In the spirit of Marcel Proust’s famous questionnaire, we at Scope 5, put together a few questions to ask people who are moving the needle on sustainability. In this post we spoke with Jacqueline Drumheller, Alaska Airline’s fearless sustainability manager who built the program there from the ground up… into the skies.
- What is the craziest question you’ve gotten about your sustainability program? I don’t know that I’ve gotten many “crazy” questions, but there have received quite a few unsolicited humorous opinions. One memorable moment came when a heavily accented Eastern European hairdresser asked me what I did for a living. When I used the word “recycle” in my response, she had a very negative reaction and proceeded to hack away at my hair furiously with a sharp pair of scissors while she railed passionately against the “Evil Big Shot Recyclers” from her home country. I was in fear for my life (and my good looks ;-). My hair turned out okay in the long run, but that was definitely a tense 30 minutes!
- If you had to pick the top two material impacts for your organization, what would you pick? Fuel/emissions and garbage.
- What are you driving these days? Be honest. A 1998 Nissan Altima (jealous, aren’t you?). I’m the type of person who buys a new car and drives it until it’s just a pile of bolts. This is the 4th car I’ve ever owned – and I’m OLD (My first car was a Model-T, hardee har). It’s still running great…. well except that the airbag light keeps blinking (black tape covers that nicely), the driver side window won’t roll up when it’s cold out (no drive-thrus for me), and my key no longer fits the lock to the trunk (good thing I have that lever by my seat). Anyway… my next car will be some sort of hybrid/electric. Since I only drive 8 miles each day, a street-legal golf cart is all I need. I don’t really think of cars as being anything other than a means to get from point A to point B quickly – so you’ll never see me driving anything flashy (or even clean, for that matter).
- How has the use of data changed the way you work? It helps me focus on measuring performance and it helps get buy-in from up-line management. For example, in the past, we always knew that Horizon did a great job with inflight recycling… but we didn’t know how good until we measured it (65+% landfill diversion rate, thank you very much). Once folks start focusing on the metrics, it motivates them in new ways to do a better job.
- What part of your organization’s sustainability story makes your heart beat faster? Do you mean it beats faster in a good way? or a bad way? My favorite part (good heart beat way) of the story is how our sustainability program started as a grassroots green team effort and gradually developed upper management support. It’s just amazing what a small but passionate group of individuals can do if they put their minds (and energy) to it.
- Follow up question: is it the same thing that makes your accountants’ hearts beat faster? I don’t think their hearts beat over there (just kidding)!
- Any dietary restrictions? My hard and fast dietary rules are: I won’t eat canned meat (gross!), canned fish (isn’t that catfood?), overcooked asparagus, poor quality chocolate (life is too short), any meats that came from animals I would consider a “pet”, or terrestrial insects (although aquatic bugs are okay). I could go on (peanuts & chocolate shouldn’t be mixed, American breakfasts are icky, etc)… but it’s really random (as you can see). Other than that, I usually opt for foods that are organic, cage-free, or lower on the food chain — but I’m not a stickler.
- Someone walks up to you in a bar and tells you they’re doing some sustainability work in their organization, but struggling to get funding/support. What advice do you give them? Do it anyway. Heck, we accomplished a lot over the last 5 years without a budget.
- If someone waved a magic wand and the world became instantly environmentally sustainable and socially just, how would you spend your time? Gardening, cooking, making art, socializing.
Jacqueline Drumheller has over 19 years of experience in the environmental industry, covering just about every environmental compliance topic from audits to underground storage tanks. As the Sustainability Manager at Alaska Airlines, she drives sustainability strategies and initiatives to make Alaska Airlines the aviation leader in environmental stewardship. She also consults with leadership on establishing our sustainability goals and projects, heads up and facilitates the environmental steering committee, benchmarks environmental data, and develops communications around Alaska and Horizon’s environmental performance.