In honor of Women’s History Month, BayREN celebrates the accomplishments of Wendy Sommer
Green building requirements; energy efficiency programs; reusable bag ordinance; and food scrap recycling. For decades, Wendy Sommer has been instrumental in crafting key policies and market transformation strategies for these topics. Since 2016, she has served as the Executive Director of StopWaste, a public agency responsible for reducing waste in Alameda County. With her extensive experience, Wendy is a true trailblazer, and her work will have a lasting impact in the climate field.
We sat down with Wendy to discuss and reflect on her storied career. Asked about what motivates her to be in the climate field, she said: “We need to focus on reducing our waste in every regard, including landfill, water, and energy waste to create a more circular economy. We need to ensure that we protect our resources for future generations. This stuff inspires me because I have kids; I want to know that they will have a future.”
Wendy attributes a lot of her success to her personal drive. She shares that the projects that she has been most passionate about are the ones in which she’s been able to create successful partnerships between people that often don’t work together. In fact, as one of the founding members of BayREN, she saw the potential for regional collaboration in the energy field. “By pursuing efficiency projects with multiple jurisdictions, it reduces the costs of energy acquisitions for all counties, and everyone benefits.”
StopWaste serves as the lead for BayREN’s nationally recognized regional Multifamily and Green Labeling programs, and as the marketing and implementation partner for all BayREN programs within Alameda County. Emily Alvarez, the Green Labeling program lead shares “Wendy has fostered a work environment that encourages innovation and teamwork. Only a few months into my career at StopWaste, I found myself on a project team with Wendy and several other upper management staff. Despite the gaps between our work experiences, I felt that my ideas and my work were valued equally, which is not something I have felt at previous jobs when being the youngest woman at the table.” Wendy’s advice to women in the climate space is to “know your worth and to avoid selling yourself short… and don’t be afraid to make mistakes! We all have strengths and skills to work on, but it is fine to make mistakes and learn from them, it is part of a healthy growth process.” Wendy is also inspired by the future leaders in this space, “The younger generations are creating deep change. I am inspired by how equity-minded new leaders are. We have a lot to do, we have to learn from each other, and we need to tread lightly.”
Wendy plans to retire soon, but she is a leader with lasting impact. We are grateful for Wendy’s leadership; she is an inspiration to us all!