Environmental Stewardship Projects Program 2024-2025

Our Environmental Stewardship Projects Program is a promising first step for members who are new to environmental advocacy work.

Education & Advocacy

After a pandemic-induced hiatus of 3 years, we resumed our highly successful Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) in 2023. ESP, a program that ran for 7 consecutive years before the pandemic, provided participants with stimulating educational presentations and hands-on opportunities to take action. ESP graduates have gone on to run for office and have assumed leadership positions in their communities, including leadership roles in the Sierra Club.

Our 2024 Environmental Stewardship Projects program currently focuses on the following areas: 

  1. Campaign Against Plastic Pollution:  Currently we are engaged in a campaign to lobby local cities and counties to ban artificial turf, a toxic substance with PFAS, forever chemicals that have been linked to cancers, endocrine disruption, organ dysfunction, etc.  The environmental harms of artificial turf are extensive, ranging from the use of fossil fuels in its manufacturing to the contamination of aquifers, waterways, and habitats. 
  2. Climate actions to support both local renewable energy resources such as rooftop solar/microgrids and electrification, and local public control of energy services (energy democracy), so that the for profit monopolistic utilities cannot keep on raising rates.
  3. State and local legislative actions:  Each year we support several “focus bills” that are making their way through the California state legislature.  We talk to legislators, make public comments, write op-eds/letters-to-the editor, and launch petition drives.  We also work on local government initiatives at the city/county level.
  4. Education:  We sponsor or co-sponsor educational webinars periodically and also feature short educational presentations at our meetings.

Register here to indicate your interest. One of our leaders will contact you.

Contact Sue if you have questions: sue2042@gmail.com,       650-454-0259

Check Out the 2023 ESP Program Webinars

Each Webinar featured presentations and/or films and action items.

1. Our Clean Energy Future: Microgrids or Continuation of the Status Quo?

Photo of Electric Grid

Will we continue to rely primarily on the big GRID, long distance transmission, and for-profit utilities for our energy needs? Or, will we move towards decentralized energy generation, resilience, and energy democracy based on local small-scale renewable energy units (e.g. rooftop solar and wind) with battery backups and microgrids? Who will own, control, and manage our energy systems? Will for- profit utilities continue to monopolize our energy future, or will we be able to transition to another organizational setup? The webinar will present this current raging controversy at the federal, state, and local levels. The decisions we will make in this area will have a major impact in shaping our clean energy future.

Watch the webinar
Take the quiz- send your answers to sue2042@gmail.com

1.  Al Weinrub:  Ph.D:  Author of “Energy Democracy” (with Denise
Fairchild, Island Press, 2017).   Community organizer, Climate Activist, Coordinator of the Local Clean Energy Alliance and the California Alliance for Community Energy.  Harvard University, Ph.D,  Applied
Physics; Cornell University, BS, Engineering Physics    

2. Jan Pepper Chief Executive Officer, Peninsula Clean Energy, Jan has over 30 years of energy and utility experience, with a focus on renewable energy contracting and financing. She joined Peninsula Clean Energy as CEO in May 2016 as the first employee and is leading the organization to deliver 100% renewable energy on a 24/7 basis by 2025. Jan was elected to the Los Altos City Council in 2012 and served as Mayor in 2015 and 2020.  She earned a BS in civil engineering and an MBA, both from Stanford University. Jan is a registered professional engineer in California.  

3. Craig Lewis:  Craig founded the Clean Coalition in 2009 and has over 30 years of experience in policy and technology innovation, including the proliferation of Solar Microgrids and Community Microgrids. University of California, Berkeley, BSEE. Electrical Engineering .  MSEE & MBA from USC.

4.  Ben Schwartz:  Ben is a policy expert and represents the Clean Coalition in proceedings at the California Public Utilities Commission on microgrids, interconnection, net energy metering, and more. BS in Public Policy from USCB.

5.  Gladwyn d'Souza:   Gladwyn is the Conservation Committee chair of the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club.  Club. Ten plus years experience in sustainable cities, general and specific plans with large and small cities. Twenty Five years in semiconductor manufacturing. Task Force member of Coyote Valley Specific Plan San Mateo County Green Building and Climate Change. Belmont Green Advisory Committee, Former Planning Commissioner, Chair of the Loma Prieta, Sierra Club, Sustainable Land Use Committee Chair of the Loma Prieta, Belmont San Carlos group Chair, Policy Committee, San Mateo Food Systems Alliance  University of California, Berkeley, BS Physics.   

