"You are your biggest champion in life." - Jenna Perelman
We love saying 'girls will change the world' -- and THIS girl literally will. Jenna Perelman is currently a senior majoring in Environmental Analysis at Scripps College. She is deeply embedded in local, grassroots climate policy advocacy as the manager of the Claremont Energy Challenge team. When she's not saving the planet, Jenna is the co-founder and managing editor of TWIGG How-To, a website and one-stop shop of practical advice for women. In her free time (how is that possible?!?), she loves to cook yummy vegan fare, play piano, hike and rock climb.
Go, Jenna! Thank you for doing what you do :-)
What are you currently studying at Scripps College?
I'm an Environmental Analysis major with a focus in policy. I'm particularilty interested in local and regional political movements for just climate policy.
Have you always been passionate about the environment?
For as long as I can remember, yeah. I remember the first time I learned about global warming. My first grade teacher had our class do a play based on A Christmas Carol. That was in 2001. There the Ghost of Environmental Past, Present and Future. I don't remember too much about the plot, but I do remember that the Ghost of Environment Future was there to warn us about future consequences of climate change. The play was my first exposure to how climate change is long-term, slow-moving, global environmental degradation.
What are your plans up graduation?
The summer after I graduate, I want to work at a summer camp focused on outdoor and environmental education. I grew up going to summer camp and miss the camaraderie and tight-knit community, and I love working with kids. After four years of intense studying, I'm really looking forward to spending the summer learning and playing outdoors. After that, I want to travel for about a three to six months. I've lived in Southern California my entire life so I want to experience something new. Some ideas floating around are a cross-country road trip and national park tour of the US. I'll have a friend in Brazil so I might visit her and then go WWOOFing and backpacking in South America. I'm also really interested in traveling in Southeast Asia and Germany.
You're also the manager of the Claremont Energy Challenge team at the Roberts Environmental Center (REC) at school. What does that role involve?
I manage a team of five student analysts. We have a couple different projects going right now. The first is an analysis of the milestones reached thus far in the Claremont Energy Challenge (the City of Claremont’s two-year campaign to win $5 million by reducing energy consumption as part of the Georgetown University Energy Prize). To gain a deeper understanding of the Challenge's significance, we are analyzing its accomplishments in the context of the Claremont Sustainable City Plan and various statewide legislative goals. Our second project is helping Mt. San Antonio Gardens, a local retirement community, evaluate and improve the campus' energy usage. Because of time and labor restraints, we will analyze a few key categories of energy usage such as insulation, HVAC systems, and outdoor lighting, working closely with the Gardens staff and residents to establish an energy benchmark and provide recommendations for energy reduction.
What things can everyday people do to help our environment and make a difference?
The biggest one is to eat less meat. Animal products, including dairy and eggs, are extraordinarily resource intensive. Per year, industrial animal agriculture produces millions of tons of carbon dioxide and methane, which is a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. If you’re interested in learning more, I suggest watching Cowspiracy.
How did the concept of TWIGG How-To arise?
You’d have to ask Caitlyn about the original spark. She thought up the idea, but as soon as she told me about it, I was on board! Caitlyn and I used to work at the same nonprofit. One day we were sitting down for lunch and she told me her idea for a peer-to-peer learning, female-focused site. I knew I had to be involved right then and there.
What are your main tasks as the co-founder and managing editor?
I’m in charge of posting our two articles each week and have final say on all edits. As Managing Editor, I manage our content, providing the vision for what we want content-wise on the site. The Co-Founders have a really collaborative relationship. Though we each have our separate roles, we work together to move TWIGG How-To forward. We have weekly calls to check in and update one another on our progress, and to discuss bigger things like partnerships, milestones, media, and more.
When did you launch and what are your goals with the site?
We launched on March 8, 2015. The way I see it, TWIGG How-To is a platform for women’s voices. In a world that so often subdues or silences female voices, TWIGG How-To exists to promote them, and to promote voices from a diversity of backgrounds and experiences.
What has been the biggest challenge launching and the greatest reward?
Getting the site up and ready to launch was the biggest challenge. We all put in dozens of hours the last couple weeks leading up to the launch. To top it off, there was a technical mishap and Krisha had to basically rebuild the site from scratch.
The biggest reward has been seeing the team and site supporters grow from our network of friends to people who have no relationship to us, who just wanted to get involved because they believed in the project. We started TWIGG How-To because we believed in the idea and what it represents, so the site’s growth shows that other people believe in it too.
You're a female team of 3. What's the best part of working with all girls?
The love, support, and understanding. First and foremost, we’re friends. So if things are really hectic, I feel completely comfortable saying I need to back down from responsibilities for a bit. For all of us, TWIGG How-To is a passion project and while we are 100 percent committed to making it the best it can be, we understand that all of us have a lot of other things going on in our lives. So if I say I need to dial down my TWIGG How-To hours for some reason, the team respects that I know what’s best for me. They don’t challenge my decision. That supportive mentality is really amazing, and I haven’t encountered it in a lot of other working environments.
Is it challenging to juggle school and the site?
Definitely. I spend a lot of time studying, going to class, and working on assignments. And I’m never really done with all my schoolwork – there’s always something more I can do, particularly since my schoolwork is very writing-intensive. You never really finish a paper, you know? So, yes, it’s definitely difficult to balance TWIGG How-To work with schoolwork (and REC work).
What do you like to do in your free time... if you get any ;)?
Recently I’ve gotten really into rock climbing. There’s an indoor climbing gym about ten minutes from school with bouldering and sport climbing. I love climbing because it’s at once a physical and mental challenge. You have to move your body in unconventional ways and use muscles you didn’t know you had and figure out how to strategically get up the wall. A lot of my friends are into climbing as well so we all go together. I also like to do yoga and go hiking. But after a long day, you can also find me snuggled in bed watching the latest SNL or Last Week Tonight.
What is one piece of advice you would give other girls?
You are your biggest champion in life. You are the person who will always support you and who always has your best interests in mind. Listen to yourself and trust your instincts because you are the person most qualified to decide what is best for you.