Paul Burns is VPIRG’s executive director, a position he’s held since 2001. VPIRG is Vermont’s largest nonprofit, consumer and environmental advocacy organization. In just the past few years, VPIRG has played a major role in several landmark achievements including the nation’s first ban on fracking, tough new regulations on toxics, and the precedent-setting requirement that GMO foods be labeled. Paul’s leadership was integral to the success of those campaigns. Previously, he worked for 15 years as an attorney, advocate and organizer for PIRGs in New York and Massachusetts. He earned his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Oswego, and his law degree from the Syracuse University College of Law.
Becca is the Finance and Administration Director for VPIRG. She works to keep VPIRG’s finances and office in order. In her role she ensures that all financial reporting is accurate, properly categorized, and up to date. She came to VPIRG in 2018 and feels very lucky to to use her accounting skills in an organization that is dedicated to issues she is passionate about. She grew up in a large family in rural Vermont, where conservation and environmental protection were part of daily life. She has a passion for politics and enjoys witnessing grassroots organizing up close. In her spare time she enjoys swimming, reading non-fiction, and exploring small towns in New England with her husband. She is proud to be a member of the VPIRG team where she can help fight for and with her fellow Vermonters.
Since 2012, Ben has run VPIRG’s energy program, leading campaigns on issues from establishing Vermont’s groundbreaking renewable energy standard, to expanding our net metering program, to establishing nation-leading appliance efficiency standards and defending Vermont’s energy efficiency work from attacks from the right. At VPIRG, Ben works to research, identify and advance clean energy policy solutions. Prior to taking the reins of VPIRG’s energy program, Ben was VPIRG’s Field Director, engaging and mobilizing thousands of Vermonters in support of VPIRG’s campaigns. He learned the organizing trade in Green Corps, working with National Environmental Trust, Environment America and the Oregon Natural Desert Association, and later serving as Green Corps’ recruitment director. Ben holds a BS in Environmental Studies and BA in Political Science from UVM.
Elijah works on VPIRG’s Communications team, informing and engaging our members and the public around our core issues, translating complex policy into easy-to-understand messages. A graduate of the University of Vermont, he started with VPIRG as a canvasser in 2018, working his way up to assistant canvass director in 2020 before joining us full time. As a New Jersey transplant with a passion for good food and grassroots organizing, he is thrilled to be able to work for the common good in this great state.
Iris is a Junior Organizer, focusing on democracy reform, racial, and climate justice. She is currently helping advocate for ballot initiatives in Burlington that would adopt ranked choice voting and encourage the city to implement equitable climate policies. Iris is a student at Essex High School and worked this past election as the VPIREF Junior Youth and Democracy Organizer, helping to drive youth voter participation and civic engagement. She is a member on the EWSD school board and strives to bring equity to every aspect of her community. In her copious amounts of free time, she enjoys baking and enjoying all the beauty the state has to offer.
Jordan is VPIRG’s Climate Campaign Manager. She recently moved to Vermont from Brooklyn, New York after serving as the engagement manager for an environmental non-profit focused on stewardship, education, and advocacy. She graduated from Hofstra University with a degree in Communications in 2017. Though she is a new resident of the state, Jordan has spent much of her life in the NEK with family. In her new role at VPIRG, she looks forward to developing an expansive campaign that engages and inspires Vermonters to take climate action. In her free time, Jordan enjoys listening to live music, traveling, and spending time outdoors.
Liam is one of VPIRG’s Climate & Energy Associates. He is responsible for researching, organizing, and advocating for an environmentally conscious energy grid. Liam graduated from the University of Vermont with a dual-degree in political science and environmental studies. A Canvasser for the 2017 Summer Canvass, a Field Manager for the 2018 Summer Canvass, and an Assistant Director for the 2019 Summer Canvass, Liam is ready to use his skills to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in areas such as transportation and home heating. After years of canvassing for a variety of different campaigns, Liam is excited and grateful to work with the people of Vermont to make this state a leader in environmental action.
Lily is a first-year Fellow working on climate and energy. She graduated from UVM with a degree in Political Science and English and has a deep passion for helping people and working to make the world a better place in everything she does. Lily previously worked with VPIRG’s summer canvass in 2019 as a canvasser and Field Manager, and as an Assistant Director in 2020 and 2021. In addition to her experience on the canvass she was also a student board member for VPIREF and an intern for VPIRG in 2019 working on the Youth Climate Congress. In her role as Climate and Energy Fellow she will be primarily focused on strengthening youth organizing efforts statewide. She looks forward to continuing to work with young people and strengthening the climate movement here in Vermont. In her spare time, you can find her playing with her band Lily Seabird around Burlington, snowboarding, and hiking.