6.  Sue Chow, Ph.D   Founder, Environmental Stewardship Program  (ESP) Loma Prieta Chapter, Sierra Club, Executive Committee Member, LP Sierra Club, Founder and Chair of Education and Environmental Legislative Action Committee LP, Sierra Club, Political Committee Member, LP Sierra
Club,  Chair, Peninsula Regional Group, LP Sierra Club.  Founder of Bay Area Youth Climate Action Team.   Post-doctoral Fellow and Lecturer in Sociology, Stanford University,  University of Pennsylvania,  Ph.D, Sociology,  Columbia University, BA History                                                                                                                                                                

2. Electrification and Decarbonization


Solar and energy efficient house in Belmont

There is a movement underway to electrify all buildings and to incentivize people to purchase electric vehicles. But it is critical that we address decarbonization of buildings too. What are local cities and counties already doing to advance these important movements? Which are the model cities? How can we go about electrifying our homes in a cost effective way?

Will building and vehicle electrification increase electricity demand so significantly that fossil fuel companies—especially in areas where the big grid is powered primarily by fossil fuels--will ramp up exploration and production of fossil fuels, claiming that they must do so in order to meet the demand coming from the electrification movement? If EVs will not be able to ramp up quickly enough–and many experts say that the stated federal goals are completely unrealistic–then what else can we do to ensure that we stay below 1.5 degrees? Should we change our paradigm, so that we will have a chance of meeting the 1.5 degrees goal?  What role can we play in this rapidly evolving movement, the success of which will reduce carbon emissions significantly if we can do it in such a way that precludes major increases in fossil fuel production? And how can we ensure that clean energy power generation will keep pace with the increased demand?

View the webinar

Take the quiz- send your answers to sue2042@gmail.com


1.  Melissa Yu: 


Melissa Yu

Senior Energy Campaigns Representative, Sierra Club.  Melissa has developed and implemented campaign strategies for Sierra Club conservation projects that include building decarbonization and fossil fuel free cities. In her campaigns, Melissa has worked to  include the voices of underserved communities. Melissa will address what cities have done and where and how the state needs to go next.

2. Tom Kabat

Tom Kabat

Tom is a broadly-experienced energy engineer whose expertise encompasses building electrification,  developing innovative electrification analysis tools, writing climate action plans, hydroelectric resource optimization, renewable energy procurement, utility resource planning, design thinking, solar thermal system design, and more. He will talk about how people can achieve electrification and how advocates – working with government officials-- were able to bring about changes in Menlo Park.

3. Rob Bernhardt:  

Rob Bernhardt

Rob is a global expert on buildings that will meet the 1.5 degrees centigrade goal by 2030 (Paris-aligned buildings).  Rob’s writings have been embraced by the IPCC, and his ideas have been included in IPCC’s working group documents. Paris-aligned buildings are committed to improving the performance, comfort, affordability and sustainability of the built environment in both new construction and retrofits. Rob developed the first certified Passive House buildings on Vancouver Island and was the founding CEO of Passive House Canada and worked extensively with project teams and policy makers to achieve excellence in buildings.  

4. Gladwyn d'Souza:  


Gladwyn is the Conservation Committee chair of the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club.  He will discuss the big picture by talking about removing embodied carbon from buildings and why the adoption of electric cars will not be enough for us to stay under 1.5 deg of warming.                

5. Sue Chow PHD: 

Sue Chow

Founder, Environmental Stewardship Program  (ESP), Loma Prieta Chapter, Sierra Club. Founder of Bay Area Youth Climate Action Team. Dr. Chow will reprise the main themes of this webinar.                    

3. Funding Our Clean Energy Future & the Role of Local Governments

Funding Our Clean Energy Future & the Role of Local Governments


How can local governments access the billions of dollars in the federal Inflation Reduction Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and state funds that are allocated for the massive transition to clean energy grids and electrification?  What role can Green Banks play in funding and expediting GHG reduction projects such as energy efficiency, electrification, rooftop solar w/battery backups, community microgrids, etc.  What is involved in starting a Green Bank?  What should the role of Community Choice Energy and local governments be? What is the best ownership and management structure for efficiency and for serving the public good? 

