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IL: Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins


Congratulations to our May IMPACT Leader of the Month: Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Chief Executive Officer of Green For All. Under her leadership, Green For All has become one of the country’s leading advocates for a clean-energy economy, and one of its most important voices on the intersection of economics and environment.

1.     What inspired you pursue a career in environmental justice?

I grew up in a working-class neighborhood in a little town called Suisun which is in the SF Bay Area.  Although my community was full of love and support, it was a tough place to grow up, in part because it was surrounded by industrial plants and refineries which polluted our air.  Children throughout the neighborhood — including myself — suffered from asthma, yet our parents couldn’t move us to a cleaner and healthier environment simply because they couldn’t afford to.  

I saw up close how poverty and pollution are linked, so rather than saying I pursued a career in environmental justice, you can say that it pursued me. I saw injustice on a daily basis.  And now, I’m really fortunate to be in a position to do something about it.

After years in the labor movement, I got this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become CEO of Green For All, where I dedicate myself to helping build a clean-energy economy, one that both makes our communities cleaner, and creates new jobs — especially for those most in need.

I frequently think back to my upbringing, and work every day to ensure that children and parents don’t have to go through the same experiences that my community did when I was growing up.

2.     What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic and social commitments?

 The key for me and I think most who work in non-profit organizations is to remain focused on why we go to work every day: to help those who are shut out of the rooms where the deals and decisions are made.   Too often, the circles of power get so caught up in who is winning and losing that they forget about the issues facing people in need.  That’s why it’s so important for organizations like Green For All to serve as the voice for forgotten families and fight for their issues.  We can’t leave any communities behind. 

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