Local Environmental Organizations Represented at the Sustainability & Community Engagement Panel

June 18, 2018
A panel of people sitting at a table

The Community Partner Panel

Maddie Wright
Maddie Wright

During Sonoma State's Earth Week, many really cool events took place surrounding sustainability practices. For example, there was a Stuff Swap where students could bring unwanted clothes, shoes, books, and other random goods to exchange for others' items. There was also a campus garden party in which students, staff, and faculty harvested produce, planted, and weeded the campus garden while listening to music and eating food. These types of events are very important in growing sustainability at Sonoma State. However, the Community Partner Panel discussion was an event that grew sustainability in a different way. It created an interest in those that attended to work towards bettering our community and our planet.

The panel started with an introduction of each of the panelists. First Oren Wool from Sustainable North Bay described the conferences that his organization holds. The first conference was in 2006 and they've held one each year, and sometimes more, ever since. This year's theme is "zero waste", meaning in nature there is no waste, human wasting is an action, not a necessity. Next was Nelson Lomeli, the Programs Specialist with Sonoma Clean Power. He talked about how his organization partners with SSU to hire alumni and to network with students at events on campus. Dustin DeMatteo with Daily Acts works with students through JUMP and other student groups at projects throughout Sonoma County. They also host students as interns and volunteers. After graduating from SSU, he started a project called Farmster that works to increase food growing in Sonoma County. Isabel Lopez, the founder of Raizes Collective spoke about how she decided to start her organization because of the lack of people of color in sustainability and environmental organizations in Sonoma County. She further proved the importance of her organization by pointing out that she was the only women of color on the panel. They work with student clubs such as MALCS to create the Women of Color Conference and other programs to include diverse voices into discussions on environmental matters. Petaluma Bounty's Suzi Grady spoke next about their mission of helping the local food systems of Sonoma County function better. They offer education programs and internships for students that often lead to positions on their board. The Sonoma County Water Agency was represented by Keenan Foster. Their relationship with SSU began in the 1970s. Their initiative called the WATERS Collaborative funds student projects and research. They also hire students for summer field work positions.

The panelists' best advice when asked by an environmental studies student, "I'm not sure what I want to do after graduation, how do I figure it out?" was to try volunteering at different organizations, do research into the opportunities in your desired area, and to network whenever possible. They suggested considering what discipline you want to impact the most such as water, wildlife, or plants. Both showed passion for their organizations and sustainability when they described their jobs. Overall I think they made a great impact on the people listening to their panel. If you are interested in working with any of these organizations, check out their websites for ways to get involved, or email the panelists directly!