Oral Histories

Interview of Julia Russell

Founder and executive director of Eco-Home Network. Founding member of the Eco-Cities Council.
Environmental Activism in Los Angeles
Social Movements
Environmental Movement
Biographical Note:
Founder and executive director of Eco-Home Network. Founding member of the Eco-Cities Council.
Collings, Jane
Russell, Julia
Persons Present:
Russell and Collings.
Place Conducted:
Russell's home in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Jane Collings, interviewer and senior editor, Center for Oral History Research. B.A., Communications, Antioch College; M.A., Communications, University of Iowa; Ph.D., Critical Studies, UCLA.Collings prepared for the interview by reviewing material supplied by Russell about the Eco-Home Network, as well as reviewing and published materials on the sustainable living environmental movement.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Russell was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a number of corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
4.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The series documents environmental activism in the Los Angeles area from the 1970s through to the present day. The majority of interviews are with either founders or knowledgeable participants in major regional environmental organizations. Represented groups embody a wide range of issues, including conservation, restoration, environmental justice and toxic waste disposal.Additional partially processed interviews are available through Library Special Collections.
Early life—Early love of the outdoors—Russell’s parents—Travels as a child—More on early love of the outdoors—Environmental degradation—Difficulties adjusting to life in New York City as a teenager—Attends Bennington College—College cooperative work experience—Suffers from low self esteem while at college—Interest in commercial art—Meets future husband—Parents interest in political debate—Russell’s deep opposition to the Vietnam war and to the Iraq war—Travels to Europe on an extended honeymoon—Husband’s early writing career—Suffers from depression while living in New York City—Takes great pleasure in the birth of a first child—Russell’s husband’s sense of humor—Russell and husband move to Los Angeles—Fascination with Los Angeles landscape and vegetation—First home in L.A. —Russell’s divorce—Efforts to achieve an environmentally sustainable lifestyle—Takes an interest in organic gardening—Ex-husband’s financial support makes Eco-Home possible—Participates in a women’s group—The beginning of Russell’s interest in environmentalism.
More on efforts to achieve an environmentally sustainable lifestyle—Participates in a parent-run alternative school—An emerging passion for gardening—Participation as a peace activist against US involvement in Vietnam—A tyrannical boss at a peace organization becomes the inspiration for developing Eco-Home—More on efforts to achieve an environmentally sustainable lifestyle—Efforts to work with the people collecting recyclables from city trash bins—Awareness of the toxicity of the manufacture, use and disposal of household cleaning substances—Awareness of commercially grown foods—Russell’s decision to reduce water consumption in her life—Attends horticulture and native plant classes at UCLA—Designs a Xeriscape on her property—More on attending horticulture and native plant classes at UCLA—Membership in environmental groups— More on designing a Xeriscape on her property—Engages in consciousness research—Eco-Home as an embodiment of Russell’s effort to create a lifestyle in sync with her values—Ways that environmental activism can tend to focus outside of selves for outlining the problem—Briefly considers living in an environmentally focused community—Russell’s view that environmental movement is a manifestation of the hybridization of European and Native American cultures—Begins publication of newsletter Ecolution —The beginnings of the Eco-Home Network—Works with the City of Los Angeles on a recycling effort—Participates in the struggle against the LANCER incinerator project in South Central Los Angeles—Formation of the Eco-Home Network group—Begins to grow food—A revelation spurs a commitment to protect the natural world—Invites the public to come to Eco-Home and learn about sustainable living—Water conservation and energy efficient systems at Eco-Home.
Ecolution newsletter—More on working with the City of Los Angeles on a recycling effort—City’s recycling program cuts out the people who would “harvest” the trash—Russell’s concern about an abandonment of the home as a function of the feminist movement—Challenges to Russell’s approach during Eco-Home tours—The importance of an environmental approach to environmental education—Outreach to Mujeres de la Tierra—Projected outreach to the Spanish-speaking community on the part of the Eco-Home Network—Eco-Home Network board—Forms Eco-Home Network as a nonprofit organization—An up-tick in public interest in environmentalism in the late eighties due to media coverage of the issue—The publicity produced by Heal the Bay and TreePeople —Media coverage in the eighties of environmental issues prompts visits to Eco-Home by the public—The opening of Eco-Home in 1988—Tours work to build a constituency for the Eco-Home Network—Media coverage for the Eco-Home tours—Russell’s increasing awareness of sustainable urban planning—Participates in the planning of the First Los Angeles Eco-City Conference—Obstacles to adapting a sustainable lifestyle—Public feedback to the tours—The slow pace of cultural change with regard to awareness of environmental issues—Eco-Home Network’s Sustainable Urban Living Award—Eco-Home Network’s production of a tour of solar homes—Support to the Eco-Home Network from government agencies and private business—Dorothy Green—An effort to begin Corporate Friends of Eco-Home in order to gather financial contributions—The Eco-Home Network board—The skills to start and to steward an organization—A solar-powered fan at Eco-Home—Russell’s neighborhood as a suitable setting for achieving sustainable living—Lois Arkin as a mentor.