An Interview With Danny Cardona: Fearless Latina Leader of the Business Winner In The 2016 ‘Dieta Cero-Auto Commuter Challenge’

Interview by Andrea Becerra & Daniela Salazar

Danny Cardona was born in Colombia and moved to the U.S. more than 10 years ago. She is the General Manager at Super Pollo, a Peruvian charcoal-grilled chicken restaurant in Arlington, VA, winners of the 2016 ‘Dieta Cero-Auto Commuter Challenge’! ‘Dieta Cero-Auto’ was a two week friendly challenge directed to Hispanic businesses and their employees in Arlington with the goal of promoting sustainable transportation and the environmental and health benefits it provides for communities. Danny led her team at Super Pollo to compete against 15 businesses and over 147 employees. Today, this fearless Latina leader shares her personal and team experience during the ‘Dieta Cero-Auto Commuter Challenge’.

The Super Pollo Team Celebrating Their Victory
“The Super Pollo team knows competition will only get harder, my team and other businesses now know more about public transportation and the alternatives to driving a car, so this competition will only get better and more creative. But Super Pollo is ready to win again! We are going to keep having a great time, and keep learning how to protect the environment and improve our health by using alternative modes of transportation.”

How did you learn about the ‘Dieta Cero-Auto Commuter Challenge’ and what motivated you and your team to participate?

We learned about the challenge through Mark, he works for Neo Niche Strategies and he has been very involved with us and Super Pollo. In addition, the contest had a website with a lot of useful information and was also promoted on social media. Once Super Pollo joined the contest, we shared the news and details on our website as well. Our motivation to participate was the desire to work and collaborate as a team to win. We wanted to have a good time and learn how to protect the environment while being healthy.

What was the Super Pollo team’s reaction when you told them about the challenge?

The team was very positive and eager. We have a great advantage, and that is that we are a small team and we always work together and support each other. Whenever we set a goal, we make sure we all work together to succeed. Everyone in the team wanted to participate and win! It was harder for some, especially at the beginning, for example some team members had to wake up earlier to be on time for the bus or ride their bikes. Nonetheless, they were all eager to learn and do their best.

The challenge had a goal: to promote the environmental and health benefits of using sustainable transportation. Which of these benefits had the most impact?

Even though the contest was relatively short, it had a great impact on the team. Some team members saved money and gasoline, others lost weight! Especially those who decided to walk and ride their bikes to work.

What were the results? How much money did your team save? How much weight did they lose? What was the reduction in CO2 emissions?

Even though we are not quite sure about the exact reduction in CO2 emission, I do know the team saved up to $50 per week. I also know that we lost around 15 lbs. altogether! I lost 3lb, and two coworkers lost 2 and 10lb each.

In what ways did this challenge inspire or influence the team after the challenge was over?

Without a doubt this contest had an impact both at the personal and team level. When you commit yourself to protect the environment and to your health, you have more energy and you feel more alegre (cheerful)! For my team, they felt less tired and with more energy. The team really appreciated everything they learned about public transportation, it was a new experience that was different, and saved them money.

What other types of challenges or events would you like your team to participate or be part of?

We really liked Dieta Cero-Auto Commuter Challenge. It was a lot of fun, and we are ready to do it again and win next year! Challenges and events like this where they create awareness and promote healthy habits and environmental protection, are always interesting. We really want to understand more about CO2 emissions and how can we calculate the impact on our environment.

Before the contest, did you ever measure or think about CO2 emissions when driving to work?

To be honest, we didn’t think about this, there is still a lot to be learned about CO2 emissions. The contest did teach us a lot about the city and its public transportation. We were given really useful information about public transportation routes and bike paths. The team was grateful for all this information; we learned a lot about all these options for public transportation in the city!

Are you planning to keep using these alternative modes of transportation?

Yes, but I have to say that it will depend on the weather. I’m already walking or riding my bike to work thanks to the challenge.

Do you have any anecdotes or funny stories from this challenge?

So many! We had an amazing time. The beginning of the challenge was the funniest part because it seemed that the team had the perfect excuse for when they were late to work (laughs). It took them some time to figure out the timing and bus schedules, and how long it would take them to ride their bikes or walk. But we all figured it out, it was a great experience overall. It brought us together as a team, and we learned a lot about the city. I think the county is doing a great job in educating people and offering public transportation information in the metro and stations in different languages. For example, 10 years ago when I first arrived here, my English was not that good, and it was hard. There are a lot of people who don’t speak English very well and they want to explore the city using public transportation. Having information in different languages is very helpful not only for tourists visiting the city, but for people moving into the city that are learning English.