The following is an interview with Elizabeth Shephard, founder and President of NOLA start-up, LifeCity, Inc.
Good Nola: Tell us about yourself: Where are you from? College?
Elizabeth Shephard: I grew up on the Gulf Coast in Tampa, Florida, and studied psychology and environmental science at Carleton College. Post-college I spent a year as Carleton’s Sustainability Coordinator before moving to New Orleans for Teach for America. I then worked for the Gulf Restoration Network on a report that measured how well each state along the Gulf implemented the Clean Water Act. I joined the Alliance for Affordable Energy where I served as Office Manager and then Senior Administrator for two years.
GN: How did you become so eco-conscious? What experience and training do you have in all things green?
ES: During my sophomore year at Carleton I immersed myself in the culture of the ocean instead of going abroad to another country. While studying with Semester at SEA, learning nautical science, oceanography, and maritime history, I sailed a 145 ft. 10-sailed sloop and we regularly rotated community tasks such as dumping our trash overboard,pumping our greywater, and sailing the boat (using the stars and horizon as our guide). It was then I realized I had been dumping waste into my environment my whole life but never had to physically do this myself. It was then that I truly came to understand that we live on one planet and brought back my interest to my college and my everyday life, and have since made it my career path.
GN: Tell us about your New Orleans experience: What brought you to here? What keeps you here?
ES: I visited classrooms while visiting NOLA with the environmental studies department ;at Carleton. I had previously deferred Teach for America, but after this visit, and falling in love with the city, I decided to come down and take the job as a teacher in New Orleans. I was determined to continue learning about the question: “How can New Orleans truly become sustainable?”
GN: Where did you come up with the idea for LifeCity? What has been the best thing about the experience? The most challenging?
ES: I was researching water quality as I co-authored a report that measured how well the Gulf States were implementing the Clean Water Act. It was clear that both educational and political systems are more reactive than preventative (Louisiana got an F on the report card by the way). I believed that the desire to go green was there but the information was not accessible. At the time Google had a contest “Ideas to Change the world”. I thought Google could change the world with “Google Green” an application that clearly conveyed the best-practices for sustainability at different geographical scales, and showed where to find such resources on a map.
What I discovered is an idea is only as good as its execution. Google wasn’t about to do it, but I have the passion and work ethic to see my vision realized. The best part about my experience has been the process of creating something new. The most challenging aspect is not knowing what the future will hold–but then again, we all must face an unknown future and not be afraid to step forward regardless.
GN: Why do we need Life City? What makes LifeCity unique and important?
ES: Current business rating systems don’t include behavioral change and rarely measure performance over time. LifeCity understands science and psychology–both are needed to ensure a sustainable future. New Orleans has witnessed 2 major environmental disasters, so it is up to us to tell the nation the lessons we have learned. We now have the opportunity to lead the sustainability movement in our city–and it must start with business and public-private partnerships. This change is not merely a scientific or technological/structural change, but a change in behavior and community partnerships.
GN: What is one thing that everyone can do right now to help create a greener world?
ES: Reflect. Take the time to be more intentional about what you do.
GN: What is your short- and long-term vision for Life City?
ES: In the short-term, I would like to continue to grow the green business certification, and eventually grow it to a national level.
Long-term, I would like to make LifeCity a leader in the green business marketplace and leverage new solutions and support those that are truly making an impact.
GN: Is there anything else you would like to add?
ES: I encourage everyone to check out our website (www.mylifecity.com) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/mylifecity), to consider buying our green business discount card (the Green Card), and to register your business in the Green Games. Thank you!
Interview by: Guest Writer, Nicholas Peddle