What do you remember being a strength or influential aspect of the Leaders in Sustainability Program during your masters or PhD program?
“The Leaders in Sustainability Program challenged and broadened my views of sustainability, enabling me to have meaningful conversations with academic and professional colleagues who don’t necessarily share my progressive viewpoint. Prior to LiS, I was a passionate environmentalist and social justice organizer who believed that by educating and mobilizing citizens to meaningfully participate in government, we would build grassroots power to create more healthy, equitable and sustainable communities. While I still hold these beliefs as a newly minted Masters of Public Health graduate, interacting with students and faculty with diverse backgrounds and views about sustainability helped me to value more mainstream and economically-framed solutions that I hadn’t before considered. I learned that “going green” is not just about reducing our individual and societal eco-footprint, but partnering with businesses and governments to “green” their products, chemicals, technologies and regulatory frameworks.”
What are you doing now and how does it relate to the 3 pillars of sustainability (economic vitality, environmental sustainability, and social equity)?
“While at UCLA, I worked part-time at the Liberty Hill Foundation on an environmental health and justice policy campaign, and was fortunate to land a full-time job after graduation. I’m now working half time with Liberty Hill and half time with East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, helping communities in Boyle Heights, Pacoima, Wilmington and Commerce to establish “Green Zones” that comprehensively unite the 3 pillars of sustainability. The policy aims to transform LA communities that are most impacted by industrial pollution into vibrant and healthy places for families to live, while creating healthier local business climates with streamlined permitting processes and better access to business support programs. A short video about the Clean Up Green Up Campaign, aired last February on www.kcet.org
How have you used your training or your network from UCLA’s LiS program in advancing your goals and career?
“I’m grateful to LiS for introducing me to faculty in other departments who specialize in my nterest surrounding the impacts of climate change on health. In fact, when I realized that a class wasn’t offered on climate change and health, I actually got to work with Urban Planning Professors Richard Jackson and Stephen Commons to create a new class on that topic, which was a huge personal achievement! Meanwhile, my new appreciation fostered by LiS for sustainable business practices has rewarded my career many times over. For example, I co-researched a Liberty Hill’s Guide to Green: A directory of financial and technical assistance programs for businesses in the City of Los Angeles, and helped our campaign to secure over 225 business endorsements– which helped us to win a policy victory at City Hall just last May!”
Cassie Gardner, MPH, LiS Class of 2012
Environmental Health and Justice Program Manager, Liberty Hill Foundation Research and Policy Analyst, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice