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Sierra magazine
Bulletin | News for Members

A New Green Home Page
By Tom Valtin


Sustainable remodeling made easy (from top): Green Home president Gordon Wangers, chief operating officer Steve Fechheimer, and director of sustainability Jennifer Schwab.
Even the executive director of the Sierra Club has found it challenging to fix up his home in an ecofriendly way. In late 2007, when Carl Pope was meeting with a group of donors, he mentioned that he wanted to make his home more energy efficient but was having trouble finding green products, services, and contractors. The donors suggested that the Club lead the charge to help consumers make more-sustainable choices. Businessman Gary Rappeport proposed creating an online clearinghouse.

The result is a new partnership between the Sierra Club and Green Home, an educational Web site dedicated to creating more-efficient, less-toxic abodes.

The point of such "social entrepreneurship," says Green Home president Gordon Wangers, is for nonprofits to team with "people who can provide financing and resources that will serve the mission of the nonprofit."

Now finding ecofriendly resources is just a click away. Whether you want to test your home's health or carbon footprint, watch home-improvement videos, or find top-rated products, Sierra Club Green Home is ready to help. Green Home reviews each product for indoor-air-quality impact; energy, water, and material usage; waste; customer education; and company business practices. Green Home also highlights tips from Sierra's own Mr. Green.

"People want to take sustainable actions," says Green Home chief operating officer Steve Fechheimer. "Our aim is to help people find the right products and retailers and get started."

Sierra Club Green Home appears on and links to the Club's Climate Crossroads, an online community for people who want to create global-warming solutions. Climate Crossroads--which features blogs, discussion groups, recipes, videos, and a green careers search function powered by Monster.com--helps users organize and take action, both online and off.

ON THE WEB Visit the site to learn more about green home living.



Carl Wolfe and his granddaughter Mariah uphold Tennessee's reputation as the Volunteer State.

TENNESSEE: Re-Tired?
Who knew retirement could be such hard work? When Sierra Club member and former corporate pilot Carl Wolfe and his wife moved in 2005 to rural Mountain City, Tennessee, they were dismayed to find the area's natural beauty marred by trash. For years locals had been dumping old appliances, tires, and other junk along Fall Branch Road and into a tributary of Watauga Lake, a 6,400-acre reservoir and drinking-water source.

When Wolfe discovered that cleanup funds weren't available, the 69-year-old grandfather jumped in feetfirst. After clearing the roadway of litter, he rappelled 50 feet to the creekbed to remove 60 tires and truckloads of garbage. The community rallied behind Wolfe to help finish the job. In honor of his efforts, Wolfe received a volunteer award from the governor last fall. "Most people are takers," says Wolfe. "The world needs more givers." --Mario Jose Aguilar

FLORIDA: Save That Sunshine
Taking a cue from California, the Sierra Club's Florida Chapter helped convince a state environmental commission to approve more-stringent vehicle-emission standards. The new rules would require a 22 percent reduction in tailpipe emissions from new cars and light trucks by 2012 and a 30 percent decrease by 2016. Auto-industry lobbyists claim such measures would inflate prices, but the Club and others countered by showcasing ecofriendly models at a Tallahassee car show last December.

The industry also used the threat of cost increases to oppose seat belts, air bags, and other pollution standards, says Club regional representative Jonathan Ullman. The state legislature will vote on the standards--championed by Governor Charlie Crist (R)--this spring. --Hannah Buoye

KENTUCKY: Bluegrass in Beijing
Proving that green activism is global, a five-person friendship delegation of Sierra Club members from Owensboro, Kentucky, traveled to China in November to learn about local clean- water and recycling efforts. The group included Club organizer Aloma Dew and volunteer Winny Lin, who arranged the visit.

As guests of honor, the women attended an ecotourism festival in Wuxi and met with the head of the local environmental agency. They also traveled to Shanghai and Beijing, where they dined with Wang Yongchen, an award-winning environmental journalist, and Wen Bo, codirector of Pacific Environment's China program. "The air was dirty in Beijing," says Dew, "but people seemed very aware of the environment. I came away feeling optimistic." --Della Watson


Our Next New Deal

Now that President Barack Obama has made clean energy and green-collar jobs policy priorities, environmental groups have seized the occasion to move the country toward a sustainable future. Last November the Save Our Environment Action Center, a coalition of 29 groups including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, released a report to help the Obama administration address its most pressing environmental concerns. Focusing on energy and climate change, the 391-page Transition to Green recommends working with Congress to pass mandatory limits on global-warming pollution and using the Clean Air Act to set standards for power plants, vehicles, and fuels.

The Sierra Club has also developed its own Climate Recovery Agenda to help cut U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and reduce reliance on foreign oil. The plan includes moving the country toward 100 percent renewable energy, achieving higher gas mileage for cars, and establishing a federal cap on carbon dioxide emissions.

"The American public overwhelmingly voted for change and the 'new energy for America' offered by Barack Obama," says Mary Wells, the Sierra Club's deputy conservation director. "We will do everything we can to help the Obama administration achieve these goals, using the Climate Recovery Agenda's plan to repower, refuel, and rebuild America." --Michael Fox

ON THE WEB Read the full report at saveourenvironment.org.


Another Big Vote

Yes, we can--choose our new directors, that is. Every year eligible Club members can vote for representatives to the volunteer Sierra Club Board, each of whom will serve a three-year term. The 15-person group sets conservation priorities, approves the annual budget, and oversees staff and volunteer activities. Ballots will be sent in March to life members and those who have renewed at least once by January 31. Return your ballot by noon eastern daylight time on April 21, or follow the instructions to vote online. Sierra will report the results in our July/August issue.

To receive next year's ballot materials electronically, you can sign up at action.sierraclub.org/e-ballot. Questions? Contact the Club's Member Services at (415) 977-5653 or membership.services@sierraclub.org.

ON THE WEB Information about the 2009 candidates is available at sierraclub.org/bod/2009election.


Activism 101 Young people nationwide are advocating for clean energy and green jobs, leading a grassroots groundswell for solutions to climate change. Many honed their organizing skills at one of the Sierra Student Coalition's weeklong summer training programs for high school and college students. Participants learn how to start campus groups, involve their peers, and run successful environmental campaigns from the local to the national level. They also enjoy guest speakers and campfire conversations. The trainings cost $150 to $200; need-based scholarships and group discounts are available. For locations (most sessions will be held in state parks nationwide) and dates, go to ssc.org/sprog. --Karina Kinik ON THE WEB To apply, visit ssc.org/sprog or call (888) JOIN-SSC. Applications will be accepted until programs are full.

Photos, from top: iStock/DivaNir4a, Dennis Shekinah, iStock/Sorbetto; used with permission.

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