Tori Zwisler of Roots & Shoots

Tori Zwisler of Shanghai Roots & Shoots

Tori Zwisler is the founding Executive Director of the Jane Goodall Institute – Shanghai, formed in 1999. The institute focuses primarily on the Roots & Shoots program which promotes environmental concern, care for animals and care for people among Shanghai’s youth.

Amongst other projects, Roots & Shoots works with 170 schools in Shanghai with the aim of planting one million trees in Inner Mongolia to fight desertification (the program is currently being promoted on Danwei's banner ad space).

Zwisler is a U.S. citizen, has been living in China for 20 years. Danwei interviews her about Shoots and Roots.

Danwei: What do you think is the biggest challenge in terms of things that needs to be changed in China (by volunteers) - deforestation, schools, carbon footprints?

TZ: What we are the best at changing is people’s attitudes. When volunteers, students and partners think that they can change the world to make it better, then it will happen. We don’t advocate large difficult programs. We believe that if people make small, consistent changes in their behaviors and their habits and take on small improvement projects, that we can have a very large very good affect on the situation in China.

Danwei: What is most fun about serving on the Board of the Shanghai American Women's Club?
TZ: I was on the board of the AWC many years ago. As a founding board member in 1995 it was rewarding to know we were setting up a social network that women would appreciate. It has really grown since then!

Danwei: How would you describe the life of an expat now compared to twenty years ago?
TZ: There is no comparison. In 1992 when I moved here this was a very different city, with many less cars, less people, less lights and very few tall buildings. People slept on the sidewalks during the summer, to stay cool. There were no supermarkets. There was no reason to ever go to Pudong. There was no McDonald’s or KFC. It was quieter. There were fewer foreigners, and for those of us here, we all knew each other. There was more of a sense of community amongst the foreigners because we depended on each other for many things. We all ate a a restaurant called The Grape. Now Shanghai is a vibrant, dynamic modern mega-city. I liked them both, and being here for the transition has been the most interesting part of my life.

Danwei: Any other comments?
TZ: Our Shanghai Roots & Shoots office has been working for a cleaner environment for 10 years, and we plan on continuing our NGO work here for the next 100 years. We ask everyone in Shanghai to join us, help us, learn from us, and make Shanghai a better, cleaner, greener city.

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