Sierra is the storytelling arm of the Sierra Club, the United States’ oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental group. We are a quarterly national print and digital magazine publishing award-winning journalism and cutting-edge photography, art, and video dedicated to protecting the natural world. Sierra brings together leading writers and photographers to convey the ideals at the heart of the Sierra Club’s mission: that everyone, regardless of race or income, should enjoy the same basic rights to clean air, clean water, a stable climate, and safe and easy access to experience wild nature.
We’re looking for reported stories on a wide range of environmental and social justice issues from writers who can bring to our audience a broad array of perspectives and writing styles. Our contributors have a demonstrated ability to write smart, fun, incisive, and well-researched stories for a diverse and politically informed national readership. Successful pitches will reflect a familiarity with the Sierra Club’s motto—“Explore, enjoy, and protect the planet.” When covering Black, Indigenous, and Latino and other people of color communities, we prioritize working with writers who come from within those communities.
If you’re interested in writing for Sierra, please read some recent issues of the magazine (check out our archives under the Magazine tab) as well as our daily online journalism. Please note, we do not publish unsolicited poetry or any fiction.
We publish daily at sierramagazine.org. We’re always on the lookout for new voices and perspectives in environmental journalism and writers who can deliver tight copy in a speedy timeframe. We are especially interested in analysis of environmental news and policies that can step back from the headlines and offer readers a smart and original take on the latest environment-related developments. We are always eager for enterprise reporting that elevates some new trend or happening. We like science journalism that gives readers a sense of wonder about the natural world. And we’re constantly on the lookout for thoughtful adventure writing and service journalism about sustainable living. We also publish book and film reviews and even the occasional opinion essay.
Our standard fee for online stories is $350; the fee can increase for regular contributors. We pay a flat fee of $250 for reviews and opinion pieces. We normally do not offer a fee to professional activists/advocates or full-time academics.
Our quarterly print edition includes a mix of long-form features, shorter dispatches, adventure-led science writing, personal essays, and service journalism.
Sierra feature articles are deeply reported and tightly written works of narrative nonfiction that relate to significant environmental and social justice issues, adventure travel, natural sciences, self-propelled sports, and trends in sustainable living. We are ecumenical and broad-minded about tone and form, and we are equally interested in investigative journalism, enterprise reporting, profiles, adventure-travel writing, explanatory reporting, essays, think pieces, and even the occasional manifesto. We are more interested in showcasing environmental solutions than adding to the list of environmental problems.
Sierra features can address, but are not limited to, aspects of the Sierra Club's work; few subjects are taboo. For more information about the Sierra Club's current campaigns, visit sierraclub.org.
Examples of feature articles that display the special qualities we look for include the following: The End of Oil Is Near, by Antonia Juhasz (Sept/Oct 2020); Toward the Desert, by Jessica Camille Aguirre (Sept/Oct 2020); Slash and Burn, by Jeremy Miller (March/April 2020); You Can’t Recycle Garbage, by Edward Humes (July/August 2019); Does a Bear Think in the Woods?, by Brandon Keim (March/April 2019); The Case for Climate Reparations, by Jason Mark (May/June 2018); Dark Matters, by Heather Smith (March/April 2018).
Feature lengths range from 3,000 words to (rarely) 4,500 words or more with payment starting at $1/word and rising to $1.50/word for well-known writers with crackerjack credentials. Modest expenses may be paid in some cases.
Much of the material in Sierra's departments is written by staff editors and contributing writers. The following sections of the magazine are open to freelancers. Articles are 250 to 2,000 words in length; fees are $250 to $2,000 unless otherwise noted.
Notes From Here & There
These short (~800 word) dispatches are personality focused and/or place dependent, as the writer sketches a scene or a character to illustrate some larger environmental topic. Sometimes these can be evergreen (a backcountry dentist; a long-running community struggle). More often, they are news-driven (a major environmental protest; a scandal in Washington). We are open to mini-profiles, illuminating anecdotal reporting, and even data-driven infographics. These stories are among the more timely in the magazine and should illuminate current issues in surprising ways.
Field Trip is a first-person reported travel featurette (of about 2,000 words) that tells the story of a specific journey to a place while immersing the reader in some aspect of the ecology/geology/biology of that place. Any landscape is worthy of exploration, from the wildest wilderness to city parks to salt marshes to Superfund sites. A 500-word sidebar to the essay will offer practical advice to readers, along the lines of “How You Can Visit” and “What You Should Look For.”
A pithy (750 to 1,500 word) service-oriented guide to diminishing one’s consumption and planetary impact. Examples include finding alternatives to common disposable household plastics; utilizing lending libraries to find outdoor gear and other common items; hosting a DIY, zero-waste holiday party or summer barbecue or kids’ birthday party; fostering a network of community mutual aid to weather natural disasters; or arranging your kitchen to eradicate food waste. Material World often includes expert input from savvy, well-known Instagram and DIY influencers, bloggers, and people with funny or surprising firsthand stories.
How are environmental issues expressed through arts and culture? How can we deepen our understanding and engagement with these issues from those at the vanguard of literature, art, dance, music, television, film, and more? These are just some of the questions driving Sierra's Culture Desk. This section consists of a review, analysis, or essay (roughly 1,200 words) focused on various forms of contemporary art and culture occurring at the intersections of ecology and environmentalism, eco-conscious living, sustainability, climate action and awareness, and traditional forms of nature writing, composition, and expression. The anchor story is paired with a series of short arts and culture reviews (no more than 250 words) of books, music, podcasts, film, television, and social media.
Do-Gooder is a profile piece of about 850 words that aims to showcase environmental heroes in a wide range of fields. We are open to an expansive definition of activism that includes scientists, artists, media personalities, entrepreneurs, and politicians along with everyday grassroots activists. We are looking for stories that not only inspire but also ask probing questions and educate readers about a larger issue.
Eyewitness is a first-person work of extremely short nonfiction (625 words) that immerses the reader in a particular experience of nature or social change activism. This is the most experimental section of the magazine. Prior essays have ranged from a life-changing journey through the Chinle Formation to a defense of public beaches to the eeriness of life on the range to a deep look at love, time, and the California Nebula. While your essay may feature some epiphany or deeper moment of understanding, they are not necessary.
Stress Test looks critically at a particular technology: Where does it come from? How is it made? Where does it go when you’re done with it? This section is heavily illustrated, so the word count is very short—about 300 words.
The science and technology involved could range anywhere from recent innovations in climate adaptation, ecosystem management, renewable energy, urban design, and consumer products to older forms of technology like traditional ecological knowledge. Because this section focuses on how technology works when it is deployed in the real world, pitches should only feature projects or products that have been implemented beyond the proof-of-concept stage.
HOW TO SUBMIT
Sierra welcomes unsolicited pitches from qualified writers. To submit one, please fill out this form.