Kindness – an interview with Sejal Choksi-Chugh, Executive Director, San Francisco Baykeeper

Kindness – an interview with Sejal Choksi-Chugh, Executive Director at San Francisco Baykeeper and Board of Directors at Sustainable Lafayette

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Sejal serves as the Executive Director of San Francisco Baykeeper, a non-profit organization that's been defending the Bay from the biggest threats for over 30 years. Sejal holds a J.D. with a specialization in Environmental Law from the University of California at Berkeley. She grew up in the densely-populated suburbs of Atlanta, where she experienced firsthand the impacts of industrial pollution. Courtesy of an Equal Justice Works legal fellowship in 2002, she joined the Baykeeper team straight out of law school with a determination to hold polluters accountable -- and she's grateful that's exactly what she gets to do every day.

Q. What does kindness mean to you?

A. To me, kindness means doing something nice for someone else (something that they would appreciate) without expecting anything in return.

Q. How are you sharing 21 days of kindness?

A. My fourth-grade daughter is celebrating 21 days of kindness through her school, and she came home with a list of kind acts she and her classmates plan to take over the next 21 days. I decided to adapt her list to my workday and complete the tasks with her – for example, on the day she gives an extra “thank you” to her lunchtime cafeteria volunteer, I plan to also use that day to give an extra smile and “thank you” to the staff behind the counter at the local café near my office. 

Q. What will you do to share kindness today?

A. I’m on day 5 on the school kindness list “share your favorite toy with a friend” so today I’m going to share one of my favorite podcasts (Meditative Story) with a friend.

Q. Favorite example(s) of how others can share kindness

A. I love it when people pay others’ parking meters, when they’ve run out.  Or when someone in line at a coffee shop pays for the stranger behind them. Stories like that help me remember there are good people with kind hearts in the world. And with all the negative news these days, it feels like I need that reminder more and more.

Q. Today I celebrated…

A. Happy hour with colleagues at Baykeeper who are passionate, hardworking, and enjoy celebrating together. As a boss, it’s important to me to help my non-profit employees feel appreciated and valued for making a difference. So I try to make time to allow us to celebrate each other and the little victories when we can. (In fact, one of the first acts I took when I became director 4 years ago was to add a paid birthday holiday for employees – so we celebrate them with the gift of a day off because they work so hard for Baykeeper the rest of the days of the year!). 

Q. I am grateful for…

A. My dashing husband who cooks delicious, healthy meals for me every day, even when I’m working late or being grumpy. My laidback son who goes out of his way to make me smile and put things in perspective. And my feisty daughter who loves me unconditionally and makes me feel like a superhero.

Q. What I do to appreciate myself

A. I plan at least one activity a day for myself – these vary from listening to my favorite tunes or podcasts on my commute (rather than the news), calling or messaging an old friend out of the blue, going to my favorite dance class with Justin at Joy in Motion, taking my favorite yoga class with Mel at YogaWorks, kickboxing at Combat Fitness, getting a massage, or scheduling girls night out.

Q. I am so glad that I get to…

A. Do work that I’m passionate about every day. And I’ve also been over the moon grateful recently for being able to switch to an all-electric plug-in car – I love the feeling of driving around town guilt-free.

Q. What do you do when your day doesn’t go as planned?

A. A few years ago, I was forced to work with a toxic and manipulative person who created unnecessary drama. As a result, there were a number of days when I would feel frustrated and thwarted from focusing on the work I loved. And I stumbled upon something that helped: I found that if I took a moment to write and send a message appreciating one of my other non-toxic colleagues, I immediately gained perspective, felt grateful, and took pleasure in expressing why they were a great co-worker. I feel fortunate to no longer have to work with that toxic person, and I still like to send appreciative messages to current colleagues when I want to do a little something to brighten my day.

Q. I am inspired by…

A. Activists who make personal sacrifices for a greater cause. Specifically, kids who get it – those who act to save the planet and stop gun violence.

Q. A dream I am currently focused on fulfilling is…

A. Moving my mom to the Bay Area. She’s been in Atlanta by herself for seven years since my dad passed away. I’d like to have her closer to me and my brother – so we can better help her and so she can spend time with her grandkids.

Connect with Sejal online:

San Francisco Baykeeper

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sejalc

Insta: https://www.instagram.com/sejalcc/

LinkedIn: Sejal Choksi-Chugh