Advocates and innovators. A local agency employee, a mother and a mayor. A scientist, an author, two recent graduates and several seasoned entrepreneurs. These 17 groundbreaking thought and action leaders have found powerful ways to influence and shift society. Their creativity and determination is changing the way we do business and the way we conduct our everyday lives. They are the local Bay Area heroes working to preserve our environment, to protect our health, and to face the reality of climate change head-on.
Here, in alphabetical order, are the 17 Bay Area environmentalists making a real difference in 2019:
1. Josh Buswell-Chakrow, Green Corps, California Solar and Storage Association
Josh Buswell-Chakrow is an environmental advocate who has spent his working life fighting for environmental protection. Currently, as Campaign Director for the California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA), Josh helps organize member companies around campaign efforts to build political power and win victories for smart, clean, local energy. Before joining CALSSA, Josh worked for Green Corps, the nation’s preeminent environmental organizing training program, for seven and a half years as both Campaign Director and Executive Director. In those roles, he was involved in every aspect of the program including recruiting, fundraising, creating field campaign plans, and crafting multi-year organizational strategic plans. Josh himself graduated from Green Corps in 2003.
2. Shilpi Chhotray, Break Free From Plastic/Samudra Skin and Sea
Shilpi Chhotray is responsible for the development and implementation of communications strategies that advance the goals of the Break Free From Plastic global movement. Prior to joining Break Free From Plastic, she worked at Mission Blue/ Syliva Earle Alliance to further their mission of igniting public support for a global network of marine protected areas. She brings a decade of experience in ocean advocacy and conservation policy including coalition building around plastic waste prevention. Shilpi is also the founder of Samudra Skin & Sea, an ocean-inspired skincare line featuring wild harvested, local seaweed. Using clean ingredients, zero-waste packaging, and brand activism, her goal is to bring key issues facing the ocean to everyday consumers.
3. Chance Claxton, Co-Founder, U-Konserve
In 2003, after the birth of her daughter, Chance Claxton became increasingly concerned about the health of the planet. As she packed school lunches in throwaway packaging she realized that many other families were doing the same, and this daily habit was having a devastating impact on the environment. Inspired to reduce the staggering amount of trash that was polluting our landfills and oceans, she sought out alternatives, which ultimately led her to create the company’s first Waste-Free Lunch Kit in 2008. As an original team member for the launch and positioning of the contemporary retail furniture company Design Within Reach, Chance appreciates sustainably designed and carefully curated products that last a lifetime. Her original interest in protecting the planet has grown into a lifestyle of reusing more, wasting less and raising awareness about the growing movement to reduce single-use plastic.
4&5. Mackenzie Feldman and Bridget Gustafson, Herbicide-Free UC
Mackenzie Feldman and Bridget Gustafson founded the Herbicide-Free Cal campaign in 2017 as undergraduates at UC Berkeley. Feldman, who is from Hawaii, a state with a long history of herbicide and pesticide abuse, and Gustafson, who lost her twin brother to cancer in 2013, began by working to ban glyphosate, a known carcinogen from the area around the Cal beach volleyball courts. Ultimately they created a campus-wide campaign to eliminate the use of all toxic herbicides from the grounds. Herbicide-Free UC has now expanded across the UC system and Feldman and Gustafson have teams of student activists working to prevent the use of toxins at UC Davis, UCLA, and UC Riverside. As leaders the duo understands that pesticides and herbicides disproportionately affect some of our country’s most vulnerable populations: youth and farm workers. Their ultimate goal is to bring the conversation about the dangers of pesticides and herbicides to the national level, across all campuses and institutions.
6. Daniela V. Fernandez, Founder & CEO, Sustainable Ocean Alliance
At the young age of 19, Daniella Fernandez founded Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) from a college-room idea. Five years later, she has built SOA into a global organization that is cultivating and accelerating innovative solutions to protect and sustain the health of the ocean. SOA has created the world’s largest network of young ocean leaders – through establishing a presence in over 135 countries and launching the world’s first Ocean Solutions Accelerator to support ocean startups to develop technological solutions that can address the greatest threats facing our planet. SOA has pledged to accelerate 100 ocean technology startups by 2021.
