I began interning with Green Seal in March of 2015. I was looking for some work experience before returning to grad school in the fall, and one of my friends from Tulane University, Lisa Nash, told me about the environmental nonprofit she recently began working for, Green Seal. I applied for an internship and was invited to begin working with Brie and Daniel of the Science and Standards department.
My first few assignments helped me become familiar with the Green Seal website, certified products, and the many steps that go into developing and revising Green Seal Standards. My experience with Green Seal inspired me to become a more mindful consumer, introduced me to the rigorous process of stakeholder-based standard development, and allowed me to develop as a professional.
Working with Green Seal made me way more aware of environmentally preferable products, from manufacture to disposal. I now read ingredient labels on the back of cleaning supplies to ensure I’m not coming into contact with hazardous substances. I also am more cognizant of green-washing and unbacked environmental claims. Green Seal empowered me as a consumer to choose products with minimized environmental and health impacts.
In my upcoming graduate program, I will be concentrating in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health. This internship showed me how those two concepts are applied in real life settings, and I am quickly becoming aware of the close connection between environmental and public health.
As it turns out, products dangerous for humans also tend to be dangerous for the environment. I became very familiar with the EPA’s Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), how to interpret material safety data sheets (MSDS), and common chemicals of concern. This internship gave me a leg up by providing me with work experience in the field before going back to study these topics in an academic setting.
One of my main projects was to research sanitizers and disinfectants for the development of a new Green Seal standard. This required me to scour through hundreds to thousands of webpages looking for every bit of information I could possibly gather. This project gave me firsthand experience in the work that goes into creating a new standard and proved how thorough Green Seal is when researching standard requirements.
All of the information in a standard has been intensively reviewed and is backed by evidence from peer-reviewed journals. While I never expected to know this much about all of the nuances of disinfection, it has been incredibly interesting to discover how many different ingredients and mechanisms are out there to accomplish the same goal. Also, I now have a scientifically based research document I can add to my portfolio.
Although my title was intern, I felt very involved in the process of revising current standards and researching potential standards. I had the opportunities to sit in on all-staff meetings, as well as meetings within the Science and Standards department. My ideas and suggestions are acknowledged and considered and I feel as if I am part of the team. I have personally researched the use of post-consumer recycled content for our packaging guidelines, attempted to take a stand on the use of nanoparticles and triclosan in paint, and helped try to determine safe concentrations of enzymes in aerosol laundry detergents to use in a standard revision.
In addition to the technical work I completed at Green Seal, my time at Green Seal has also been an opportunity for personal career development. With the gracious help of Daniel, my resume was completely overhauled and I figured out the formula for writing a successful cover letter. Everyone at Green Seal was incredibly supportive while I applied for summer internships and provided me with advice and constructive criticism while revising my resume and preparing for interviews. Thanks to everyone’s help, I am beginning a paid summer internship with the National Resource Defense Council’s Partner Engagement Team in a few weeks.
Unfortunately, my internship with Green Seal is coming to an end but I know that I made connections that will last long after I leave. This has been an incredibly useful experience and I learned way more than I expected. This internship boosted my confidence in the decision to return to grad school for toxicology, and I look forward to partnering with this great organization later in my career.