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Celebrating Earth Month With VMware Citizen Philanthropists

Celebrating Earth Month With VMware Citizen Philanthropists

Published 04-12-22

Submitted by VMware

VMware volunteers

VMware Citizen Philanthropists are active in their communities all year, adapting their efforts based on the needs of the nonprofits they serve and the communities of which they are a part. To celebrate Earth Month, we checked in with some of our colleagues who are Sustainability Ambassadors in their regions, to see what VMware’s culture of service means to them through the lens of community and Sustainability, one of the three main pillars of our 2030 Agenda and ESG commitment. Sustainability Ambassadors are employee-led teams of VMware people that help bring sustainability into colleagues’ lives whether at home or the office.

Maria Castillo, Colleague Support Engineer & Sustainability Ambassador in Toronto:

I started at VMware in January of 2021 and recently celebrated my one-year anniversary. The Sustainability Team held an event during Earth Month, shortly after I started, and I was eager to become the first Sustainability Ambassador from Canada. I truly believe in protecting planet Earth and making the future brighter for our children, so I prioritized becoming part of the team and leading sustainability efforts for my region.

With the pandemic disrupting day-to-day life in Canada, a lot of the times we have been in lockdowns. We have just recently reopened everything back to the public on March 1st, but it was difficult to volunteer in-person last year. My family and I love hiking so I’m looking forward to participating in our Canadian Wildlife Service Learning where we use the iNaturalist application and record Wildlife Observations as I return to Service Learning activities.

The way our team chooses a nonprofit to work with is by first researching what their mission statement is and if it aligns with our goals. Currently, we have been working with Canadian Wildlife Federation who has provided us with many events. 

VMware’s culture of service means so much to me. I love giving back to the community and it makes me very proud that I can work for a company that not only supports this but encourages us to get involved by providing us time away from work to do so. It’s such an amazing feeling to be able to give back to the community and make a difference in the world. For Earth Month this year, our Northeast US and Canada Sustainability Ambassadors Team will be hosting a webinar at the end of April with our Canadian Wildlife Federation who will be discussing “Gardening with Wildlife in Mind.”

Olivia Maffia, Technical Account Manager & Sustainability Ambassador in Boston:

I started at VMware a little under three years ago. I began attending local Boston events and our Sustainability Ambassador at the time noticed my participation and asked if I had interest in joining her one-person team. I of course said, “Yes!” We started as a local Boston Sustainability group and transformed into the US Northeast and Canada Regional team of which I am now a Regional Leader.

I am particularly proud of the socially distanced, citizen scientists Service Learning, as it was a major challenge finding remote ways to volunteer that weren’t sitting on our computers. We partnered with the Canadian Wildlife Federation and used the iNaturalist App to assist with mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe. Contributors can go for walks in nature and record what they see. We held a friendly competition to see who could have the most observations, and employees could continue to participate and add their Service Learning hours.

We research local nonprofits and sustainability-focused local companies and reach out to them about ways for VMware people to get involved. It can be a bit of a challenge deciding which organizations to engage with as there are so many to choose from, but that is what also makes it rewarding. Currently, we are working with a solar energy provider that does not require solar panel attachments, a local composting company in Massachusetts that picks up compost right from your front door, and Canadian Wildlife Federation, which is dedicated to wildlife conservation.

VMware’s culture of service means giving to our communities and working together to support each other and our planet. Service shows we care about our community and community members, and I am so proud of VMware’s EPIC2 values, and that community is one of those!

For Earth Month this year, we have Canadian Wildlife Federation hosting their third webinar for us out of our four-part webinar series. The webinar will focus on gardening for local pollinators and wildlife for North America, including CWF garden certification available to Canadian residents.

Jahnavi Deshpande, Project Manager & Sustainability Ambassador in Palo Alto:

I have been with VMware for a little over two years, and prior to this role, I was with a company that took pride in providing free food for all its employees. While at first, I thought, that was wonderful, I slowly began to realize that it created all sorts of waste – napkins, food, plastic, water, etc. I decided then to start a small group within that company to encourage sustainability, but I had no luck since there were very few like-minded folks. When I first joined VMware, I came across the Sustainability Team during my New Employee Experience – I decided to email the point of contact, as I was determined to make my time at VMware worthwhile and useful to the community. I was so thrilled to hear back and to become a Sustainability Ambassador.

