Josephine Miller is changing the way we live our lives each and every day. Miller a driving force behind implementing plastic bag and Styrofoam bans in Santa Monica, California. In her office, Miller has a picture of a beach covered with plastic bottles, cups and bags to remind her of what she's accomplished. "The city hired me to help clean this up," she said as she pointed at the picture. As daunting as Miller's task was, doubt is one thing that surely never entered her mind.
Miller is a wife and a mother of three children. She has a low cadence to her voice that is anchored in determination and clarity, and a smile that glides across her face when she speaks of her family and her work. She exudes an otherworldly wisdom, and yet has a very earthy, comfortable way of being in herself.
One of the beautiful gifts of Josephine Miller is the ability to build community. She connects people, organizations and businesses to get to an end that will benefit the whole, and she brings to motherhood and her professional life an understanding that we need one another in order to truly thrive. With her significant role as an environmental analyst and activist, Miller admits that she's always thinking about how to accomplish her goals. And she's learned that the one way to succeed is with help. Improving our environment, and creating a sustainable planet, involves the commitment of people across the political and social spectrum. "I have always been very progressive," she says, "but as a city employee I need to show up and do my job." Miller has worked with the California Groceries Association, the chamber of commerce and others representing the interests of business. That is where her community-building skills have been able to shine. "I've learned that it's not about my politics," she says, "it's about showing up to do my work by putting one foot in front of the other." For the achievements Miller has made serving the business community of Santa Monica, she will receive the Chairman's Award on June 12, 2013, an honor given by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce.
Her belief in the power of community is apparent in her parenting. Miller and her husband raised their children in a group of students while he was in graduate school at UCLA. They shared parenting responsibilities with one another and other parents, which included community meals and always having an adult around to look after your child when you needed assistance. "I always needed a community around in order to be able to hand my baby off to someone if I had an emergency meeting to attend," she says warmly. "Many mothers believe it's all up to them to get things done, but my husband and I run our household with a true sense of shared responsibility. He's good at fathering and mothering," she acknowledges.
Now that the ban on plastic bags and other products is in full swing within the city of Santa Monica and quickly catching on in neighboring communities, you can find Miller returning to an early love of hers, food justice and politics. These days she is busy connecting community members with experts like Frances Moore Lappé, the founder of The Small Planet Institute, to create new pathways for food justice and education. As Miller's early training as a chef merges with her work as an environmental analyst, the result will surely be a major shift in the way people shop, farm and eat. Miller believes that eating to sustain the health of humans and the planet a critical issue of our time, and she is a key player in food justice and sustainable eating education. "It doesn't matter whether you are rich or poor, you can benefit from eating locally farmed and raised foods," she says. Miller is a vegan, shopping regularly at her farmers market and promoting the relationships between local organic farmers and the community at large.
Regardless of whether the community is the one in which she lives, or the one in which she works, Miller brings her full self and clarity. "It's not about titles or being a mother; it's about the community and allowing my children to see how I serve so they can do the same in their unique way." Environmental sustainability is Josephine's passion, but it's also her work and the way she lives her life. The good thing is she's not just on her soapbox talking about it. She is truly impacting her environment for the better and teaching her children, friends, business-owners and anyone who will listen, how to do the same.