laura kutner

I am a sustainability, nature, and outdoor enthusiast, born and raised in Portland, Oregon. I received my BA in Anthropology and Spanish from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and soon after, fulfilled my dream of joining the Peace Corps as a Youth Development Volunteer in Guatemala. I had such a wonderful experience teaching life skills and environmental education in Guatemala that I decided to stay for a third year as a volunteer leader, training new volunteers and supporting current ones in the field. It was this cumulative experience that fostered my passion for sustainable community development.

One of the main projects I worked on in Guatemala was building two classrooms out of plastic bottles and trash. This experience was so impactful, and such an incredible example of teamwork, that it inspired me to start Trash for Peace, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to educating communities about sustainability using hands-on methodologies. I also co-wrote a children’s book, The Soda Bottle School, which has won multiple awards, including being selected as a Reading Is Fundamental book in 2015.

I created Trash for Peace in 2012, while earning my master’s degree in Public Administration from Portland State University. As the director of Trash for Peace, I have spearheaded its growth to directly serve over 1,000 youth and community members and divert over 800 pounds (or over 360 kg) of plastic bottles and other “trash” from the landfill every year. Named one of the 100 best green companies to work for in Oregon, Trash for Peace provides hands-on, creative experiences that encourage resilient communities. Working mostly in affordable housing communities and schools, our team strives to build relationships with each community and complete projects and programs that benefit its members. Some of these projects include building recycle bins out of trash, making gardens out of reclaimed materials, creating murals out of bottle caps, and hosting zero-waste cooking classes.

I am also an adjunct faculty at Mt. Hood Community College, where I teach the GED in Spanish to Spanish-speaking adults. I love to travel, hike, and run, especially long-distance, and have completed three marathons. I also love (all kinds of) cheese and prefer to relax by reading a good book and enjoying a home-cooked meal with my husband.

Whether you are interested in starting a community project or simply want to raise awareness, Trash for Peace is a good place to go for resources to help you get started. You can also email me. I would love to hear from you.

Andrew, one of our incredible team members, working with students at a school in Australia.
A mural made out of plastic bottle caps to promote recycling at Dekum Court (in Portland, Oregon), one of the housing properties where we provide services.
A recycle bin made by youth and families at Plaza Townhomes using 100% reclaimed materials.