These past few years I have done an assortment of Service Learning activities with the Palo Alto Sustainability Ambassadors. We applied and held our booth at the Mountain View Farmer’s Market to educate shoppers about the need to reduce their plastic consumption, bring their bags, and discuss with them other alternatives to plastic. We also supported the World Wildlife Fund at this booth, and it was so much fun to finally bond with our team in person after working from home for so many months. It was also extremely satisfying knowing that we were able to, if not inspire, at least make people aware of their plastic footprint.

I think VMware’s approach to Service Learning and our culture of service helps us create high levels of commitment and pride among our teams, and it has helped me build a deeper connection to VMware as a company. The importance of giving back to our community gives me perspective in life and a tangible opportunity to set my core values into action.

Mauricio Bolanos, Technical Program Manager & Sustainability Ambassador in Costa Rica:

I joined VMware 8 years ago and began asking colleagues in our Costa Rica office about how to get involved with the Sustainability Ambassadors Team here. At that time, we were just moving in into our brand new site, and I was interested in working on VMware Costa Rica’s Bandera Azul Program, since we did not have one at that time. The Bandera Azul (“Blue Flag”) is a prestigious award granted by the Costa Rican government on a yearly basis that recognizes the effort and volunteer work of different local committees (within Costa Rica-based companies) that strive to improve environmental practices and use the program to adapt and mitigate climate change. Soon after, the Site Operation Manager asked me if I was interested in becoming the lead of the team. That was back in 2016, and since then, I’ve been leading the Sustainability Ambassadors Program for Costa Rica, and now, for the LATAM Region.

I believe that educating younger generations makes a huge impact, they are our future. I’m proud of the Service Learning activities in which we collaborate with local communities, and we have a chance to educate children on sustainability topics, explaining the importance of reforestation, protecting the environment, and sharing the power of our individual actions and how they impact the whole world.

Another community initiative I am proud of is promoting the sustainable homes program within our VMware community, which is a Bandera Azul Program for homes. We have worked with hundreds of Costa Rican employees in our webinars, workshops, and conferences. This is not only promoting the protection of the environment and fighting against climate change but also educating our workforce and their families about the Power of One; the power each one of us has as a citizen of the world.

VMware’s culture of service means that we care about others and that we are looking beyond our products, systems, and tools to make a positive impact in the world. As a global company working to improve the planet, one virtual machine at the time, we are changing the world for good. I believe that Sustainability is the new innovation frontier and being a Citizen Philanthropist is all about giving people the flexibility and choice to give back to our planet more than we take from it.

Josh Swerdlow, Member of Technical Staff & Sustainability Ambassador in Palo Alto:

I joined VMware in August of 2019, and I got started as a Sustainability Ambassador not long after that. Being based on the Palo Alto campus and seeing the number of paper napkins folks would use and leave on tables, I knew I had to get involved. I started to list solutions to less-than-sustainable options I noticed and sent them to our Sustainability Manager in hopes that we could discuss them. She explained that there was an opening to be the Palo Alto Sustainability Ambassador lead and I immediately said “yes” and never looked back.

One of the nonprofits that I serve with is the Golden Gates Park Conservancy, spending most weekends as a part of the Presidio Habitat Stewards program. As a volunteer, you and other volunteers meet the project leads on Saturdays to help weed, plant, water, and protect native species from obtrusive or encroaching introduced species. It is a wonderful way to socialize for a few hours, learn about plants, and help the local environment. I am proud of this work because, month-over-month, you can begin to see certain areas remain clean of introduced species and native ones start to flourish.

Together with the Atlanta Sustainability Ambassadors, and with input from the VMware ESG Office, we put together the “Sustainability@VMware Fund.” It is intended to enable environmentally conscious individuals to donate to proven nonprofits that are tackling core climate change issues globally and leverage VMware’s Matching Gifts program. As an environmentally conscious individual, I know that it can be difficult to sort through the number of non-profits out there. This fund makes donating to climate change a little easier for those who may be so overwhelmed that they otherwise would not donate at all. Through our efforts, we have been able to put forward $6,500 split amongst: Oceana, World Wildlife Fund, One Tree Planted, and International Institute for Sustainable Development.

I am particularly value-minded in the way I live, and VMware’s culture is closely aligned with my values; specifically, how our culture of service aligns with my value to give back more than I take. I have a disproportionate responsibility to help alleviate the impacts of climate change compared to the average person; as such, VMware’s culture of service is one way that VMware says, “Go for it. We have your back.”

Read more stories about VMware’s Citizen Philanthropists here.

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