Watch the webinar


1. The main presenters will be representatives from a group at Sierra Club National that has been doing research on clean energy funding, especially the opportunities available through the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.  This is a subject that everyone is scrambling to keep on top of.  Because there are many uncertainties, and given the evolving nature of how people have interpreted the provisions, there are no clear experts in this area currently.  We will most likely be providing one of the best sources of information on the subject at this point in time.  


4. The Scourge of Microplastic Pollution

The Scourge of Plastics Pollution


Plastic particles, particularly microplastics, are now so ubiquitous that they are inside our bodies, in our air, and in our water. Microplastics--consisting of over 10,000 chemicals, including the “forever chemicals” in PFAS ( per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances)-- are found in everyday products such as artificial grass, clothing, cosmetics, carpeting, food wraps, non-stock cookware, etc., Microplastics in our bodies have been linked to endocrine disruption, diabetes, cancer, kidney and liver damage, as well as other serious health conditions. In fact, PFAS is so toxic that Boston and other cities have banned artificial turf, citing its toxicity and its extreme “heat island" effect. The environmental impact of plastics pollution is just as alarming:  Not only are fossil fuels used in plastics manufacturing, but like plastics in general, microplastics do not biodegrade, and once deposited in our waterways and ecosystems, toxic substances such as PFAS will continue to poison wildlife and our environment for eons.

This webinar will focus on how microplastics have poisoned our planet and our bodies and what we can do to stop this horrendous scourge that threatens our health and our environment.

Watch Matt Simon's Presentation


Matt Simon is a senior staff writer at Wired, covering biology, robotics, and the environment.  He is the author of 3 books, including A Poison Like No Other:  How Microplastics Corrupted Our Planet and Our Bodies.

Dianne Woelke is a retired nurse and public health activist. Dianne has led efforts to block the installation of synthetic turf throughout CA and the U.S., fought for inclusion of the artificial turf threat in Climate Action and Zero Waste Plans and was instrumental in mounting the effort to  include synthetic turf in the CA Department of Toxic Substances Control Work Plan for 2021-2022. Dianne wrote the unanimously-approved Sierra Club CA position opposing synthetic turf.

Pam Bond is an accidental activist fighting synthetic turf installations in Los Gatos and beyond; volunteer garden coordinator (7 years in elementary and branching into middle school), Los Gatos USD Wellness Committee member, LGUSD Green Team member (parent led), and former coordinator of elementary food waste recycling efforts.  BA in Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College, RPCV Gabon ‘98-’00,  UWC-USA Alumna. 

Jennifer Shannon  is a sustainability career coach who support individuals exploring opportunities in business and nonprofit climate change mitigation and adaptation sectors, identifying strengths and goals, developing job search strategies, and providing assistance throughout the career transition process. 

5. Designing Low Carbon Cities: Walkable and Ecologically-Healthy Neighborhoods

Designing Low Carbon Cities: Walkable and Ecologically-Healthy Neighborhoods


Greening our grid, electrification of buildings, and electric vehicles are needed to transition to a low carbon world. But the way our neighborhoods are structured is just as important. Sustainable land use advocates in our chapter and elsewhere are working with local municipalities to spearhead a movement to create Green Streets networks that encourage walking and biking and are conducive to the flourishing of urban flora and fauna. Find out more about this exciting re-imagining of city life--what some cities are already doing and what others can become.

Watch the webinar


Jeff Speck is an architect and city planner. He is better known as an advocate for walkable cities to benefit health, budgets and the environment. His books include Suburban Nation, Walkable Cities, and Walkable City Rules. We will watch his Ted Talk on Walkable Cities.

Kea Wilson is a sustainable transportation advocate and journalist who covers the movement to end car dependency in the United States. She has delivered keynote addresses and panel presentations on mobility, urbanism, and transportation, including talks at National Bike Summit, the National Walking Summit, the Vision Zero Cities Conference, the Kingston Women's Bike Festival, the Strong Towns Summit, and others. Kea is senior editor at Streetsblog USA.

