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Kristen Taddonio, ENERGY STAR and government rep, comes to Brandeis

Published: March 19, 2010
Section: News


The false choice between a nation’s environmentalism and economy, as well as the effects of emissions control on the global climate conditon were the focus of a lecture, on Monday given by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official Kristen Taddonio.

Taddonio, who also is the head of sales and marketing for the ENERGY STAR appliance program and the director of the International Mobile Air Conditioning Climate Protection Partnership said that at ENERGY STAR, she works to both increase appliances’ efficiency and decrease their greenhouse gas emission.

“One thing I always heard in college is you have to choose between environmental progress and economic progress,” she said, “For me [working at ENERGY STAR] was an excellent example of a functioning public sector win-win.”

Taddonio works on the complexities of updating technology. When ENERGY STAR wanted to eliminate a chemical that is present in all air conditioners, they had to first create a new environmentally friendly chemical to replace the harmful one in order to get air conditioning manufacturers to want to comply. She has also worked on improving the efficiency, measured in kilowatts per year, of television sets.

“That has really helped the market,” said Taddonio confidently, “to transform it.”

She also discussed the possible hardships and outlined the challenges in terms of the political climate.

“Every time the administration changes, it creates new priorities for the EPA,” Taddonio admitted. “Like any institution with more than fifteen people, things can get bureaucratic,” she said.

But, Taddonio said despite the bureaucracy, she believes in the work she does.

“All is not lost until people start to believe it is lost. So that’s why I’ll always stay optimistic,” she said. “It really does help to get up in the morning to go to work for something you believe in.”

Taddonio also sought to dispel many misperceptions about working in public service, saying that not everyone who works for the government is a political science major; there is a diversity of fields in the government; and a diversity of expertise is necessary. She also added that government employees don’t always have low salaries.

“Although you may start out a little lower—maybe $5,000 less than entry level jobs in the private sector—within two years, I had doubled my salary. Within four years, I had tripled it,” she said.

In addition, prospective workers with certain qualifications, like a GPA over 3.0, honor society membership or high class standing can enter government jobs with higher salaries are able to move up more rapidly than others.

In addition to these advantages, Taddonio also mentioned that United States government employees recieve good health, retirement and savings benefits. They can also work on a local or national—or even international—level, and the higher the position they have, the more choice they have about where to work. To illustrate the diversity a position working for the government can have Taddonio noted that she had celebrities such as Brad Pitt and Paul Newman.

The Hiatt Career Center hosted Taddonio on campus in conjunction with the Partnership for Public Service, an organization that focuses on building a strong work force for the government.

“Students at Brandeis are often interested in environment [and] policy,” Caroline O’Shea, the assistant director of employer relations at Hiatt, said. “This is the perfect blend of that. Kristen has a really diverse background so we are lucky to welcome her.”

Despite the terrifying possibility of the climate crisis that she noted hung over a talk such as hers, Taddonio’s presentation was postive. “From the greenhouse gas reduction side, I’m optimistic because I’ve seen a lot happening over the last few years,” she said.