sustainability (R3S) team.
When explaining how she implements her passion into the workplace, Krul says, “I have the best job in the world, because my passion for sustainability is part of my job description. I lead EPA Region 7’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Sustainability (R3S) team, whose goal is to share information with staff on creative ways to implement R3S principles, as well as facilitate recycling of hard-to-recycle items – batteries, single-serve coffee pods, and electronics to name a few.”
Krul’s passion for sustainability and the environment started at a young age. She says, “I have been interested in sustainability and preserving the environment for as long as I can remember. My early formative years were spent outdoors playing in the woods, so my connection with nature was developed early on. I first got started in sustainability work while I was in undergrad, studying green roofs and native vegetation and pollinators that could be supported. I continued to ambitiously throw myself into these kinds of projects, and this supported my eventual professional career.”
The Environmental Protection Agency in Region 7 serves Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and nine Tribal Nations. The agency has a heavy focus on environmental justice, which ensures equal environmental protection regardless of ethnicity, race, or income. They also mitigate climate change while helping communities build resilience.
Something most people don’t know about EPA’s Region 7, Krul says, “is that the majority of Region 7’s annual budget goes to fund the four states’ environmental departments and funds grants for other organizations, including universities and non-profits.”
Currently, the EPA is implementing sustainable programs in their operations through grants and technical assistance that will help others. She sits on grant application review panels, which allows her to see what applicants are doing to make their communities more resilient. She says, “Seeing and reading what folks want to do keeps me going and gives me renewed faith in humanity.” Krul knows that it’s easy to get overwhelmed or feel hopeless when looking at the big picture, but she believes the most important work starts in our local communities.
“Every day is Earth Day at EPA.” Sustainability is in everything they do at EPA so it is not difficult to implement it into business. Krul says, “The biggest challenge then, is looking for more ways to be sustainable and encourage others to do the same.”
At the EPA, and specifically as the R3S Team lead, Krul measures sustainable progress based on the interest and interaction of her peers. Krul mentions, “EPA integrates sustainability in its buildings and operations. We track several measures, including energy efficiencies to reduce energy intensity; water efficiency to reduce water intensity; high performance sustainable buildings; waste management and diversion to reduce waste and increase recycling; and transportation/fleet management to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.”
Krul’s advice for other business owners wanting to incorporate sustainability into their operations is to “make sure your idea of sustainability is itself sustainable. Set obtainable goals that focus on small, local changes. Those small, local changes can always grow.”
The EPA also has a small business program that created a sustainability guide. This guide is on their website that has helpful tips for businesses interested in sustainable practices and operations.
The EPA office of Region 7 has about 500 employees. Recently they realized they have too many office supplies, especially since many employees still work from home. Krul worked with local non-profit organizations to successfully donate almost 700 pounds of folders, binders, and gently used office supplies.
The EPA works with organizations and people who want to share ideas and practices while working on solutions to complex sustainability challenges, and that’s one of the reasons they joined the Green Business Network.
The Green Business Network has supported the EPA by allowing them to work with others to help teach and learn ways to improve their sustainability efforts and complex challenges.