Living The Green Life at San Quentin

Written by: Maritza Martinez, Fellows Program Manager

Imagine you’re imprisoned, in solitary confinement with no human contact. But you are able to find solace in a single tree in the prison yard—a living thing that doesn’t judge you. 

One man at San Quentin State Prison describes how his experience of nature provided a connection to something outside of himself and got him through a bleak time.

Today, that man is part of The Green Life at San Quentin, a sustainability and self-sufficiency program started by a group of incarcerated men who wanted to understand the impact they were having on the environment, reconnect to themselves and each other, and  transform the way they live on the earth.

Green For All Fellow Pandora Thomas has spent the past three years working with colleague Angela Sevin and others to design and expand the program.

Pandora is driven by a strong belief that in order to protect our planet, we need to engage everyone—and that everyone needs to feel connected and understand how environmental problems affect them personally.

Since she started volunteering with the Green Life program, she’s seen its participants grow as leaders—teaching their peers what they learn and experience through the program in order to improve themselves and their community. The course inspires accountability and honesty on all levels, rebuilding the men’s integrity and self-esteem, and enabling them to move toward a life of positive contribution and service to society.

Green For All is proud to have invested in Pandora and The Green Life San Quentin through our Fellows Fund.

The team at Green Life has also grown - learning how to effectively to teach to different audiences and work with a population that has very restricted access to resources and limited autonomy. This pilot program has been so successful that now Green Life is expanding to offer a college-credit sustainability class within San Quentin. Now program leaders are working to build a library that will help other prisoners learn about sustainability and community leadership.

You can help! There are three priorities for The Green Life right now:

  1. Finalizing the sustainability curriculum and raising funds to pay educators.
  2. Hosting the first-ever green festival inside San Quentin. You can help by donating money, time or materials.
  3. Building a Green Library within the prison. Please donate your books!

You can send donations to:

The Green Life
616 Paloma Road
El Sobrante, CA 94803

Checks should be made to: Land Empowerment Animals People (Green Life’s fiscal sponsor). For more information, please contact

Invest in more local leaders like Pandora by donating to the Fellows Fund.

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