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Getting Closer to the Heart of Life – An EcoWomen Success Story

No matter how far down the path, you can always change course. You can always aim to get closer to the heart of your life.

Abigail Daken currently works for the Energy Star program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but it took a long time, and many transitions, to get to where she is today.

The Energy Star program is a vehicle for people who care about the planet to get the information they need about ethical consumption, to live according to their values. It’s extremely difficult to live lightly and efficiently on this planet, especially in our country – but programs such as Energy Star are a key part to reaching a sustainable society, according to Abi.

Abi loves her job because her work is in line with her values – living lightly, and forming a connection with other people and with the world around her.

You’d probably take it as a given that someone working for the EPA would hold environmental sustainability as a core value. But it wasn’t always this way.

Since she was young, Abi has loved being outside, being in nature. But that love didn’t translate right away into a career path. She graduated with a degree in Physics, and took on a job designing electronics, which she stayed with for ten years. As the years went on, she became disenchanted by the attitude of casual waste in her workplace – driven primarily by (distorted) costs.

Things started changing when she joined the Washington Ethical Society – a humanistic religious congregation – which helped clarify her morals and encouraged her to find a career more in line with her values.

So she asked herself: “What would 15-year-old me think of myself now?” And realized she needed something different.

Through the Ethical Society, she met her husband, and eventually found a new community. Together, the two of them moved into a co-housing community in Silver Spring called Eastern Village- another major turning point.

The co-housing community was a dream. Living with like-minded people, in a LEED certified building, no less, was something she dreamed about when she was 15 (well, perhaps not the LEED-certified portion).

A sunlight winter day in the Eastern Village Cohousing Community

What’s more, the co-housing community eventually led her to her job at EPA. But not without another transition first!

Ready to change her career path, but discouraged by the prospects of an entry-level position in the sustainability field, Abi enrolled in graduate school. At the University of Maryland, she enrolled for the Masters in Engineering and Public Policy. Through that program, and through her connections at the co-housing community, she started working with the EPA.

Throughout this experience, Abi became a mother. There were a couple of breaks along the way when she had her first and second child. She says that becoming a mother might have impacted the timing of her career – but it has added many gifts as well. Now, her whole life is in line with what she cares about: she lives in a closely knit community with a husband and two kids, and works for a job she believes in.

But the transition never ends. In fact, she predicts her life changing again in the near future, after an interest sparked in economics – particularly, ecological economics, and something called the “steady state economy.” She explains, “I’m getting closer and closer to the heart of my life.”

Abigail left me with a few words of advice: Volunteer for what you believe in. Invest time in the things you love doing. And, as is often heard in DC: network! The groups she joined, similar to DC EcoWomen, provided her with the opportunity to meet people in different fields but similar morals.

I hope DC EcoWomen provides its members with the same clarity and opportunities that Abigail Daken received throughout her transitions. No matter what outlet you choose, always look to get closer to the heart of life.

Abigail and her family on 'Bike to Work Day'