Sustainable and Just Future Advocates for Environmental Education for Youth

by NYC Food Policy Editor

by Sycamore May and Marissa Sheldon

Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series

Name: Sustainable and Just Future

What They Do: Sustainable and Just Future (SJF) is a nonprofit founded by Gen Z-led advocate, Sage Lenier. The nonprofit evolved from a course called “Solutions for a Sustainable and Just Future” originally developed by Lenier in 2018 and collaboratively updated in the following years at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2023, Lenier launched the nonprofit that is working to increase environmental education for youth. The course and the organization encourage action and change-making among K-12 and university students through four key strategies:

  1. Student-led education initiatives focus on empowering youth to educate their peers.
  2. Student-led advocacy campaigns focus on helping students design their own campaigns advocating for better environmental education at their own schools.
  3. Educator-led curriculum (re)design involves working with educators to establish environmental education programs or to redesign existing programs to make them more actionable and appealing to youth. 
  4. Digital programming allows anyone across the globe to learn about environmental solutions and resources through social media, podcasts, and YouTube videos. 

Food-related solutions and curriculum topics that SJF advocates for include:

  • Food sovereignty: the right to healthy, culturally appropriate, sustainably produced foods 
  • Hydroponics: growing plants in water-based solutions rather than soil
  • Plant-based diets
  • Regenerative agriculture: growing food in a manner that supports nature, climate, and water resources while improving farmers’ profitability
  • Agroecology: a holistic and integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agriculture and food systems
  • Zero waste: a more mindful method of procuring and cooking food without any waste
  • Eating seasonally and locally

How They Do It: The student-led DeCal (Democratic Education at Cal Program) courses at UC Berkeley cover topics not included in the traditional course offerings. Students create and facilitate these courses, and the classes count toward the University’s unit requirements. Through DeCal, Sage Lenier developed the Solutions for a Sustainable and Just Future course in 2018.  Five years after developing the course, Sage launched the nonprofit Sustainable and Just Future based on the framework of the course. The course is still offered at UC Berkeley and is separate from the work of the nonprofit.

SJF, the nonprofit, is more complex and action-oriented than the course alone. The organization engages with K-12 schools and universities across the country to develop curricula and advocate for solutions to environmental concerns. Their most recent partnership is with UC Irvine.

Mission: To make environmental education accessible for the next generation of youth to help them survive and adapt to a climate-changed world.

Latest project/campaign: On September 14, 2023, Sage Lenier represented SJF in a Climate Week event in New York City hosted by Food Tank called “Food and Agriculture as a Solution to the Climate Crisis” (see photo), and on September 18 2023, SJF is launching a partnership with The Clinton Global Initiative, which brings together global leaders to develop solutions to the world’s biggest challenges. Through this partnership, SJF and The Clinton Global Initiative are announcing a Commitment to Action, which includes bringing SJF’s curricula to 35 universities by 2025. SJF is also working on establishing international and national partnerships to develop new ideas for expanding curricula in forthcoming semesters. 

Major Funding: The Clinton Global Initiative and Allstate Foundation

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Budget: Not disclosed

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: Environmental sustainability is directly linked to food systems, because a sustainable food supply depends on a healthy environment in which plants can grow and animals can thrive. 

Since 2018, more than 1,800 UC Berkeley students have enrolled in the SJF course, the majority of whom were not majoring in an environment-related field. However, after taking the course, 71 percent reported that, based on what they had learned, they were planning to get involved with environment-related initiatives. Additionally, 85 percent reported decreasing their personal waste after taking the course and 80 percent shifted their spending habits to support more sustainable businesses.


Location: n/a – operates remotely

Core Programs: Environmental education

Number of staff: 0

Number of volunteers: 25

Areas served: Berkeley, CA (additional programs forthcoming in the spring)

Year Started: 2018

Founder and Executive Director: Sage Lenier

Contact Information: Email: 


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