My name is Tuong Bui.

In my Vietnamese-American neighborhood of City Heights, we deeply feel the impacts of climate change. We struggle with poor air quality and limited transportation options. For so long, I didn’t realize that I could do something about it. 

Tuong EHC

My community needed leaders, so I became one.

When I graduated EHC’s SALTA leadership training in 2014, I felt empowered to use my voice to change my community for the better. I wanted to protect trees, improve air quality and teach people to save energy in City Heights and beyond. These issues felt massive, but I now have the tools to combat them.

Tuong EHC 2

With a donation today, you can help me build grassroots leadership in City Heights.

Your donation to EHC will open the eyes of community members like me, who don’t realize they have the power to make a difference. Please donate today.

Meet Leticia Ayala, Maria Moya and Tuong Bui. As they experienced environmental injustices firsthand, they turned to EHC's SALTA leadership program where their voices were lifted.

Your continued support helps us build future leaders within our communities of color and ensure the visions of our neighborhoods become a reality. Please donate today.

EHC Empowers Community Leaders

Our communities become #healthyhoods when we unlock our most powerful tool – our voices.

Our leadership training program, SALTA (Salud Ambiental, Líderes Tomando Acción - Environmental Health, Leaders Taking Action) does just that, and it has turned hundreds of community members into environmental justice leaders. Last year, SALTA became accessible online for community members to enhance their skills to become the powerful leaders they were meant to be.


Here are a few reasons why we’re celebrating.

1. Local leadership is at the heart of social and environmental justice.

Community victories come to fruition when local leaders speak up and encourage neighbors to do the same. Last year, after strong demand, we developed this free, online and bilingual curriculum for community members anywhere in the world to turn their skills, passion and vision into action, power and change.

2. We’re sharing our most effective leadership tools with you.

After decades of fine-tuning SALTA with in-person trainings, we’re sharing what we’ve learned to help you use your voice for change. Our training is field-tested and proven, featuring best practices and case studies from real people working to make our neighborhoods healthier. Available for download in English and Spanish, this curriculum builds lasting power in our communities.

3. Our leaders make a difference.

Over the past year, 308 people from around the world downloaded SALTA and learned to be leaders and advocates for safe and healthy communities. Today, we celebrate being one year and 308 people closer to our goal of creating #healthyhoods for all people.

Click here to register and bring SALTA to your community.

Recently, more than 40 people graduated from our Leadership SALTA at our office in Tijuana. Half of them are female community members, mothers, who are pushing environmental issue forward; the group also included activists, journalists, and community members from throughout Tijuana committed to systematically pursuing sustainable development for the city.

Border SALTA 1

We are pleased to have been able to host this SALTA training in the Chilpancingo community, since we had not been able to do so since 2007. We are beyond happy to have been able to do this, because it connects us, it keeps us linked to the community and allies, and it makes us stronger and deepens and widens our roots.

Border SALTA

We now have the opportunity to grow and continue meeting to keep working for environmental justice in the communities that need it most.

Ruth 1

“Ruth Heifetz is really the mother of Environmental Health Coalition. Without Ruth, there would not have been an Environmental Health Coalition. When I think about it, Ruth really changed my life.” – Diane Takvorian

Ruth Heifetz is a co-founder of Environmental Health Coalition and has been a member of the board of directors for 35 years. She is an educator, a doctor and an endless supporter of environmental justice and public health.

We asked her perspective on the organizations transition over 35 years of fighting for environmental justice in the region. Here is a bit of history from Ruth.

What is your relationship with EHC?

I was involved from the very beginning, back when we used to meet at Diane’s house and then operated out of a small storefront that has since been converted to an art gallery or something much more hip. I had been working with the San Diego Committee of Occupational Safety and Health and this was the opportunity to merge occupational health and environmental issues.

It's funny, I can't recall the “ah-ha!” moment when Diane and I first met, but it was due to the work we were both part of, and it clearly happened for a reason.

How has your role at EHC evolved over the past 35 years?

Ruth 2

It’s not so much that my role has changed, but the issues EHC works on have grown and changed.

Our first real action, as I recall it, was related to an empty lot in Southeastern San Diego where toxic waste had been dumped in a residential area. Some of the people who lived there were overcome by the fumes- there was no doubt that it was really toxic. No one really did much about it.

So we went to the County Health Department and kept insisting they do something about it and find out what the toxins were. Slowly and reluctantly - because it was a public health problem – the health department began trying to figure out what was wrong.

This was the beginning of one of our earliest themes, which was the right to know. There had been worker right to know laws, but we wanted to have a community right to know law so people could know what was being produced in the factory next door, or dumped in the vacant lot on their street.

We became one of the first counties to have a community right to know law and this was an extremely important thing. We changed the existing situation and out of that, and out of our leadership in the community, the County Health Department developed its own department of environmental health, and a number of us sat on the early advisory committee for that.

What stands out as a great accomplishment in the last 35 years?

We have many to choose from, but I think one of our greatest accomplishments is the training of our promotoras and the community leaders born from our leadership programs. The first promotora program focused on toxins in the home. This concept grew beyond the home and eventually into the community, where we continue to develop advocates today. I guess I’m just very inspired by that program.

I remember the first group of women who came to our first promotora training. They were leaders in their own community but weren't used to advocating. During our first session, we tried to get each of the women to introduce themselves and they were so shy they couldn't even speak in front of each other. At the end of the ten weeks, nothing could hold them back. You saw this transformation of people developing confidence and becoming even greater leaders in their communities.

EHC has moved with the issues and the concerns but we've always stayed within the environmental justice realm and always stayed within the community.

What do you think is EHC’s biggest strength?

I think the amazing success of EHC has to be attributed to the people who have been involved. One of our strengths is that a number of staff and some of our organizers and volunteers have been around for a very long time, including myself. In most organizations people come and go but EHC still has its founding members doing work in the community.

I also think Diane is quite amazing. With her skills and what she's accomplished she clearly could have moved on to a national level, but she's such a dedicated grassroots person. We've been incredibly fortunate to have that sustained leadership.

How would you describe EHC to another person?

To me, it would depend a lot on that person. Right now, the issue of climate change is so crucial, so I would try and get them interested in that aspect of our work. I would let them know that the people most impacted by climate change are the people we largely work with; the poorest people and the people with least resources.

In general, I would tell someone interested in EHC that we work in communities where people and toxics mix in an unhealthy way and that our work makes communities safe for people to live, work and play.

To donate to EHC, please click here.
To watch a video honoring Ruth’s contributions to EHC and the community, please click here.