HCWDC Intern Ashley Portillo Interviews A Washingtonian Magazine "Green Giant"
Rhon Hayes, co-founder of GreenDMV will speak on Monday, November 8th at "Local Solutions to a Global Challenge" at the Capitol Skyline Hotel, 6:30 p.m. FREE! Register now!
Q: What was the very first job you ever held?
A: Wow my very first job?! I think my very first job was working in the grants office in the university. My job was to search for grant opportunities at our university.
Q: Did you like it?
A: Yeah, I mean I liked it but I was kind of restless and had to be out and about and this was more of a sit-down job at a desk in an office. So I definitely had a desire to be out there in the community, more actively involved.
Q: At what point in your life did you become aware that people like yourself needed to start taking care of the environment? Is there a moment that stands out in your memory?
A: Oh yeah, that’s easy. My sophomore year of college, out of the same grants office I was working in at the university, someone had found an EPA grant and decided to send four students out to several offices and I was elected to go to Texas. So I got to go to Texas and that really opened my eyes to environmental justice.
Q: Tell me a little bit about what you did after college? Did you know immediately what you wanted to do?
A: No, I didn’t. I was a biology major and where I’m from you either went to work at The Research Triangle Park in Raleigh, NC or you went to Washington, DC. So I went to DC.
Q: So those were your only two options?
A: Basically yes (laughs).
Q: Why did you decide on DC? Why not stay in North Carolina?
A: Well, my college roommate was actually from DC so he told me about it and it swayed me a little bit.
Q: Which experiences in your life influenced your decision to help local communities, specifically small businesses and the education system?
A: It mostly came out of a desire to make sure folks were able to have opportunities. And with the resurgence of environmentalism and the birth of the green job movement, there was a different facet of environmentalism and a new space to provide a segue to folks who didn’t have access to opportunities like jobs. Environmentalism is no longer just tree huggers (laughs). I saw that businesses could save money and green jobs seemed like a good way to help the struggling community come out of their struggles and debt. And for me that’s the sweet part, not only to be able to help people but to use that as a way to uplift these folks.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of tying-in the disadvantages in our local neighborhoods to the clean energy economy of the future and the green revolution that has really taken off in the past couple of years? Was it volunteering in college or earlier in your youth that gave you a desire to intertwine service with your EPA experience?
A: No, I hadn’t volunteered before. It wasn’t until I was working for the EPA that I was really out there in the community talking to folks and getting actively involved in community environmental projects. For me, growing up in a rural area, volunteerism wasn’t preached a lot so the EPA definitely opened my eyes to the service component as well.
Q: What have you done to be more green in the past few years?
A: I have cut out all plastic bags. Period. My wife and I decided to make that lifestyle change two years ago. Also, I’m reading more and becoming more aware. These changes are almost second nature to us now. It’s a cultural shift and that’s sort of what we do with our organization. It’s about creating a mind shift. We want it to be second-nature for our folks.
Meet Rhon Hayes next Monday, November 8 at the World House Series event, “Local Solutions to a Global Challenge: Envisioning a Sustainable District” with Councilmember Tommy Wells and Cynthia Hartley of the Capitol Hill Energy Co-op. FREE Panel Discussion and Reception at the Capitol Skyline Hotel, 6:30 p.m. Register now!
For more information on the Humanities Council’s World House Series: The Philosophy of Green, visit www.wdchumanities.org.