Jessica Schweifel, Root for Trees Founder

Jessica Schweifel

Here's an organization any nature loving urban dweller can support: Root for Trees. In a city where storefronts, sky rises and sooty, gray streets seem to dominate, the New York City non-profit uses art and other creative campaigns to raise environmental awareness--through trees. The gorgeously green, oxygen rich gems that are so needed yet so lacking here in the concrete jungle.

Jessica Schweifel, a once buyer in the fashion industry, made an eco-cool career change--committing herself to conserving the urban forest by founding Root for Trees. She's also a life coach, having graduated from The Ford Institute for Integrative Coaching at J.F.K. University. As Jessica puts it, her work as a Life Coach and her activism are steeped in the same goal- to elevate our collective consciousness one person at a time, one tree at a time, one choice at a time.

Planet Green: How did you get into this line of work?

Jessica Schweifel: It's been an organic evolution of my own growth as a human being. The more deeply aware I become of myself, the more aware I become of my connection to nature, plants and animals alike, so a call to action was an inevitable occurrence.

PG: What was your "a-ha" moment?

JS: A few summers ago, I thought that it would be awesome if NYC provided tree identification for the street trees. I was hungry to learn more about trees and nature in general. The "a-ha" moment came when I realized that this is not a time to wait on others to make important changes; that this is a time for taking action. The seed of that idea for signage was in my hands and it was up to me to plant it!

PG: Who is your green hero?

JS: I have a couple. Paul Hawken, for being a brilliant entrepreneur and an amazing leader in this eco-revolution, and Alice Waters for having a simple and profound message about food, life, living well, and the planet that connects it all.

PG: What is your ultimate green goal?

JS: To continue making the necessary adjustments in my life in order to serve the greatest good, and inspiring others to do the same, one-step at a time. This summer I plan to start composting.

PG: What is your motivation?

JS: I'm motivated by my love for this gorgeous planet and the un-ease I have regarding its current state of health. I feel a strong call to action and honestly, my inner peace depends partly on my level of service. I do not feel at ease if I'm not taking on my responsibility as one of the earth's stewards.

PG: What is most important to you, ecologically speaking?

JS: Shifting people's perception of nature so that when they see a tree they see another living being and not just a static object.

PG: What is the most challenging part of your job?

JS: Raising money! I think most non-profits would agree that fundraising is one of the biggest challenges we face. But challenges are fun, so bring it on!

PG: What is the most rewarding?

JS: Making a thoughtful choice. Knowing that I'm making a fair, low impact choice in life feels really good.

PG: Of the people you have worked with, who impresses you most?

JS: I'm always impressed by how many people are doing good in the world. There are countless groups and organizations based in NYC alone, and that inspires me a lot!

PG: What green thing do you do everyday?

JS: I recycle everyday, and when the weather permits I like to ride my bicycle everywhere. Also, I consciously consider my consumption. Ha. That's a new tongue twister I'm coining to teach children about conscious choices.

PG: What do you wish you could do?

JS: I wish I could do everything! I wish I could work for every cause but I believe that we are each called to action in our own unique way, and if we all look to see where we are being called to, every area would be covered.

PG: What is your biggest eco-sin?

JS: My biggest eco-sin is excessively taking taxis and car services--especially during the cold months (I grew up in Miami). Door-to-door service becomes addictive for me so I have to catch myself when I fall off the mass transit wagon. I can feel the shame of it as we speak!

PG: If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

JS: I think we would operate differently as a people if we really knew how much each of us mattered, and how much the earth needs each one of us. So if I could change one thing I would remove all human suffering because I honestly believe that our painful sense of separateness is what keeps us from seeing the greater whole.

PG: What is your best green advice?

JS: Just be mindful. Know that every choice you make is either propelling us toward a happier and healthier future, or keeping us stuck in the past and depleting our vital resources. Simply- choose wisely, every choice counts.

Change Makers is series of interviews with people famous and obscure who are creating a more sustainable world through their work. Meet more Change Makers here.