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Jonathan Zaidman

A one-on-one engagement in sustainability

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Only a few years after earning his bachelor's degree from San Diego State University, Jonathan Zaidman is on the move, promoting sustainability through his nonprofit, The 1:1 Movement.

As the two-year-old organization's executive director, Zaidman's goal is to engage sustainable thinking in the portion of the population not already passionate about conservation. He considers himself both an entrepreneur and advocate, and is a self-described champion of San Diego.

His passion for both conservation and the city brought him back from Washington, D.C., where he was previously an internship program manager at the Foundation to Support Animal Protection. He returned with a new perspective on the sustainability movement, one that focused on the individual instead of blanket advocacy.

"We've kind of moved away from the traditional conversation," he said, that's centered on things like promoting the purchase of electric vehicles, adding solar power to homes or shopping at places like Whole Foods.

To find behavioral changes fitting in with personal lives, the 1:1 Movement has adopted a three-platform approach, with the primary platform being education.

The organization has visited 254 classrooms from kindergarten through 12th grade so far, reaching 9,856 students and facilitating three school gardens. The programs are not lecture-based, but focused on interactive engagement. For the younger crowd, it's mostly about connecting with what he sees as already-present sensitivities.

When children are made a part of the solution when discussing things such as plastic bags or where animals live, "they do really get it," Zaidman said.

At the high school level, there's the organization's Away Project, which provides students with a duffel bag for storing waste from common items. They're challenged to see how many bottles, food bags or other waste items they end up with, how much the items cost and where the packages would have ended up.

Campaigning comes next, as the organization looks to develop "ah-ha" moments in everyday activities.

The group's Last Straw campaign asks bars and restaurants to provide drink straws only upon customer request. Reaction to the endeavor, participated in by 68 restaurants now, has been overwhelmingly positive, Zaidman said. More than 1.2 million straws per year are estimated to be diverted from waste as a result.

"We're not a straw-diversion organization," he added. "But we are an awareness-building organization. It doesn't cost them anything — no infrastructure, no training, no investment."

The final branch of the organization's work is social engagement, highlighted by the group's pair of yearly art shows and what's expected to be its second time hosting the America's Finest Film Festival this year.

The permanent staff at The 1:1 Movement has consisted from the start of Zaidman, Amanda Tatum, director of education, and Josh Robinson, director of the organization's San Diego Sustainable Living Institute. It took about a year of operation to really see public funding support take off, Zaidman said. But now that it has, he expects to add two full-time positions within the year, a multimedia manager and a development director.

A great deal of success has come from 1:1's internship agreements with universities, he added. Last summer, 13 interns fostered the organization's growth. Zaidman is proud that most came from other areas of the country, noting that only three were from San Diego.

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