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  • Writer's pictureBarb Bickford

My career started on Earth Day

Updated: May 2

A blue box, with a picture of a muddy field and a person with muddy boots. The box also says "Earth Day".

It was a cold, rainy, sloppy day, that Earth Day in April 1971. The maple trees were budding like puffy green fireworks on the hill across the valley. We crawled out of our soggy tents, pulled on our rubber boots and trudged our way across the muddy cornfield to an abandoned farmhouse at the top of the hill.

Our Girl Scout leader, Mrs. Henry, shooed the stragglers into the growing circle of girls who had gathered from all over southeastern Minnesota.

We were a proud, albeit muddy, group. We embodied the confident optimism of the young, determined to make the world a better place. We believed we could do anything -- hadn't we sold tens of thousands of boxes of cookies to buy this farm that had become our beloved Girl Scout Camp? Yes, we had.

After a brief flag ceremony, we learned about Earth Day. Some of the older girls gave a presentation about water pollution. They described how cities and industries were dumping wastes into rivers, killing fish and making the water unusable to drink. Some rivers were even burning! (Mind you, this was only the second-ever Earth Day and the US Environmental Protection Agency was a mere five months old. Unregulated dumping was the norm.)

As the older girls described how they were calling attention to raw sewage being discharged into the Mississippi River, I listened carefully, inspired. I said to myself, "I want to do something about water quality."

And I did. Eventually, I went into geology and hydrogeology, which is basically about how groundwater moves in the earth. Ten years after that Earth Day, I landed my dream job as a hydrogeologist in a state agency, determined to prevent groundwater contamination from landfills.

Over many years, my career progressed from closing old landfills to approving better landfills, to recycling waste and reducing waste to keeping waste out of landfills, to changing public policies that create waste in the first place.

A text box in green fading to blue, that says "I believe that if we can transform how we work together, if we can truly collaboratin, we can transform our world."

I was always moving upstream.

And I still am. Now I help people to move good ideas into action by eliminating a different kind of waste: wasted time and effort due to lousy meetings. I help them have better meetings.

It's about leverage. I believe that if we can transform how we work together, if we can truly collaborate, we can transform our world.

And in my heart, I'm still an idealistic girl, standing in the rain in my muddy boots, determined to make the world a better place.

What is it that YOU want to change? What's stopping you? If your meetings are part of what's getting in the way, schedule a time to tell me about it. I'll listen and help you make a plan to change your meetings -- for good. To be notified about new blog posts, courses and workshops and to receive tips for improving your meetings, sign up for our news emails.

Photo Credit: LukaTDB from Getty images on Canva Pro.

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