Garden educator and sustainability advocate Cindy Villaseñor knows that one person can make a big impact.
Whether it’s because of one memorable class with a college professor or a short conversation with an elementary school student, Cindy appreciates the power of just one action or conversation.
From a low-waste wedding to sustainable camping, Cindy is doing her part to ensure our environment stays as healthy as possible for future generations. When she’s not teaching Los Angeles youth about gardening and sustainability, she loves to explore the National Forests and public lands of California.
Where did your interest in sustainable living originate?
During my last semester at Pasadena City College before transferring to CSU Northridge, I took an environmental science course. The professor really opened my eyes to the problems our environment is facing. And it was during a spring break field trip with that class that my eyes were opened to the impending drought and other challenges in the region.
I remember leaving her class in tears. I was so devastated for the environment. Because of her class, I changed my major and started my journey towards a low-waste lifestyle. Through my time at CSU Northridge, I discovered a love for gardening and teaching which led to my job as a Garden Ranger with EnrichLA.
I know that my individual choices may not make a big impact on our big problems. But I know that each individual action can inspire others.
What does your job as a Garden Ranger include?
I’m essentially a garden teacher. We partner with elementary schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District to not only build gardens at the schools but teach the students as well. We cover seed and flower anatomy as well as lessons about the growing season and composting. Prior to the pandemic we started to incorporate low-waste principles and how it connects to gardening.
What are some easy steps individuals can take towards a sustainable and low-waste lifestyle?
I’d start by taking a look at your trash. Make a tally of what you’re throwing away and see if you can reduce it. For example, instead of getting snacks in plastic, look into bulk snacks or making your own.
Also generally look at what you’re bringing into your home. Do you actually need that? Is it recyclable? Can you repair it?
What are some of your favorite low-waste camping recipes or cooking tips?
One of our staple recipes is a vegan soy chorizo scramble with package-free produce. For a breakfast bowl we’ll add chopped bell peppers, onion, and potatoes with the soy chorizo for a tasty meal.
We try to prep as many food items at home as possible and bring reusable containers. So much camping waste comes from eating and food preparation.
How does spending time in our National Forests and public lands inspire your work?
A few weeks ago, we spent time camping in the San Bernardino National Forest where we had a beautiful meadow and forest view. And while I love being in the garden, when we go to the Forest, it reminds me that not only do I want to continue enjoying this landscape, but I want to make sure children of the future can as well.
Where are some of your favorite places to visit on our National Forests?
I love visiting the Inyo National Forest, specifically exploring all of the high alpine lakes. And while we recently visited the San Bernardino National Forest, I’ve just started to explore the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in the Angeles National Forest. It’s been my backyard for 30 years and I’m just now taking the time to discover the area.