Cyd Elizabeth Hamilton is #MadeForKnoxville.
Cyd Elizabeth Hamilton is a fighter. Not only does she fight for women’s rights, but she also fights for the proper treatment of Mother Nature. She earned her PhD in Plant Biology and cares deeply about implementing ecological practices in yards everywhere and creating healthier communities for women to thrive.
Better Nature Solutions is a nonprofit founded to “increase the representation and employment of women in landscape (horticulture) and arboriculture industries.” The mission is partly shaped by Hamilton’s past experiences in hostile work environments. Facing workplace bullying and sexual harassment, she was forced to leave two jobs. Now, she has created a nonprofit that clearly takes a stand for women and Mother Nature.
Hamilton uses her education in plant biology and up-to-date research in ecology to teach tree, plant, and soil health care. Through Better Nature Solutions, she teaches arborists and gardeners about the use of ecology and urban forestry to conserve local biodiversity, and hopes to build an entrepreneurial pipeline through apprenticeship programs for marginalized women. To achieve the impact she wants to see in the forestry and arborist communities, Hamilton knows to aim for the root by actively advocating for female voices to be heard.
“It’s a ground-up (pun alert) way to increase the use of ecology, which too few companies use presently, and stop the silencing of women.”
In Their Own Words…
After being forced to advocate for myself (along with others) in a workplace harassment case, I find myself no longer able to work in science. Following a few years of wandering in an existential crisis, I took an arborist position with a leading company in Knox, only to be fired within a few months after reporting bullying, along with a coworker. I was the only woman on the crew and the only PhD in Plant Biology. I reported to headquarters an event in which I was put in physical danger and just like my previous experience, nothing happened except to protect the status quo of the white, male hegemony. I’m not bitter;) So, I started my own business while I relied on friends’ couches, because I was that broke. I had been putting all my savings into paying off student loans. Better Nature LLC started in 2018 as a tree care company, using ecology and up-to-date research to address tree and plant health care. It has grown into a company of one, earning more than twice its original income. I teach the arborist and local gardening community about the use of ecology and urban forestry to conserve local biodiversity, the birds and the bees. The LLC recently moved to a nonprofit with a mission to empower women and address the lack of women’s voices in this space. We have a 5 member Board (seeking 13) and two UTK interns. We formed this year to create paid apprenticeships for women from refugee and formerly incarcerated communities to be educated in arboriculture and plant ecology. We will have an entrepreneurial pipeline to move women into ownership of businesses in this industry and adjacent to it. It’s a ground-up (pun alert) way to increase the use of ecology, which too few companies use presently, and stop the silencing of women.
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