Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Green lessons from a squirrel and a goat

If animals could talk, they might have a lot to say about how we people treat the earth. Kimberly Salley ’04 has invented two cartoon animals who do speak up: Earl the Green Squirrel and Gilbert the Green But Not So Gifted Goat.

Earl and Gilbert are the stars of Salley’s monthly comic strips promoting sustainability practices at Harvard University’s Office of Alumni Affairs & Development (AA&D), where she works as a senior research and data mining analyst. The pair of animals communicate messages about energy conservation, greenhouse gas emissions and more, injecting fun and humor into some potentially dry topics.

Salley is a member of the office’s “Green Team,” a group of about 40 staff members who share an interest in stewarding the environment. Since 2011 she had led the team, spearheading its efforts to educate the 300-person office about reducing waste, cutting costs, and developing a strong conscience around sustainability at work.

A studio art major at Wheaton, Salley has been drawing since childhood, though Earl and Gilbert represent her first foray into comics.

“I was originally asked to create a dog mascot to represent the AA&D Green Team,” she says, “but because I love both squirrels and goats, I thought a pair of mascots who could learn from each other would be a more effective alternative.

“I have enjoyed researching ways I can be more ‘green’ and how these ideas can be translated to practices in the office,” she continues. “Each month, I try to illustrate a new Earl and Gilbert comic strip that highlights a fun green fact or green office tip. Knowing that I can get a ‘green point’ across to my colleagues through my artwork is extremely gratifying.”

In addition to her art major at Wheaton, Salley completed a major in Hispanic studies. She relished her study abroad semester in Córdoba, Spain, and says that her Wheaton experience taught her to value the important people in her life and to “appreciate the little things.”

It also prepared her for her current job. “My work study job in Wheaton’s annual fund office gave me the skill sets needed to transfer to Harvard University’s Development Office,” she notes.

Salley and the AA&D Green Team have won five awards from the annual Harvard Green Carpet Awards since that recognition program started in 2010, and she was recently featured on the Harvard Office of Sustainability’s website.

When she’s not crunching data, drawing, or finding new ways to go gentle on the earth, Salley is working on a master of liberal arts degree in psychology at Harvard Extension School. She hopes to graduate in 2014 and, “when life’s pace slows down a bit,” work on a children’s book featuring Earl and Gilbert and their lessons about green practices.

“I’ve found that it’s difficult to change the behavior and routine of most ‘grown-ups,’” Salley says, “so I hope to make an impact on today’s youth, so that tomorrow’s adults are already ahead when it comes to being green.”