Liz Edsell, VPIRG’s Associate Director, has over 15 years of experience in grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy, fundraising and non-profit management. Liz directs all internal operations and oversees the canvass and communications and engagement teams that engage thousands of members and Vermonters across the state in efforts to protect the public interest. Since joining the VPIRG team in 2011, she has supervised and trained dozens of budding organizers and canvass directors, helped to triple VPIRG’s membership and is currently leading a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative. Before coming to VPIRG, Liz served as Associate Director of The Conservation Campaign an advocacy affiliate of The Trust for Public Land, and kicked off her organizing career in Green Corps’ Field School for Environmental Organizing. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 2002 with honors in Environmental Studies.
Marcie is an Advocate focusing on environmental health and zero-waste policies. Marcie previously completed VPIRG’s 2-year Fellowship focusing on the same issue areas and has worked on 5 of VPIRG’s summer canvasses. She is passionate about exploring the intersection between solid waste, toxic pollution, and climate change, and hopes to participate in shifting the burdens arising from these crises back onto the corporations that created them, instead of on our communities.
Melissa (Lis) is VPIRG’s Membership and Events Manager. In this role, she works collaboratively with staff, members, and supporters throughout Vermont to build support and enthusiasm around VPIRG’s work. Melissa loves connecting with people and building communities. She graduated from SUNY Purchase in 2010 with a degree in Environmental Sociology. After spending a year in Washington D.C., canvassing for Greenpeace, she moved to Vermont to obtain her Master’s in Environmental Law and Policy at Vermont Law School. In her professional career, she has most recently held positions with The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board AmeriCorps Program, Vermont Law School, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. She is fueled by a desire to make the world a better place for future generations and believes strongly in the power of the collective impact model to solve our most pressing public challenges.
Molly (she/her) is VPIRG’s Environmental Associate. She began her work at VPIRG in 2021 as Membership Coordinator and knew that she found a home in which to grow her career and make an impact. Eager to scratch a policy itch, she moved to the Fellowship program to pursue her passion for grassroots organizing and policies that defend the health of our people and environment. She is connecting with Vermont businesses, students, and allies on intersectional solutions to address problems in our food systems, the plastic crisis, toxics, and other environmental health issues. She loves eating local food, hiking, movies, and karaoke.
Sam is VPIRG’s Democracy Associate. After graduating Hobart and William Smith Colleges with a degree in Political Science, Sam has a deep respect for our democratic institutions and understands our democracy is most healthy when as many people engage in the political process as possible. Sam has worked on VPIRG’s summer canvass since 2018 as a Canvasser, Field Manager, and Assistant Director. Having grown up in Vermont, he looks forward to working to strengthening our democratic process, ensuring government is more open, responsive to, and reflective of ordinary Vermonters. In his spare time, you can find him on the mountain, downhill skiing, or hiking.
Sebbi was hired in his current Advocate role after finishing up his 2 year fellowship working primarily on climate organizing & advocacy and the summer door canvass. He’s also contributed to VPIRG’s work on democracy and racial justice. His work is dedicated to advocating for statewide action on the climate crisis and important equity issues ranging from environmental justice to consumer protection in the age of big business & big data. He is a native Vermonter who has lived in Lamoille, Windham, Windsor, and Chittenden counties and is always glad to recommend a fun hike or swim spot. Before being hired as a full time Fellow he was a Canvasser on the VPIRG summer canvass in 2017 and 2018 and was the Recruitment Director in the 2019 summer canvass. He graduated with honors from the University of Vermont in 2019 with degrees in Political Science, Community and International Development, and Spanish. Sebbi is thrilled to continue putting his skills, knowledge, and experience to the test while pushing for smart, strong policy to move Vermont forward.
Tom Hughes is a Senior Strategist at VPIRG. His leadership skills were honed as CEO of Sunward Systems, president of Neuton Power Equipment, executive director of Democracy for America, New Hampshire Field Director for Dean for America, campaign manager for Doug Racine, deputy finance director for Gore 2000, and executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party. He worked on the White House advance team during the Clinton-Gore Administration and on advance teams for the Dukakis-Bentsen and Obama-Biden campaigns. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from UVM in Political Science and is a graduate of American University’s Campaign Management Institute.
Zach is VPIRG’s Communications & Engagement Director. Before joining VPIRG, Zach was an Online Organizer and Community Director at the progressive news and activism website Firedoglake where he worked on everything from environmental protection to drug policy reform. He’s also spent time at the American Civil Liberties Union, Democracy Now!, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and National Public Radio. Zach is a 2011 graduate of Ithaca College with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. In his role at VPIRG, Zach manages all of VPIRG’s advocacy and outreach communications including emails, web posts, social media, mailings and publications. He’s also leads VPIRG advocacy efforts on digital consumer protection issues – fighting for data privacy/security, net neutrality and affordable high-speed internet access for all Vermonters. Zach also oversees VPIRG’s data, information and internal technology operations.