New Citizens’ Greener Evanston leadership fights for intersectionality, community engagement

People+at+a+protest+against+a+gray+sky+holding+signs+against+climate+change

Photo courtesy of Lauren Marquez-Viso

Both co-vice presidents Lauren Marquez-Viso and Chuck Wasserburg said they feel confident in sharing the responsibilities of leading the organization.

Selena Kuznikov, Assistant City Editor

When Rachel Rosner finished her term as president of Citizens’ Greener Evanston this summer, CGE did not select a replacement. Instead, co-vice presidents Lauren Marquez-Viso and Chuck Wasserburg split presidential duties between them. 

CGE, a nonprofit formed in 2008, works with the city, local businesses and community members to address climate change and make Evanston more sustainable. It focuses on helping the city implement its Climate Action and Resilience Plan.

Rosner appreciated the organization’s recent strides toward understanding the intersectionality of the climate crisis and becoming more welcoming. She said Marquez-Viso and Wasserburg pushed the organization to focus on inclusivity and actionable change.

“The sharing of those responsibilities is so smart,” Rosner said. “Collaborative leadership is a wonderful way to move forward, as they each bring such unique skill sets and strengths.”

City Council approved CARP in 2018. The plan calls for achieving carbon neutrality and zero waste by 2050 and 100% renewable electricity by 2030. It identifies critical actions that Evanston needs to take to avoid the damaging effects of climate change as well as key strategies to ensure the city can address impending climate hazards. 

Wasserburg said the presidential role for the organization was originally handed off to him near the beginning of summer, but as a volunteer position, it was a big job to take.

“It was clear that we needed two people to share the weight of it,” Wasserburg said. “You can’t really have two presidents, but you can have two vice presidents who are kind of equally leading.”

As co-vice presidents, Marquez-Viso and Wasserburg said they have taken on the tasks of engaging with the community and organizing volunteer opportunities within CGE, among other responsibilities. 

Marquez-Viso said the job comes with significant responsibility, especially because many board members and volunteers also work full-time jobs. She said she and Wasserburg have found that sharing those responsibilities and spreading the work between them has worked for the organization. 

Rosner said CGE is looking to engage with as many residents as possible in its climate change work. Marquez-Viso agreed that community engagement is extremely important. 

“We’re trying to be a very present advocate at all levels with the city to really be keeping the light on this issue,” Marquez-Viso said. “When the city seems to want to look away, we constantly remind them that they passed a Climate Action and Resilience Plan, and it’s not enough for a plan to just sit on a shelf.”

Wasserburg said since leadership shifted, CGE has been working on being more organized and consistent as a smaller, local organization.

CGE is also a community resource for any information related to the climate, climate change and action, he said. The organization aims to be more consistent in breaking down complicated CARP stipulations and attending City Council. 

Marquez-Viso said board members sit on a CARP implementation task force and continue to stay “plugged in” into city discussions. 

“It’s a hard space to be working in all the time when there’s so much up against you,” Marquez-Viso said. “We need to take care of ourselves and take care of each other in this space because you can’t always be in fight mode. We recognize that slow and steady will win this race.”

Marquez-Viso said finding a new president is not an active priority at the moment, as she and Wasserburg feel that they have worked well together over the past few months in the leadership role. 

Looking toward the next few months, Wasserburg said budget season is crucial for CGE, since City Council will decide how to allocate money toward CARP climate goals. 

“If I get something done as vice president or as president it doesn’t really matter what I’m called, as long as it gets done,” Wasserburg said. “We’re just trying to get things done and we seem to be getting it done this way right now.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @selenakuznikov 

Related Stories: 

Evanston and Chicago climate advocates rally to stop pipelines in Great Lakes

Local activism plays key role in Evanston’s climate leadership, student thesis shows

ETHS students walk out to call for sustainability coordinator, intergenerational advocacy