Ana Garcia Doyle’s passion for environmental work was sparked while she and her husband were living temporarily in Switzerland. The Swiss lifestyle was eye-opening and, initially, a bit frustrating. She and her husband were so indoctrinated to American hyper-consumerism that they kept thinking they could “fix” Switzerland’s lack of efficiency.
“We couldn’t believe that we had to go to one store for groceries, another store for meat, and another for flowers. It was maddening at first. I mean, where was the Costco? But we came to realize that the Swiss are relational beings — and the visits with the grocer, the butcher and the florist became welcome parts of our lifestyle. We had to detox from the pressure of American life,” said Garcia Doyle, a former professional digital marketer.
Her experience in Switzerland reminded her of the importance of community, a value rooted in her childhood. The daughter of Filipino immigrants, Garcia Doyle grew up in Chicago surrounded by extended family, many of whom followed her parents to America. As one of the eldest of 26 first cousins, she served as the family’s unofficial “ate” or big sister.
“From the moment I was born, I was in charge. I was a consummate consensus builder. That piece of my persona has motivated me to be a community organizer,” said Garcia Doyle.
The birth of her first child more than 20 years ago intensified her interest in the environment. She made organic, pesticide-free baby food and felt the weight of ensuring that her daughter had the chance to explore the simple joys of nature the way she had as a child.
When her children were young, she was active in promoting sustainability in their schools, starting with the creation of a “green team” at their Montessori school. She worked with a group of Beye Elementary School parents, with guidance from Seven Generations Ahead, to co-write an application resulting in a $110,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to fund sustainability initiatives at District 97 schools, including the conversion to zero-waste lunchrooms.
She and her husband also tackled the external and internal renovation of their historic home. The LEED Gold-certified home has energy-efficient insulation, windows and lighting, solar panels, a geothermal heating and cooling system, rain-harvesting system, and native plantings. The home was selected as one of three sites in Illinois to pilot a greywater reuse system, recycling water from their bathtub and shower for flushing toilets.
Garcia Doyle helped launch the One Earth Film Festival in 2012 to generate awareness of climate issues and get people excited about taking action against climate change. The festival intentionally uses storytelling to connect with people’s lives — and, as Garcia Doyle says, to engage their heads, hearts and hands. Now considered the Midwest’s premier environmental film festival, the annual program screens films at venues throughout the Chicago area and attracts viewers from around the world.
In 2017, Garcia Doyle had an epiphany while listening to a radio program featuring Michelle Alexander, civil rights lawyer and author of “The New Jim Crow.” Alexander repeatedly used the word “disposable” when referring to the way people treat others, particularly people of color. Garcia Doyle made the connection between the way we think of people and the planet as disposable, and the relationship between racial and environmental justice.
“We need to view each other through a zero-waste lens, believing that all of us have value,” she said.
In an effort to bridge the equity and ecology movements, One Earth Collective sponsors youth programs in the Austin neighborhood, in partnership with BUILD, an organization serving Chicago’s at-risk youth, and in Pilsen, a Hispanic community on Chicago’s near south side. The programs teach young people about urban gardening and healthy cooking while helping them develop leadership skills.
Two decades after her initial foray into sustainability, Garcia Doyle’s interest in the environment, equity and community organizing has come full circle. She is determined to leave a smaller footprint on the planet and do all she can to ensure a more resilient future.
“There are many ways to shift your thinking, and then, hopefully, shift your living. The goal is to keep moving forward,” she said.
Friends and admirers of Ana
“Ana Garcia Doyle’s involvement in Oak Park’s sustainability plans ensures that they are more equitable and inclusive of populations that are most affected by climate change. Anti-racist sustainability action plans require intentional involvement of marginalized voices and leaders like Ana who will hold decision makers accountable for making sure that happens.”
Vicki Scaman, Oak Park village president
“The creative energy Ana has brought to One Earth Collective over the past 11 years has helped the organization grow its impact from Oak Park and River Forest to the broader Chicago region and now nationally. She is intentionally inviting voices of color to take center stage, helping the larger environmental movement understand the perspectives of dynamic environmental justice leaders. One Earth Collective is also mentoring new leaders and connecting people across racial, social and environmental systems, making all justice movements more powerful.”
Laurie Casey, Marketing director, One Earth Collective
“Everyone should have an Ana in their life. She has the unique talent of bringing everyone to the proverbial table, sharing her vision, and making everyone feel a part of the process. She builds bridges, and the relationships she has developed across Chicagoland — from Austin, Little Village, Barrington and Grayslake — have taught us all that we need each other and that all of us have a voice in making the world better and more sustainable.”
Julie Moller, Long-time environmental activist and former River Forest resident
“Ana has been an amazing partner with BUILD. She brought her expertise and network to give youth a chance to understand their power on this earth and how they can contribute to making it better. She is always looking ways to connect youth to environmental issues. We have been extremely grateful for her contribution to the Austin Grown program, providing such rich information and content for our youth while working alongside them to do the work every step of the way!
Carmen Scott Boria, Director of enrichment programs, BUILD, Inc.