Get to Know… Danielle Droitsch

February 2, 2013

Danielle Droitsch is the director of the Canada Project for the Natural Resources Defense Council.  She monitors US energy policy as it relates to climate, oilsands, and clean energy, provide expertise to organizations in the US about Canadian energy policy.

You can contact Danielle Droitsch through the NRDC.

(Note: This interview was conducted when she was at her previous position, as the Washington, DC representative for the Pembina Institute, a Canadian think tank.)

What do you actually do in your job?

If you were to boil it down, I make information generated by Pembina relevant to a U.S. audience.  I am also responsible for drafting briefing notes and backgrounders on key issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, U.S./Canadian climate policy, clean energy policies and, most recently, First Nations health issues relating to oil sands. I meet with US decision-makers on a regular basis and we work as often as possible with other U.S. non-governmental organizations.

What is the hardest thing about your job? Keeping up with the day-to-day pace of Washington DC.

What do you most enjoy about it? I enjoy working with people who care about Canada’s environment.  I am particularly interested in learning about the solutions.   While these environmental issues all seem overwhelming, there are plenty of solutions that just don’t get discussed enough.

Where were you born and raised? Born in Washington, DC and raised in Arlington, Virginia.

What did you study? While I have studied history and law, you might say I seek to learn something new every day.

What was your first job and what path led you to your work today? My first job was as a reporter for an investigative newspaper in North Carolina.  I was tasked with a story on a pulp and paper mill that was discharging pollution into the Pigeon River that flows into Tennessee.  In short, North Carolina was getting the economic benefit from the mill while the other state was at the receiving end with the pollution.  And this had happened for 80 years largely because of a loophole with the Clean Water Act. I decided that rather than write about the story, I would join the fight to clean up this pulp and paper mill.  And, for the most part, we accomplished our goal.  And that was around the time I switched careers to stand up for environmental protection.

What is the best advice you received in the course of your career? Not sure who gave me the advice but it was great advice: Don’t take wooden nickels. I have never taken a wooden nickel, and I feel that this has been the secret to my success.

Also, I’ve been told to do what you love and what inspires you.  With a law degree, I certainly could have ended in a different place.  But from the moment I started to work as an environmentalist, I knew I had found my calling.  And that is what I have been doing for 20 years without any regret.

Looking back, what are you most proud of? Can I say that I am proud I found such a great husband?  My husband, a Canadian from Kitchener-Waterloo, is my top priority and my best friend.  He is really good looking and strong and intelligent and he is reading this as I type.

Family is really a major priority in my life.  My recent move back to Washington DC in 2010 was to be with my father who sustained a traumatic brain injury.  While it was hard for my husband and me to leave Canada, it was one of the best decisions we have ever made.

When and how do you start your day? I start my day at 7:00 am with the paper and walking my dog Elvis. And I love to listen to my podcasts from the CBC too.

Blogs or websites you find interesting or useful:

Solveclimatenews, American Rivers, New York Times, The Grist, NRDC, The Pembina Institute, Google – seriously, this site has everything!

Where are you most likely to be found when you’re not working? At a dog park trying to exhaust my dog, with my father taking a walk or talking politics, or with my husband cooking or out biking. Or sleeping.

If you had an alternative career, what would it be? A philanthropist with gobs of money to support all of the good work of these non-governmental organizations! A philanthropist who also has great shoes and a villa in France.

Favorite sports team? UT Football. Go Vols!

Who is your hero or heroine? Madeleine Albright.

Drink of choice? A good Belgian beer. White wine. Red wine. Gin & tonic. But not necessarily in that order.

Hobbies? Most notably I love outdoor sports and enjoy going to national parks both in Canada and the U.S.  My husband and I love to jump in our Volkswagon van (insert stereotype here) and trundle travel around with our dog.

What is one worthwhile book you read in the past year? Cutting for Stone.

What is one thing you’d like to learn more about? Raccoons.

What is your favorite place in Canada and your favorite place in the US? Favourite place in Canada is the Bow River watershed in Alberta particularly in Banff National Park at its headwaters. In the United States, it is the Appalachian Mountains mostly in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

What is one thing you’d like to tell Canadians about the U.S., and/or one thing you’d tell Americans about Canada? I remind Canadians that the U.S. is a large country with hundreds of millions of people and not to paint it with one brush or to judge it based on what they hear in the media.  Believe it or not, I have found myself explaining Americans don’t all tote guns! Some of us prefer to carry knives.

With Americans, I start by explaining that Canada is not just like America despite what they might think.  I might say something about Canada’s wonderful healthcare system or how government systems are there to help people in need.  But I also like point out the history and culture of Canada is, in fact, not exactly like the United States.  In fact, Canada is a different country altogether! No kidding!

I have a great fondness for both countries.


Also Get to Know… David Archibald, Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, Connect2Canada, Perrin Beatty, David Biette, John ParisellaSheldon AlbertsDanielle DroitschLee-Anne GoodmanDavid Wilkins, Christy Cox, Chris Sands, Birgit Matthiesen,  Scotty Greenwood, Luiza Ch. Savage


You can follow me on Twitter under luizachsavage