You're hired: Karin Lee (far left), Emanuel Figueroa, and Jea Yoon Lee prove their eco-mettle.
The Apprentice: Club Edition By Della Watson
WHEN EMANUEL FIGUEROA RETURNS TO his hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico, he plans to make big changes. He's already starting with his mom. "My mother doesn't understand this green lifestyle," he says, "so every time she comes to visit, I show her something new." Figueroa is one of four participants in the Sierra Club's new Environmental Career Apprenticeship Program, which offers recent college graduates a full-time, six-month paid position in Washington, D.C. The program prepares them for careers in environmental activism through experience in grassroots organizing, national legislative advocacy, and public outreach.
While apprentice Matt Kirby of Milwaukee says he's always had a visceral attachment to the outdoors, that connection has become "more intellectualized" through the program. Kirby says he's honed his political communication skills by researching, lobbying, and talking with people from both sides of the aisle.
Karin Lee of Schaumburg, Illinois, a self-described "sustainability coordinator" while at Yale University, urges people to do what they love "and see if you can make it." But financial concerns made it hard for her to consider an unpaid internship. The salaried apprenticeship helped her over that hurdle.
The apprentices attend educational brown-bag lunches and meet with Club staff mentors. Jea Yoon Lee of Marietta, Georgia, says her managers "give me goals and leave it to me to get it done," an approach that builds confidence and fosters personal responsibility.
As the apprentices complete the program, they find their ambitions growing. Figueroa hopes to tackle water issues and create recycling programs in Puerto Rico, while Karin Lee wants to shape U.S. environmental policy. Too often, says Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope, conservation groups "fail to invest enough in the human future. This program is a creative way to make sure we nurture tomorrow's leaders."
With all the demands on your time and wallet during the holidays, it can be tough to find a way to help the earth too. But GoodSearch has made it easy. Whether you're hunting for the perfect present or information in the wilds of the Web, you can donate to such charities as The Sierra Club Foundation--just by clicking your mouse. GoodSearch, a Yahoo-powered search engine, and its affiliated online mall, GoodShop, have partnered with more than 64,000 nonprofits including the foundation. So support the Club's work on clean energy and wilderness preservation: Each time you use goodsearch.com, you earn about a penny contribution, and every time you make a purchase from GoodShop vendors, up to 37 percent of the sale is donated. —Leigh Barkley
Great Help for Great Lakes
The world's largest source of freshwater, the Great Lakes provide drinking water to more than 40 million people--but they're threatened by untreated sewage, industrial pollutants, and invasive species. To help local governments and individuals restore this vital resource and protect the region's economic future, earlier this year the Sierra Club's Great Lakes Program published A Citizen's Guide to Protecting the Great Lakes, kicking off a series of house parties, petition drives, training sessions, and other events. People can make a difference, says Club organizer Melissa Damaschke, by "using nontoxic cleaning products, planting native species, or building a rain garden to collect and filter water." Read the full guide at sierraclub.org/greatlakes. —Tom Valtin
Chief Tree Hugger Just an average day educating the American public: In July, Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope helped Stephen Colbert cozy up to the environmental lobby on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. Pope talked about getting friendly with trees, reducing carbon footprints, and "outing" parks with the satiric host--and a polar bear puppet. Watch the clip at tinyurl.com/6kosry.
Share Alike Want to start or join a carpool but don't know how? Check out Zimride, an online ride-sharing service that users can also access through Facebook. Since Sierra Club members John Zimmer and Logan Green launched the college-focused zimride.com in 2007, more than 300,000 people have offered or requested rides. Green says the "big dream" is to reach out to businesses and municipalities and reduce large-scale gasoline consumption.
Clear Fishing One of the best trout streams in the United States continues its good run, thanks to a suit brought by Sierra Club activists and Anglers of the Au Sable. In July a Michigan federal district court overturned the U.S. Forest Service's fishy approval of oil and natural-gas drilling in national forestland along the Au Sable River.
Brrr ... illiant Looking for smart ways to stay warm as the energy crisis heats up? Surf over to tinyurl.com/5frsw3 to learn how to save energy--and money. The Sierra Club offers easy at-home tips--from adjusting your thermostat to insulating your water heater and windows--to beat the winter cold without burning through your wallet or the planet. —L.B.
Montana: Bear Necessity
When confronted by a grizzly, hunters may shoot first and ask questions later. But the Sierra Club's Grizzly Bear Ecosystems Project is helping northwestern wilderness enthusiasts coexist more safely with the United States' largest predators. The Montana-based project donates inert bear-pepper-spray canisters to hunter-education courses, where students learn how to rebuff aggressive bears. Now in its fifth year, the program has spread to Idaho and Wyoming. Club conservation organizer Monica Fella says these classes, administered by local fish and wildlife agencies, offer "a huge partnership-building opportunity" for hunters and environmentalists. Just as important, studies suggest that pepper spray is a more effective deterrent than firearms, and it poses little risk of permanent harm to bears or humans. Of course, the best safety strategies are still the preventive ones: Remember to make noise on the trail, store food in bear-proof containers, and remain calm in any encounter. —L.B.
Alabama: Dixie Do-Gooding
Lifelong conservative Barbara Wilson of Jacksonville, Alabama, is no troublemaker. But when she learned that Alabama Power planned to hack down rather than trim three trees in her front yard, she got busy. She posted signs, started a petition drive, and even enlisted neighbor and longtime Sierra Club activist Rufus Kinney to block the saws. Twice when the power company came to remove the trees, it found the unlikely duo chained to them and Wilson's grandson in the boughs shouting, "Leave my nana's trees alone!" Alabama Power sued Wilson and Kinney, but after a county circuit judge ruled that it was acting illegally, the company dropped its suit in June. "Barbara and I don't see eye-to-eye politically," says Kinney, "but the love of nature goes beyond politics." —T.V.
Georgia: Peachy Decree
In a precedent-setting decision, a Georgia court has blocked a proposed coal-fired power plant based on last year's Supreme Court ruling that recognized carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. The Sierra Club, GreenLaw, and Friends of the Chattahoochee filed suit in June 2007 against the 1,200-megawatt power plant, a joint venture of Dynegy and LS Power, asserting that its estimated 6.4 million metric tons of annual CO2 emissions would add to global warming. Dynegy has appealed the ruling, which requires that the companies determine if the emissions would be allowable under the Clean Air Act. Says Seandra Rawls of the Club's Georgia Chapter, "The ruling is a great opportunity for Georgia to break with the past and transition to a clean-energy economy." —Josh Stephens
Illustration by iStock/rypearts, iStock/kemie; used with permission.
Photos, from top: Scott Suchman, Kitchin & Hurst/leesonphoto; used with permission.