[Photo: Thomas Cluderay]

PDF Icon Download a PDF of the 2015 WSLA Awards.

White empowers consumers to live in healthier homes and communities. Hailing from the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee—an upbringing which she says “sparked my love for nature”—the wife and mother of two says her motivation today is to create a greener, healthier world for future generations.

“Sustainability brings my passion for science, math, law, and policy together.” Studies in New Zealand, Kenya, at the universities of Virginia and Tennessee (environmental studies and law, respectively), and in women’s outreach for former Vice President Al Gore’s presidential bid in 2000, inform her work overseeing EWG’s advocacy and consumer education programs.

She helps people know what’s in their tap water. EWG informs to the public about chemicals in products that include shampoo and household cleaners, about pesticides in foods, and knowing how nearby farms, factories, and fracking operations might affect human health. The organization employs digital technologies to empower consumers to individually live sustainable lives.

“The ‘hero’ model of leadership is outdated,” she says. When White is not testifying before the US Congress or meeting with White House officials on such matters as farm bill reform, energy policy, and toxic chemical pollution, she works with staff and others in the cause. “Leaders must empower everyone to be creative and come up with solutions. The monumental challenge of climate change and environmentally related disease will require everyone’s best thinking.”

Green chemistry, affordable solar batteries, and non-toxic buildings make White hopeful about the future. “A culture of creativity will bring about the innovations necessary for sustainability, and this next generation will expect it,” she says. “Create space at work for your teams to connect with each other and play. Since empowerment is one of our core brand values, I created a monthly ‘empower hour.’ Staff share skills they have that may or may not be related to the environment but it’s fun, engaging, and personal.”

She cites author Tara Mohr (Playing Big) for detailing the pitfalls of perfectionism for women in leadership positions. Mohr “provides fascinating strategies to tap into your inner confidence to relax and just go for it,” White says.

Her grandmothers are just as inspiring to her. One was a calculus teacher and the other earned her high school equivalency diploma later in life. “They knew that education and hard work would open new worlds. My grandmothers taught me that if the door of opportunity opens up you honor those before you by walking through it.”