Gladwyn D’Souza is an advocate of resilient low energy habitation patterns. He served as president of Walk San Jose, a board member of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, and a board member of Carbon Free Silicon Valley. He will discuss deteriorating carbon sinks and why green consumption will not be enough for us to stay under 1.5 deg of warming. Gladwyn is the Conservation Committee Chair of the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Rick Girling  works on Public Banking. He has written and organized with the California Public Banking Alliance and the San Francisco Public Bank Coalition He will discuss the state of public bank advocacy in California today.  Rick is citizen journalist on issues like public banking.

Christin Evans is an advocate for public banks and local bookstores. She owns Kepler's in Menlo Park and The Booksmith, The Bindery and the Alembic Bar in Haight Ashbury . She will discuss public banks advocacy in San Mateo County. Christin is working to revive Kepler's.

6. The Rights of Nature, Conservation, Restoration, and Rewilding

Biodiversity and Saving Endangered Species: Butterflies. Birds, Bees and Insects


Can ecosystems have legal rights? Why is conservation alone insufficient? What is nature-based restoration? Is “rewilding” just a delusion? This webinar will introduce you to cutting-edge approaches to transitioning to a world in which degraded lands are being transformed into vibrant ecosystems, and animals are being reintroduced to newly-restored wild places. These are not pie-in-the-sky fantasies as people are already putting these ideas into practice. Do you know that London has a Rewilding Task Force that is in the process of researching and making recommendations as to how to engage residents in rewilding the city?   Find out more about this exciting new trend.

Watch the webinar


Cain Blythe, our speaker, is a leading trailblazer in the Rewilding movement in the UK and the author of Rewilding: The Radical New Science of Ecological Recovery. With 20 years of experience in the conservation innovation field, Cain is the founder of Ecosulis, an organization that specializes in habitat creation, reintroducing and protecting species, and land management. Cain has personally contributed to a number of rewilding projects in the UK and in Ireland and was recently nominated by his peers as one of the most impactful environmentalists in the UK.  


Erica Gies is an award-winning independent journalist who writes about water, climate change, plants and critters for Scientific American, The New York Times, Nature, The Atlantic, The Guardian, National Geographic, The Economist, Washington Post, Wired, and more. Her book, Water Always Wins: Thriving in an age of drought and deluge, is about what she calls “Slow Water” innovations that are helping us adapt to the increasing floods and droughts brought by climate change.

7. Biodiversity & Endangered Species: Butterflies. Birds, Bees and Insects

Biodiversity and Saving Endangered Species: Butterflies. Birds, Bees and Insects.


We are facing an extinction crisis, but there is still hope. In this webinar we will assess the current status of wild species, particularly birds and insects. What does this drastic decline indicate about the state of our planet and human health? We will take a more in-depth look at the staggering decline of the key pollinators—butterflies, birds, and bees, and discuss what we can do as individuals and members of environmental advocacy groups to stop and reverse this decline.

Go through the slideshow

Presenters:  Will be posted soon.

8. Environmental Justice, Equity, & Indigenous Rights in a Capitalist Democracy

standing for Standing Rock


What is environmental justice? What do indigenous rights and social equity have to do with the environment? Why are grassroots democracy and progressive ideologies important to a healthy planet? What is “carbon reductionism” (also known as carbon fundamentalism) and why are many of its proponents opposed to mainstream environmental organizations?  All of these are important questions that we need to confront. We can no longer be narrowly focused on just conservation or single dimensional climate “solutions” such as carbon capture technologies, carbon offsets, carbon trading, etc. As Sierra Club founder John Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." Find out how environmental justice can or should be incorporated into our climate and conservation actions.



Dina Gilio-Whitaker (Colville Confederated Tribes descendant) is a lecturer of American Indian Studies at California State University San Marcos, and an independent educator and advisor in American Indian environmental policy and community engagement.  Her scholarship and community engaged work focuses on environmental justice and traditional knowledge in the context of tribal sovereignty and nationalism, as well as critical sports studies in the realm of surf culture and professional surfing. She also brings these ideas into her work as an award-winning journalist, having written for many high profile publications including the Los Angeles Times, Sierra Magazine, Indian Country Today Media Network, Time.com, High Country News, and many others. Dina’s most recent book is Beacon Press’s As Long As Grass Grows: Indigenous Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock, and she is currently under contract with Beacon Press for two new works. She is also a co-editor of a new collection from Cambridge University Press’s Elements Series on Indigenous Environmental Research.