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Jessica Jones: Sustainability Advocate, ASB President and Local Superhero

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Jessica Jones: Sustainability Advocate, ASB President and Local Superhero

Award-winning ASB President Jessica Jones listens to speakers at a conference.

Award-winning ASB President Jessica Jones listens to speakers at a conference.

Joseph Barkoff / Oak Leaf

Award-winning ASB President Jessica Jones listens to speakers at a conference.

Joseph Barkoff / Oak Leaf

Joseph Barkoff / Oak Leaf

Award-winning ASB President Jessica Jones listens to speakers at a conference.

Tara Kaveh, Staff Writer

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For more than 40 years, concealed by the dark, a factory called Remco dumped toxic waste into the water supplies of Willits each night. Inside each home on a certain street in the town, residents fought different types of cancer.

The mother, grandmother and relatives of Santa Rosa Junior College ASB President Jessica Jones were all affected by the environmental injustice that shook the lives of every resident of Willits, a town about an hour and a half north of Santa Rosa.

Water supply contamination not only caused immediate damage to the local environment and the residents’ health but also to generations that followed. The irrevocably destructive tragedy brought Jones an awareness to the importance of environmental protection and sustainability. She spends every day working toward one goal: sustainability in our community.

Jones attended high school at Summerfield Waldorf School in Santa Rosa. While researching her senior thesis project she read a book “Silent Spring” about the effects of pesticides. “That’s when the sustainability bug bit me,” Jones recalled.

With her interest in sustainability she began volunteering at Laguna Farms in Sonoma. While working on the farm, she noticed that they had no real compost program. She decided creating one would not only be a stellar senior project, but improve sustainability. With some physical help from her parents, Jones carefully created structured wooden boxes to collect all compostable garbage from the crops to convert them to fertilizer. The system made it possible for a farm that delivers fresh crops weekly to about 500 local residents to produce zero waste.

The project lasted about a year and a half and spread worm composting to other local farms and schools. Jones was contracted to build about 30 of the special bins and asked to teach workshops on composting. “I just checked out every book I could find on composting from the library,” she said.

While Jones was volunteering, chance brought Douglas Gayeton to the farm. Gayeton noticed her sustainability work and offered her an internship dealing with his project: The Lexicon of Sustainability. He wanted to create a dictionary of sustainability words that included photographs and background on the pioneers of each field. Jones’ internship involved researching pioneers of sustainability from around the world and contacting them for interviews. Her research helped Gayeton compile his Lexicon of Sustainability. This work is currently being converted to a PBS TV show and a series of children’s books.

Although qualified to attend a four-year university, Jones chose to begin classes at SRJC after graduating high school in 2008 because she didn’t feel ready to jump into the world of a big university (her Waldorf graduating class had about 20 students) and hadn’t decided what she wanted to study. She enrolled concurrently in a four-year Waldorf teaching certificate program to pursue a teaching degree while preparing to transfer to a four-year university and obtain an AA degree.

After one semester, Jones decided that she wanted to help make SRJC more environmentally friendly and aware by creating the Students for Sustainable Communities Club (SSCC). The club developed rapidly, holding events like the March for Sustainability and the Climate March, while also creating programs to make SRJC more sustainable.

One of SSCC’s greatest contributions was its project to develop a recycling system on campus. The club began by creating a “green squad” that stood in front of the new recycling bins in the Bertolini Student Center to educate students about how to manage their waste. Club members designed waste diagrams that showed students how to separate recyclables and waste. The club set up waste audits to collect enough data to be able to determine how to best develop the school’s waste programs.

In 2010, the SSCC received the Best Practice Award at the Higher Education Sustainability Conference. “We became a network of teachers and students wanting one thing: for SRJC to become more sustainable,” Jones said.

In 2010, Jones was also elected SRJC’s Associated Students Vice President. SSCC continued its events and programs like Carefree Car Free Day, 10/10/10 Festival and the Wheel of Sustainability; but by 2011, most of the members of the club began transferring to universities. Jones questioned her teaching plans and felt drawn to further study in the environmental field. She noticed a common certificate from the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy pinned on all of the walls and bulletin boards of her mentors’ rooms. She decided it would be a good step to sign up for the program herself.

The Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy is only in Santa Rosa and holds programs that teach people to create an environmentally-friendly public policy that is socially equitable and economically viable. SRJC teacher Katie Gerber entered the program at the same time as Jones, and they paired together to develop the project they needed to complete the course.

They also researched the Talloires Declaration, a declaration for sustainability signed in 1900 in Talloires, France. The declaration was created for university heads to provide resources for their institutions to respond to environmental challenges. Gerber and Jones tailored a declaration for SRJC sustainability based on the Talloires Declaration.

For the declaration to have any effect, former SRJC President Dr. Agrella had to sign it. His signature required approval from the board. Over just three months, Gerber and Jones went to the 17 committees that constitute the district board and convinced a unanimous decision of support for Dr. Agrella’s signature.

Shortly after, Jones became ASB President in 2012. One of her first actions was creating an ASB position, VP of Sustainability. She then worked with WeGo Sonoma to partner with SRJC to develop a carpool program tailored towards Sonoma County college students. Jones is currently still working with WeGo Sonoma as well as doing projects such as collecting data for an overall school sustainability template to determine what new directions to take. She also hopes to help create a sustainability manager position for the SRJC board.

Along with her work as ASB President, Jones recently completed her Waldorf Teaching Certification and hopes to obtain her AA in Environmental Sciences before transferring to a four-year university in Fall of 2014 to pursue environmental policy. Jones’ top choice schools [Stanford, UC Berkeley and UC Davis] match her ambitious and scholarly personality perfectly. Jones is working passionately to become an environmental attorney to one day bring environmental and social justice to those affected by the damage in Willits. Lucky for us, this environmental superhero lives right in our hometown.

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Jessica Jones: Sustainability Advocate, ASB President and Local Superhero