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Mary Reames Profile

Mary Reames

Title: Sustainability Project Manager
Company: Leonardo Academy
Carleton Class of: 1991
Major: Sociology/Anthropology

   Mary Reames graduated from Carleton College in 1991 with a Sociology/Anthropology major and is currently working as a Sustainability Project Manager at Leonardo Academy, a small sustainability consulting firm. At this firm, they do LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) consulting, help people locate grant money to convert diesel trucking fleets to natural gas, help companies quantify their emissions and plan ways to reduce those emissions, help conventions and conferences reduce their impact and they also conduct sustainability training sessions and webinars. As Mary said, “We do pretty much whatever a company wants us to do to help them improve their sustainability.”

   Right after graduating from Carleton, Mary attended law school, specializing in environmental law, and she practiced environmental law for the City of Chicago helping to prosecute illegal construction waste dumpers. Despite all this amazing work, she didn’t feel like she was advancing environmental sustainability in a meaningful way. She eventually went back to school for another undergraduate degree in sustainable business management and started volunteering for Leonardo Academy and was offered a job once she graduated.

   Jobs specializing in environmental sustainability can be very rewarding, but also very challenging. For Mary, one of the most rewarding aspects of her job is feeling like she is making a difference to the health of the planet. She loves helping people and companies achieve their sustainability goals. However, one of the biggest challenges she faces is economics. As you can imagine, companies want economic benefits from any changes they make and the problem with sustainability advancements is the economic benefits are there, but they might not be immediate. Mary works to show the companies that sustainability makes sense economically, however many companies seem reluctant to take a route that does not have immediate economic advantages. Another challenge is change management. Mary explained this as, “Some people tend to resist changing their habits and work patterns, but some changes are necessary.” She works to make those sustainable changes easier and more palatable.

   As people become more aware of the importance of sustainability, jobs in those fields have to change with the times. I asked Mary how her job has changed over the years in response to the increasing awareness, and she said that one change she has seen is that renewable energy is becoming bigger as prices decrease and technology improves. She said, “If the EPA’s carbon dioxide rules are eventually enforced, renewables and other methods of reducing carbon dioxide gas emissions will become even more important.”

   I asked Mary if she had any advice for Carleton students considering a career in sustainability fields, and she said, “Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! It’s a great way to establish your credentials and jump to the head of the line when hiring time comes around.”

   Mary is available for contact via email. You can reach her by emailing

   These “Sustainability Stories” alumni profiles are provided through a partnership between the Carleton Sustainability Office and the Career Center. Find out more about Carls in sustainability and environmentally-focused careers by visiting