Have you ever stopped to consider how volunteering can change people’s lives? It is from a volunteer program that the young North American Eileen Quigley likes to tell her story. As a civil engineering student, the young woman raised in the suburbs of New York participated in a program called Jesuit Volunteer Corps, that takes your people from the United States to live for a year with underprivileged communities.
“I did a year of service in Phoenix, where I helped in the management of a shelter for street families”, says Eileen. But it wasn’t just the contact with other realities that changed her life. The way other young people lived interfered fully in the decisions Eileen took to her future. “The most special aspect of this experience is that we lived in a collective house and we shared everything, our food, our money. That taught me to focus on what really matters”. When I returned home and came across the life I had in a good house, with a car, I asked myself: do you really need these things?”.
Eileen returned to the engineering course with another focus. She clung to the subject of green buildings and got a degree in sustainable management. With the effort, she got a job in the Natural Resources Defence Council organization (NRDC), created in the 70s by lawyers that prosecute environmental crimes, such as those caused by large companies or by the government itself. Divided into programs involving issues such as water, waste, food and energy, the NRDC is in six offices throughout the United States and on in Beijing.
Eileen’s job is to manage renovations in the offices, ensure that they are environmentally correct and that they get environmental certifications. “My job is to ensure we are living our mission”, she explains. The young engineer already coordinated four renovations that guaranteed reduced energy consumption and water and also the achievement of some of the most prestigious certifications in the world. “We choose every material to be used in the renovations to ensure that nothing has toxic products”.
However her work is not limited only in coordinating reforms. Eileen loves studying data. She plunges daily in the NRDC’s consumption data and also researches how more than 500 employees live at home, so later she can help those people to reduce the organization’s carbon footprint and also to make their lives better.
“When we talk about sustainable constructions we think a lot in the prices of the materials, but there is a value that no one takes into account that is the human value. People are more expensive than that. I wanna understand what we do for people to be happier and healthier within the working environment we created for them. And there is still not so many calculations about the cost of all this”.
To Eileen, people’s productivity should be the true measure in the world of green building. “We spend almost 40% of our lifetime at work. Then why we don’t create healthier and more enjoyable environments for people to feel well while they work?”.
Like so many provocations in her head, today Eileen wants to help other young people to continue her work. She imagines herself in the future involved with education, to guarantee that new civil engineers worry not only with the environmental certifications, but also with the people. Besides that, she ensures that is good to engage with environmental issues because “environmentalists are the people with the more genuine and complete hearts”.