Volunteer Spotlight: Jean Stewart, 2023 Volunteer Appreciation Award Recipient

Jean Stewart has lived in DC for more than 50 years. She is one of the DC Chapter’s most recognized grassroots volunteers and activists and a steadfast leader and partner in the chapter’s people-powered campaigns.

Rachel Carson’s books, such as Silent Spring, which documents the environmental harm caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides during WW2, spurred Jean’s interest in environmental issues. Jean notes, “For too many years, I only sent in my yearly dues to the national Sierra Club and signed petitions. Eventually, I joined an environmental policy group at the Woman’s National Democratic Club, which motivated me to join the DC Chapter’s Clean Energy Committee and see what I personally could do to combat climate change.”  

Graphic with photo of Jean Stewart

In 2018, Jean joined the DC Chapter in lobbying the DC Council to pass the District’s groundbreaking clean energy omnibus bill, which sets out timelines and actions for reducing climate-disrupting emissions. The Council went on to pass this landmark legislation, positioning DC as a national leader on climate action and setting clear, achievable targets for reducing pollution and transitioning to clean energy.

This work energized Jean, and she discovered how much she enjoyed advocating for environmental causes with District officials and testifying at Council hearings. There is hardly an issue where the DC Chapter has advocated in DC where Jean has not been among the first to engage, either before the DC government or in the community.

“We need to get off methane gas, so I joined the Beyond Gas campaign (www.beyondgasdc.org),” said Jean. As part of her leadership to justly and equitable transition DC off methane gas and toward a clean energy future, she has testified numerous times, attended more than a dozen events and trainings, and helped to educate and inform communities across DC about the opportunity clean energy presents to improve our climate and protect public health.

No stranger to environmental and climate advocacy, she recognizes that both individual and collective action have a role in making the greatest change possible. “I’ve also learned that individual efforts, when joined with others at the grassroots level, do matter when it comes to combatting the climate crisis,” she said. 

In early December 2023, the DC Chapter was proud to recognize Jean with the first-ever Sierra Club DC Chapter Volunteer Appreciation award at the Chapter’s Holiday Party.  Matt Gravatt, DC Chapter Chair, noted, “There’s no one more deserving of this award than Jean. She’s tirelessly advocated for positive change in the District, and her energy and passion for protecting our climate and environment are without equal. She’s always ready to help and often the first to raise her hand.”

And what does Jean get out of her volunteer work with the Sierra Club?  

“My favorite thing about volunteering with the DC Chapter is working with these great fellow advocates to press DC officials, especially at the Council, to move away from using fossil fuels. And, as a long-time advocate for housing justice, now I’m focusing on getting the Healthy Homes Act passed and getting lead pipes out of public housing. There’s so much good work to do…and it’s a lot of fun!”