Rob Nathan

To Rob, Oregon represents home—a place where he is committed to advancing social and environmental equity. Originally from Chicago, Rob grew up in the “‘hood,” where the streets were muddied by industry and trash.

“I saw how people of color were disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation. I recognized the paradigm that I was living—that resource scarcity is tied to poverty, environmental racism, and conservation.”

Rob played an important part in supporting the development of a stronger social equity lens at Oregon Environmental Council as a member of the Emerging Leaders Board from 2012- 2015. As a member, he helped engage younger and more diverse communities, particularly through the fun Get Dirty for Clean Air! fundraising event.

Rob’s passion for environmental justice has also led him to his current work at Metro, the regional government of the Portland metropolitan area. At Metro, he manages the Community Enhancement Grant Program, which provides funding to improve neighborhoods near garbage facilities. He also examines disposal service gaps to our region’s most vulnerable populations to help inform programming offered by Metro’s Regional Illegal Dumping Program.

“When we look at waste on the street, it is a representation of our inefficiencies. We stigmatize poverty and we stigmatize waste. It’s out of sight, out of mind. But if our mental model shifts, we see tons of opportunity.”

Rob also volunteers his time as a board member of the ReBuilding Center, which helps give new life to old building materials while making them affordable.

He appreciates the coalition building that Oregon Environmental Council does across the state. In the future, Rob wants to see the state of Oregon take more risks, investing in communities of color and rural communities.

“In order for us to have a shared vision for Oregon’s future, we have to figure out how everyone feels part of the direction that we are going. I rely on organizations like Oregon Environmental Council to help me realize what’s best for Oregon, and not just for the region.”​


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