Effie Turnbull Sanders is the environmental justice commissioner and member of the California Coastal Commission and executive director of the South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z). Before joining a Zócalo/UCLA Downtown panel titled “What Will California’s Coastline Look Like in 2100?,” at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in L.A.’s Little Tokyo, Turnbull Sanders visited the green room and spoke about making stained-glass jewelry boxes with her mother, what she finds relaxing about Bikram Yoga, and her favorite places to eat in South L.A.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the past year?
What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?
When I was a child I had the job of pushing down the foil around stained glass because my mom had a part-time job making stained-glass jewelry boxes. One of my jobs was to push the foil down around the edge.
How did you get into trouble as a kid?
I was like a classic kid that was always extra good, and followed the rules, and got made fun of for following the rules. I was more of a tomboy, what they call now the “modern girl.” I climbed trees, and got dirty, and was extremely competitive in everything I did. That got me into trouble sometimes, because sometimes teachers or others would say girls aren’t supposed to be that forward or that competitive or I should kinda calm down. But it served me well later.
Where and when did you learn how to swim?
At my mom’s college. She went back to college as a single mom, and there was a swimming camp I attended for a week there.
What’s your favorite place to eat in South Los Angeles?
Phillips Bar-B-Que, Ackee Bamboo, and, probably, Flavor Table.
Where do you take out-of-town guests when they come to Los Angeles?
Probably the Baldwin Hills scenic outlook, the Santa Monica Mountains, and, of course, the beach. I love to go to the Annenberg Center, and go back to the beach, and have breakfast. They have a great kids’ jungle gym. You can chill and relax there.
How are you different from who you were 10 years ago?
I probably am less concerned about what other people think about me.
What relaxes you?
I love Bikram Yoga. The actual class is not relaxing but the feeling afterward is. The other thing that’s really relaxing is a long beach walk.
On that note, what Southern California beach could we find you at?
Probably Santa Monica. I’ve been trying to get out early before the Coastal Commission meetings start so that I can actually see what the beach looks like, because sometimes we’re in a hearing room all day, and we don’t even get a chance to see the places. So I made a promise to myself that I’m going to have a coffee, and see the beach at every commission meeting I attend, and just relax a little bit.
When are you at your most resilient?
Probably in defense of my kids, and advocating for them.
What’s one thing the average person can do to help combat climate change?
This is a hard question because it’s twofold: There’s the systemic change part, and there’s personal change. I think starting with making changes at a personal level, like avoiding single-use plastics and products. I like to shop, so I’m convinced that going to shop for vintage clothing is the way to reduce my carbon footprint.
On the systems-level, folks need to be more engaged in the way we purchase en masse fuel that has a high carbon footprint, getting off of fossil fuels, and thinking about the way that budgets are allocated on a state, federal, international level to address those systemwide kinds of changes. And take public transportation, and ride your bikes more.