Q+A with Evan Marks

Evan Marks is the Founder and Director of The Ecology Center. Located in San Juan Capistrano, California, The Ecology Center is a non-profit eco-education center focused on creative solutions for thriving on planet Earth. As a passionate surfer with a background in permaculture and agroecology, Evan is well aware that more ecological food systems provide for healthier Oceans as well as healthier communities. Having worked extensively in California , Hawaii and internationally in Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Ghana and Nigeria, Evan knows that people have the ability to directly impact the environment through individual change. We are honored to have Evan Marks as our newest Creator & Innovator and join us in building Vissla's Sustainability program. You can visit his Creator & Innovator page here.

When did you start The Ecology Center (TEC)?
I started The Ecology Center in 2008.
At this point, I had spent the previous 7 years working and living in Latin America leading ecological design projects of various scales - from a 1,000 acre farm to an ecological hotel, from supporting indigenous communities to designing an eco-village.
I was transitioning to work in West Africa at the time. But instead of diving head first into a model project for Nigeria, I retreated back to Orange County. I had the realization that where I came from, Orange County, needed this work of community and ecological literacy as much as rural farmers in Africa.

What is TEC's mission?
Creative solutions for thriving on planet Earth.
Our work is about connecting people to their neighbors and the beauty that surrounds them. Through design we can reimagine the world around us as abundant, beautiful and delicious. As Buckminster Fuller said, “We are called to be architects of the future, not it’s victims”.

The Center looks like a thriving OC oasis now, but it wasn't in the beginning, right? Tell us how you found TEC's location and what it looked like back then?
We started with an empty 140 year old farm house and dirt lot. Through ecological design we’ve transformed the site into a thriving community oasis.
I ended up at this site thanks to our neighbor, George Kibby. George has been farming this property for the past 20 years. He encouraged me to pitch the City of San Juan Capistrano on my vision of creating The Ecology Center.

What role does educating younger generations play in TEC’s mission?
It’s the core of much of our work, to nourish all children. As a father, I am 100% invested in making our future a better one for our children. What else is there. To get there, we need children to help us design, imagine and rebuild the world around us.

As a surfer, can you tell us a few of the ways TEC is related to surfing and to protecting our coastal environment?
As a surfer I learned that everything we do affects the ocean. Almost always, the effect is negative. I wanted to change that. At 16 I decided to do whatever I could to do what was best for the ocean. Along the way, I learned that agriculture is the number one negative impact on the ocean. That statistic inspired me to do my part to design systems that could nourish us, while nourishing the ocean (and environment).

Like all human activities, the act of surfing has an environmental impact. How can we minimize that impact? Surf more. Focus on having fun. Buy surfboards that will last at least 10 years. Support your local shaper. Beyond surfing and surfboards, our everyday is what makes our oceans healthy. Let’s minimize our impact by being exemplary stewards - surfers becoming conscious outside of the water: Supporting local organic agriculture.
Eliminate single use plastics (bottles and otherwise).
Consume consciously - buy products that last, made with ecological consciousness and built by brands that give a damn.

TEC seems to be all about positive solutions (to the environmental crisis); what are some of the easiest things that we can apply to everyday life at home or our office?
We say, simple solutions make big change. Here’s a few ideas:
Embrace your reusable bottle.
Eat vegetarian at least once a week.
Support local organic agriculture - shop at the farmers market.
Harvest rainwater - eliminating runoff that pollutes our ocean.
Remove your lawn - plant native habit.
Grow food at any scale. Fruit. Veggies. Herbs.
Share something with your neighbors - lemons, cookies, a smile. Community is currency. We’re all in this together.

More specifically, what can surfers do to help find solutions to the threats our oceans and beaches are facing?
Start small. Use less water at home, as all our water resources are connected. Eliminate single use plastics. Only eat sustainable seafood, caught in US waters.
And go big - eliminate the idea of runoff and pollution. To do this, we need to re-design our households - to eliminate waste and runoff, to harvest our precious rainwater resources, to grow food everywhere, and to create habitat for wildlife.

What is the most rewarding thing for you personally - related to your work with TEC?
I have so much joy sharing my passion with our community. To see the many thousands of people turning on to conscious living makes me so happy. The people that gather around our work are amazing.
The future is abundant.

What are some of the upcoming TEC events not to be missed?
Green Feast, September 16. It’s the best farm dinner in SoCal - 200 friends together in the garden celebrating our ecological food community. Every ingredient comes from local organic farmers, fisherman, and winemakers. This year's chefs include; Jennifer Sherman from Chez Panisse, Drew Deckman from Deckman’s en el Mogor, and Carla Malloy.
Also, we’re hosting a weekending with Carla and Chris Malloy - August 26-27. We’ll be showing Chris’ film Unbroken Ground. Carla will be leading a food preservation workshop and a farm dinner. Don’t miss it!

Anything else you’d like to share with us?
I’m stoked on our collaboration. There’s so much potential for Vissla in leading an ecological story and community. All good things!

Visit Evan Marks' Creator & Innovator page. theecologycenter.org
Instagram / @theecologycenter