Motivated by her passion for public health and sustainability, Ariell Lawrence (BSEH ’11) is helping the film industry decrease its environmental footprint through socially responsible decision making and practices.
Film/TV Eco Advisor
B.S. in Environmental Health
GRADUATION YEAR: 2011
YOUR HOME: Atlanta, Georgia
HOMETOWN: Jonesboro, Georgia
Why did you choose to study at UGA College of Public Health? How did you know you belonged at UGA CPH?
A longtime family friend and true model of a human, Zoe Johnson, director of field education at the UGA School of Social Work, guided my sights to the University. I always felt drawn to environmental science, studies, et cetera, and at UGA CPH I came across something unique – the study of environmental health. My interest in environmental stewardship is closely tied to seeking a good quality of life for myself and others, so I knew UGA CPH was the best fit for me.
Tell us about an important mentor you have had.
USPHS Lieutenant Commander Angela Hodge was my preceptor and supervisor during my short tour with the Indian Health Service. Because of her, I later served with the USPHS full-time as an Environmental Health Officer (EHO). LCDR Hodge was one of the first officers I told when I sought to separate in pursuit of film and TV work, and she was fully encouraging, as always. She’s also one of the few who has seen my pitch for a USPHS docuseries.
Provide a brief summary of your career since graduation.
The summer before graduating, I did a short tour of duty with the Indian Health Service in Tucson, AZ. I participated in an annual rabies clinic held in 61 villages on the Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui Nations and updated the vaccinated animals’ database that is used by IHS environmental health officers, animal control officers, and physicians to determine if prophylaxis is needed. Additionally, I assisted in facilities’ environmental health surveys and accompanied EHOs to casino food handlers’ courses and senior center injury prevention classes.
In 2012, I completed an internship at Georgia Power’s Environmental Affairs Water & Trans Capital division. I reviewed erosion, sedimentation, and pollution control plans (ESPCPs), specifically Georgia EPD National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit compliance, for Georgia Power construction projects. I liaised between Environmental Affairs, design professionals, and project contractors to communicate necessary revisions to ESPCPs. I prepared GA EPD submittal letters and Notice of Intents for these construction projects. Also, I facilitated the planning of Level 1A recertification training for EA employees involved in land disturbance activities.
My service as an Environmental Health Officer with the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) continued in 2013 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. I spent three eventful years working in NIH’s Waste & Resource Recovery Branch. In the summer of 2016, I made the move back to Georgia to pursue film and TV work.
What made you choose this profession?
There are lots of ways to be agents of change and work towards a greater good. I chose environmental health because I care equally about the environment and the people in it. I care about today’s actions and how they affect people tomorrow and 50 years from now. I believe the stories we tell and the entertainment we consume give shape and depth to those actions. I want to contribute greatly to a culture of heightened environmental consciousness.
Where do you work today and what do you do?
I have been working on film and TV crews on documentary and scripted projects. I started in the props and art department and made my way back to environmental health and stewardship, thanks to Earth Angel, a film and TV sustainability consultancy. Film and television productions are notorious for generating much waste and consuming a great deal of energy. Being a show’s Earth Angel or eco-tech advisor, involves working very closely with production heads and department heads to implement initiatives, products, and technologies that address reduced waste generation and energy consumption.
What awards/honors have you received?
I was awarded the Rowe Environmental Health Award by the College’s Department of Environmental Health Science in 2012.
I completed a detail in the Office of the Surgeon General during the 2014 U.S. PHS Ebola Response, which received a Presidential Unit Citation. My work consisted of administrative tasks in verifying readiness of PHS officers that deployed to Liberia.
Health & Human Services Green Champion Awards recognizes sustainability initiatives and programs across HHS. In 2014, I received the Green Hero Video Outreach Award for a project that highlighted NIH’s waste and resource recovery contract team.
What additional activities and causes do you enjoy dedicating your time to?
I enjoy comedy. Laughter is important to public health, too. I’ve done stand-up a few times and look forward to attending live shows again in the future. I once put on a comedy show to support a water, sanitation, and health charity.
I’m dedicated to being a plastic-free consumer, as much as possible. Some of the t-shirts I collected while in school are living a second life as a produce bag. I use bar shampoo, bamboo charcoal water filters, refill glass jars with soap at a local natural food market, and I’m always up to try a new craft soda in a glass bottle.
I’ve also been sponsoring a kid in Honduras through Children International since 2014; I enjoy writing to her and getting letters back.
How has your UGA CPH education contributed to your success?
The point of view I possess when I approach any situation or work environment was cultivated at UGA CPH. It is in the form of a question–how can everyone best be served? And how can I protect them? With that in mind, I perform highest on teams. Public health goals are not reached alone.
What makes alumni of UGA CPH unique?
Keeping up with the success of my UGA CPH friends, I see them out there giving it 110-plus percent. They’re driven by the same passion in school; it’s genuine, they’re brilliant, and they ARE true change agents. I love to see it.
What is your secret for success?
Yes, there is evidence of success – awards, higher pay grade, peer praise. Before anyone recognizes your wins, celebrate yourself even if you’re the only one who knows it. Even for small things that joy adds up. In times like these, especially, seizing joy is a success.
Posted on October 23, 2020.