7. Josh Fryday, NorthBay Climate Action Summit/Novato City Councilmember
Josh Fryday, who joined the Novato City Council in 2015, has helped establish the city’s leadership in sustainability and climate action across the region. Joining more than 140 other cities across the United States, the Novato council signed a letter to endorse making the transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy. While serving in Novato’s rotating mayoral seat, Fryday oversaw dozens of significant environmental initiatives and worked with environmental leaders such as Congressman Jared Huffman to orchestrate and host the North Bay Climate Summit, convening over 100 environmental leaders and activists. “We have an obligation to our children to take action on climate and ensure we have a healthy community and a sustainable economy,” says Fryday whose experience as an environmental activist was central to his resume when he ran for City Council. Fryday serves as President of Golden State Opportunity, working to provide financial security to low-income working people throughout California. Prior to his current position, he served as Chief Operating Officer (COO) for NextGen Climate, founded by Tom Steyer, a leading national organization focused on climate change and clean energy.
8. Christine Gardner, EWG Board Member and Environmental Activist
As a board member of the Environmental Working Group, Christine Gardner has lobbied for legislative efforts concerning GMOs, the Farm Bill and the Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act. She also supported the launch of EWGVerified, the organization’s new safety certification seal for the personal care products industry. Since 2006, Christine has been a devoted ambassador for environmental health education, advocacy and innovation. As the founder of moregreenmoms in San Francisco, she is a frequent speaker at schools, organizations and events, sharing her insights about how to understand and eliminate the impact of harmful toxins in our households, companies and campuses. She was a co-creator of Eco-Councils at her children’s schools and former chair of the Bay Area Green Schools Alliance, working to promote sustainable practices in private and public schools throughout the Bay Area. Christine is a member of the Advisory Board for the Stanford University Woods Institute for the Environment, where her focus is on encouraging research and innovation to support the de-toxification of American society, as well as vulnerable communities throughout the world.
9. Anthony G. Khalil, Community Engagement Director, Literacy for Environmental Justice, SF
A son of first generation immigrants, born and raised in the Santa Cruz Mountains and San Francisco, Anthony Khalil has worked with youth and communities of color in the San Francisco Bay Area and is one of a few environmental educators and field-based biologists of color. During his tenure at Literacy for Environmental Justice and other local organizations, he has conducted environmental education and restoration programs for Bay Area residents over the past two decades, fostering increased community and youth stewardship of Southeast San Francisco natural areas. Khalil has also presented at numerous conferences and youth-serving agencies on the topics of race and the environment and the imperative of cultural relevance. Sharing a background and experience similar to that of the youth and communities he serves, Khalil possesses the ability to connect and mentor in a manner that promotes and fosters a deeper connection and commitment to our collective natural heritage. Khalil earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice from San Francisco State University.
10. Anna Lappe, Author and Activist, Diet for a Hot Planet
Anna Lappé is a national bestselling author, a renowned advocate for sustainability and justice along the food chain, and an advisor to funders investing in food system transformation. A James Beard Leadership Awardee, Anna is the co-author or author of three books on food, farming, and sustainability and the contributing author to thirteen others. Anna’s work has been translated internationally and featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, Oprah Magazine, among many other outlets. One of TIME magazine’s “eco” Who’s-Who, Anna is the founder or co-founder of three national organizations and currently co-directs Real Food Media. Anna also works closely with philanthropic leaders and created the Food & Democracy grant-making initiative of a family foundation in California. Anna’s research on food and farming systems has taken her to more than 25 countries and 100 U.S. cities and her TEDx talks have been screened more than 1 million times. Anna regularly speaks to audiences around the world, from food-focused fundraisers at Sotheby’s to lecture halls at universities and global food conferences with leading advocates and entrepreneurs.
11. Purba Mukerjee, UC Berkeley Environmental Law Clinic
Purba Mukerjee is a lawyer and teaching fellow in UC Berkeley’s Environmental Law Clinic, an in-house law office at UC Berkeley that focuses on environmental justice and environmental health. At the Clinic, Purba deploys both her graduate training in organic chemistry and her law degree in fighting to protect people and the planet from toxic chemicals. Her work includes pushing for federal regulation of harmful synthetic chemicals and advocating for stringent standards limiting coastal contamination from offshore drilling disasters and oil spills.
12. Loren Poncia, Stemple Creek Ranch, Sustainable Agriculture and Carbon Farming
Loren Poncia of Stemple Creek Ranch is a 4th generation Marin County organic rancher who has redefined small-scale family ranching. He is also one of the West’s leading “carbon farmers.” Poncia started Stemple Creek Ranch with the dream of raising quality, grass-finished beef and lamb to work with, not against, mother nature. A graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, with a major in Dairy Science and Ag Business, Loren always dreamed of coming back to the ranch to pursue his passion in agriculture. His ranch had the first carbon farm plan in the U.S. and Loren is proud to be part of the Marin Carbon Project. As a trailblazing carbon farmer, Loren uses land management techniques that increase the rate at which carbon is absorbed from the atmosphere and stored in soils, an agricultural approach that scientists believe will greatly mitigate climate change.
