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BULLETIN | News for Members

By Della Watson

Grilled | Sierra Club Eco-Heroes

Invading the Privacy of the People Who Make the Club Tick

Name: José A. Menendez
Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Contribution: Outings committee chair who helps low-income communities establish ecofriendly businesses
Web site:

I heard you organized 179 outings in 2009. Yeah, that's about right. We do three to five outings every weekend. Puerto Rico has a lot of estuaries, rivers, bays, and limestone formations. So we do a lot of kayaking and caving. I'm usually relegated to the sweep positions because I'm 63 years old and I can't keep up with the youngsters.

Sixty-three? When I was reading about you and your award [see below], it didn't mention your age. I thought, "Oh, this guy must be in his twenties." [Laughs] Well, mentally, I haven't matured much.

How'd you get involved with the Sierra Club? I retired in 2003 and moved to Puerto Rico. I was basically drinking a lot of rum and hiking with friends. But I was dismayed at the state of the island, and I saw the Sierra Club as a tool for social change. Regrettably [the Club has] a reputation for being kinda Waspy, and that turns some people off. I envisioned bringing the Club to the people, which is what I've been doing.

Do you see the Club starting to shake that reputation? It's recognizing that the problem exists and taking steps to correct it. Here in Puerto Rico, you have to sort of blend in, becoming a social club instead of just an environmental club. People who come to our outings want to hike together, because after the hike we go to a restaurant and drink beer and eat food. The outing might've lasted three hours, but we'll spend another three hours just sitting in the restaurant shooting the bull.

So is that how the Puerto Rico Chapter won the award for membership development? We draft most of our leaders through our Outings program. We find places that are really obscure. We discovered a place where the bioluminescence is amazing. We kayak to the end of a bay, hang out there until it gets dark, then kayak back to the beach, viewing the bioluminescence all the way back. Oh, it's excellent. You have to do it on a very dark night with no moon, so you've got the stars above, the bioluminescence below. And people stay out till midnight because they don't want to come back.

Wow. When can I come visit? Yeah, wow. I'm telling ya, it's like Avatar. —interview by Della Watson

Do you know a Sierra Club volunteer who deserves recognition? Send nominations to


The environment is the real winner when activists, writers, photographers, and government officials put their hearts into saving the planet. But since the earth can't say thanks, the Sierra Club honored an outstanding group of environmental heroes during its annual awards ceremony, held September 25 in San Francisco.

  • ANSEL ADAMS AWARD use of photography to further a conservation cause

    Chris Jordan (See "Beyond Oil" and "Earth Beat.")

  • DAVID R. BROWER AWARD environmental reporting

    Jeff Biggers

  • DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD commitment to conservation by a public official

    Representative Norman Dicks (D-Wash.)

  • EARTHCARE AWARD unique contribution to international conservation

    Anna Rose

  • EDGAR WAYBURN AWARD outstanding environmental service by a government official

    Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator

  • ENVIRONMENTAL ALLIANCE AWARD forging partnerships to achieve environmental goals

    José A. Menendez (See "Grilled," above)

  • IDA AND DENNY WILCHER AWARD achievement in membership development or fundraising

    Sierra Club Puerto Rico Chapter

  • JOHN MUIR AWARD the Club's highest award, for outstanding conservation leadership

    Dick Fiddler

  • JOSEPH BARBOSA EARTH FUND AWARD environmental service by those younger than 30

    Members of the Washington University Climate Justice Alliance

  • MADELYN PYEATT AWARD working with youths

    Matt Nelson and Chris Bachman

  • OLIVER KEHRLEIN AWARD Outings program service

    Susan Estes

  • ONE CLUB AWARD using Outings to promote conservation or the Club

    Norma McCallan

  • RAYMOND J. SHERWIN INTERNATIONAL AWARD international conservation

    Larry Williams

  • SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD single act of conservation or Club service

    Lisa Cox and Lynn Ryan

  • SPECIAL SERVICE AWARD strong and consistent commitment to conservation

    David Dow, Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera, Barry Kohl, Martin Mador, and James Rickard

  • SUSAN E. MILLER AWARD administrative contributions to Club chapters and groups

    Angeles Chapter GIS Committee and Betsy Grass

  • WILLIAM E. COLBY AWARD Club leadership, dedication, and service

    Doris Cellarius



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