Profile: Meet Amanda Komar, ISD’s Managing Director

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1) How long have you been with the Institute for Sustainable Development & Green Plus, and how did you start? In a full-time capacity, I’ve been with the Institute for almost two years.  I originally started as an Institute Green Plus Summer Fellow in June 2011 after I received my Master’s from UNC.  It just so happened that a position with the Institute was opening up at the end of that summer, so I applied, got the job, and joined the team full time in September 2o11. 

 

2) What got you interested in sustainability originally? What reinforced your interest in sustainability? Jobs? Personal experiences?

Sustainability has been part of my life since I was a kid.  As a family, we always recycled, turned lights and electronics off when we weren’t using them, and all those easy-to-do practices that have become standard now.  I was my family’s official destroyer of those plastic rings that come around the top of a six pack of soda (I’d like to point out that I still do that today).  

As I got older and started understanding the science behind the environment and how natural systems work, I started understanding the importance of protecting and conserving nature.  I saw how human actions can have a negative impact on the environment, and I wanted my actions to have a positive impact. I’ve known since high school that I wanted a career with an organization that helped educate others about the importance of sustainability.  I’ve been lucky enough to have jobs and internships that have allowed me to do just that, and Green Plus is definitely the cherry on top!

 

3) What have you learned from working with university students at the Institute?

I’ve found that I’m much more understanding of what students go through during an internship.  It wasn’t too long ago that I was in that same position, and I know that working with a new organization can have a pretty steep learning curve, so I try to address all of the questions and issues for students that I had when I first started the job (from administrative tasks to more operational tasks).

We’ve all had internships where we might not have received very much guidance, and while it’s nice to have that independence, those are not always particularly rewarding experiences. I want our interns and fellows to walk away feeling like they accomplished something relevant to their research and interests, and I try my best to understand and tailor projects to their career goals.

 

4) What have you learned from working with businesses and nonprofits in the Green Plus program?

COMMUNICATION!  If there was one thing my graduate studies taught me, it was that if you want your message to have an impact, you have to present it so that it’s relevant to your audience.  The individuals I’ve worked with from various businesses and nonprofits have such varying backgrounds and understandings of sustainability, I’ve learned how to communicate the importance of sustainability based on their business needs, which is both challenging and enlightening for me. 

 

5) What are your 2-3 favorite things about this work?

I love the interaction I get to have with so many different groups of people, be they business owners, students, professors, or other sustainability professionals.  As I mentioned, I knew I wanted to have a career that would let me share the passion I had for sustainability, and this job has given me that opportunity.

The most encouraging thing I see is how receptive and open people are to making changes, whether in their personal life or business, in order to have a positive impact on the environment.  

My favorite thing about this work, though, is that this is exactly what I want to do: I want to help people who may not have a background in science or the environment understand why it’s so important to protect.

 

6) What do you like to do outside of work? Favorite activities? Hobbies? Interests?

I love to just be outside doing anything.  I love playing sports, especially softball.  I run a lot, I’m getting into biking, and I love to go hiking with my dog, Logan.  

When I’m not spending time outside, I love watching movies and discovering new TV shows (current favorites are Dexter, Mad Men, and Continuum).  I also love theater, acting, and music, and am currently learning how to play guitar (if anyone knows a good guitar teacher, let me know!).

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