13. Leila Salazar-Lopez, Amazon Watch
Since 2015 Leila Salazar-Lopez has served as the Executive Director of Amazon Watch, leading the organization in its work to protect and defend the bio-cultural and climate integrity of the Amazon rainforest by advancing indigenous peoples’ rights, territories, and solutions, including solar for energy, communications and transport in the Amazon. For 20+ years Leila has worked to defend the world’s rainforests, human rights, and the climate through grassroots organizing and international advocacy campaigns at Amazon Watch, Rainforest Action Network, Global Exchange, and Green Corps. She is a Greenpeace Voting Member and a Global Fund for Women Advisor for Latin America.
14. Paul Tasner, PulpWorks
For the past decade, Paul Tasner’s focus has been on sustainability. Co-founder and CEO of PulpWorks and, more recently, Co-founder of Sort, Tasner has more than 40 years of operations experience, having held leadership positions in ventures ranging from start-up to Fortune 100. Seven years ago, Tasner embraced the challenge of disrupting the traditional packaging industry. Appalled by the amount of plastic pollution on our planet and no longer content to accept the dangers of plastic packaging materials, he founded PulpWorks and set out to create safe, eco-friendly packaging for consumer products. PulpWorks uses paper and agricultural waste to mold compostable packaging and thereby diminish the waste deposited in our landfills, waterways and oceans. In 2016, PulpWorks was awarded a patent for their Karta-Pack™ – a compostable replacement for the toxic plastic blister pack. Paul was selected as a TED Resident in 2017. His TED Talk on sustainability, entrepreneurism and ageism has been seen by more than 2 million viewers and translated into 28 languages.
15. Kathy Wall, Household Hazardous Waste Program Manager, Marin Recycling and Resource Recovery
Sometimes called “The Toxic Lady,” in reference to her leadership in the management and reduction of toxic waste, Marin’s Household Hazardous Waste program Manager Kathy Wall has always been interested in working on key environmental causes. Growing up in Bogota, Colombia and traveling through her home country helped her build a profound awareness of the significant environmental impact caused by human activities. She earned a degree in Environmental Engineering from Universidad El Bosque, Colombia. Since then, Kathy has had the opportunity to work for various non-profit organizations, government agencies and private companies implementing and overseeing waste reduction programs, both in Colombia, and California. Kathy is also involved with the North American Hazardous Materials Management Association (NAHMMA) where she is the treasurer for the California Chapter. She will be graduating from the San Rafael Chamber Leadership Institute in June 2019 and hopes to share the skills she learned with her colleagues and mentor others.
16. Miranda Wang, CEO, BioCellection Inc
Miranda Wang is an entrepreneur, environmental advocate, and inventor. She is the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of BioCellection Inc, an innovation company that turns unrecyclable plastic waste into valuable chemicals. With BioCellection, she brings together key stakeholders in the waste management and recycling space, jurisdictions, and corporations seeking improved sustainability to solve the plastic pollution crisis. She has raised over $3M in investments from funders such as The City of San Jose, GreenWaste Recovery, Schmidt Marine Technology Partners, Carl and Barbara Page, and Elemental Excelerator. She is a Forbes 30 Under 30, CNN “Tomorrow’s Hero,” one of New York Times’ 30 Visionaries with the Courage to Change the World, Echoing Green Climate Fellow, a United Nations Young Champion of the Earth, Pritzker Environmental “Genius” Prize Winner, and winner of the Wharton Business Plan Competition, the Westly Prize, and the CITEO Circular Challenge International grand prize (2018). Miranda was a TED 2013 and VERGE 2016 speaker.
17. Marv Zauderer, ExtraFood
Marv Zauderer founded ExtraFood, a county-wide food recovery program rescuing excess fresh food for Marin’s most vulnerable people and, in five years, has prevented more than 222,586 pounds of methane from warming our planet. After a 20-year career in technology, initially in R&D and then in Sales &Marketing, at such companies as Apple, he became a licensed psychotherapist for 14 years before devoting himself full-time to ExtraFood. Marv was one of five people in the SF Bay Area to receive the 2017 Silver Jefferson Award for Public Service, and also received the Pacific Sun’s 2014-15 Hero of Marin award for Innovation for his work leading ExtraFood. Marv is a member of the Marin Food Policy Council and the Drawdown: Marin Executive Committee, has testified to the U.S. Congress’ National Commission on Hunger, was an invited attendee at Harvard University‘s inaugural 2016 Food Recovery Entrepreneurs Workshop, and was on the Steering Committee for Harvard’s Food Recovery Entrepreneurs Workshop and U.S. Food Waste Summit in 2018.