How DC EcoWomen Started: Story by EcoWomen Co-Founder Leda Huta
By Leda Huta, EcoWomen Co-Founder and Endangered Species Coalition Executive Director
We had heard that other efforts to do something similar had sputtered out. But there wasn’t much to lose, except perhaps our pride. We organized the first event – the very first EcoHour – and invited our first speaker—Alisa Gravitz, CEO of Green America. We had no idea if anyone would show up. But 15 or so women did. Today, there are more than 5,000 women in the DC EcoWomen network, and 1,000+ women who attend the chapter’s events each year. There are also four more EcoWomen chapters around the country.
The best decision we made was not allowing the organization to become personality-driven. We didn’t want it to succeed or fail based on one person. We took succession planning seriously, making sure that many women played leadership roles, so that any one of us could step in and chair our board. And we always had exceptional, powerhouse chairs of the board.
Our signature event was, and has always been, the EcoHours—happy hour with a dose of eco-inspiration from veteran women leaders in the movement. We had some of the most extraordinary speakers—one of the first female National Park Service rangers, the first woman to have a whole neighborhood transplanted because of toxic pollution, and the first Minister of the Environment in Iraq’s Interim Government. We also had accomplished women speakers who went on to play even more important roles in protecting our environment—continuing to become a Member of Congress or the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Hearing from these heroes gave us hope and they still do today.
Now, EcoWomen is stronger than ever, with amazing leaders taking charge. It is so much bigger than Alicia, Tracy, and I envisioned it could become. It offers women so much, not only in building their professional networks, but also in creating community. Environmental work is hard. This community is incredibly restorative. These smart, cool, funny and able women really do have the power to change the world.
Endangered Species Coalition, has 25 years of environmental experience, managing grassroots, national, and international projects. At Endangered Species Coalition, she leads staff across the country in protecting imperiled wildlife, from the charismatic gray wolf and grizzly bear to less visible species, such as Rusty patched bumblebee. Previous to her role at the Endangered Species Coalition, Leda was the Acting Executive Director for Finding Species, an organization that uses photography to advance wildlife and wild lands conservation. Through this work, she had the good fortune to spend time in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Her work at Resource Conservation Alliance protected forests using a “markets” strategy, working with university presses to shift to eco-friendly papers. Leda has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in environmental science and environment and resource management from the University of Toronto. She is currently studying environmental law at Vermont Law School. www.huffingtonpost.com/leda-huta/