Sara Miltenberger ’15 studied environmental policy at Union College before earning a Master’s of Science in sustainable business management from Columbia University. After working as an environmental engineer and working in the tech industry at Tesla, she started her own sustainability consulting firm, RSTR media + strategy. Sara now works with some of the biggest names in the beauty and fashion world on sustainable design and corporate responsibility. She also has a podcast—Make Climate Cool Again—that teaches people about positive climate change and supporting small businesses. Sara donates 1% of her business revenue to charity. She is a Union College mentor, was president of her class at Columbia and is part of the Connecticut Women’s Small Business Association. Fifteen percent of revenue from her podcast also goes to a scholarship for students interested in studying sustainability.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?
I think being a business owner is extremely rewarding but also extremely difficult because you have to wear so many hats. I’ve learned to celebrate all the small wins because it’s hard to be an accountant, the legal team, the sales director and a leader in my community! I have always compared owning a business to owning a house. Everything you put into it, you get back. Whereas I felt working for someone was like renting an apartment. At the end of the day, you don’t really own anything that you created.
Who inspired and/or inspires you, professionally and personally?
Bill Nye. I saw him speak at Union many years ago and have followed his post-TV career quite closely. I never really watched his show as a kid, but I find his attitude about climate change refreshing. So many people focus on the doom and gloom but Bill knows that it’s about connecting to people, making it funny and making it interesting – instead of just posting statistics. He also has stayed true to himself throughout his career and I respect him for that. That is extremely tough to do in the public eye.
What advice would you offer today's women students, not just at Union, but across the country?
“Life isn't about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.” I have followed this quote since I was in high school. I think as humans we like to put people and ourselves in boxes, and that seems so final to me. We can change, evolve and be whomever we want whenever we decide. Putting yourself in a box guarantees closing yourself to opportunities. Be open-minded to the world around you and know that it’s experiences every day that shape who you are.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
I got to study independently in Australia and specifically focused on sustainable science and design. All of my professors helped me so much through that process and I had a one-of-a-kind experience.