Breaking the Green Ceiling

The Breaking the Green Ceiling Summit, hosted by Environmental People of Color (EPOC), is an annual event that aims at growing and strengthening the representation of people of color in leadership roles across the environmental sector by providing leadership training and professional development skills, and encouraging innovation and partnership across projects, programs, and organizations. There was a contingent of Puget Sound Clean Air Agency staff that attended the past summit. Below are their experiences and reflections of the event. 

Agency at EPOC Summit Left to right: Angela Song, LIzzy Sandstrom, Zaya Tumurkhuyag, Julio Sanchez, Ivan Rivera (not pictured: Wellington Troncoso)

The Breaking the Green Ceiling Summit offered a unique opportunity and environment to discuss navigating the workplace from a perspective that does not get much attention but that is nevertheless a constant consideration for me. During the workshops and discussion panels, over and over, I listened to others articulate, intimately, relatable feelings and experiences and how they dealt with these situations at work. Listening to fellow attendees experiences was a welcomed affirmation of my own experiences. The discussions afterwards provided invaluable insight into how to handle certain things in new and more comprehensive ways. Overall, the Summit was gratifying and provided helpful perspectives on how to deal with difficult experiences, which left me with a lot to think about.
- Ivan Rivera

There were powerful, game-changing people at the Summit. They took off their “official” hats and were so open to sharing their stories, experiences, hardships, and successes about their journey to gain their seat at the table and advocate for POC voices. I was able to relate to their stories and realized that I’m not alone on this pathway to discovery.  I really aspire to be a better advocate for myself, others around me, and my community to advance people of color representation in the environmental movement and beyond.
- Angela Song

In one workshop, through a series of physical activities, we opened ourselves to one another and together, we expelled oppressive work environments and defined an ideal work environment. We were so focused on solving the challenge course that without realizing it, the entire group was creating and experiencing an ideal work space, one that promoted respect, inclusivity, time for collective decision-making, team work, open communication, active listening, and adaptability. Creating an ideal workplace is not easily achievable, it is not straightforward and it has many complex layers. In that moment, we were able to do so as strangers and it was felt by everyone. The entire Summit was powerful. Seeing everyone’s commitment to being agents of change in all facets of the environmental movement while uplifting one another re-energized and inspired me.
- Lizzy Sandstrom

I have always been proud of working in the  Environmental/Regulatory field because I felt that it is well represented by POCs and diversity in gender orientation. I discovered at the Summit that we are heading in the right direction (discretely), but have a long road ahead in the continuum to true representation and power sharing both internally and externally; as a professional field and as a reflection of the communities we serve.
- Wellington Troncoso