Your Share of the Brand

  • Posted on 7 June 2021
  • By Hoiyin Ip

“Sweat or pay” was my fair ask of fellow volunteers.

But for the severe financial impacts that COVID has brought to nonprofits, I’m asking proud Sierra Club members to pay a little extra. Here’s why.   

I don’t think of myself as a real environmentalist. Since I went to my city council to talk about the plastic bag ban in 2008, I’ve done a variety of environmental projects, and think about quitting regularly. I’m still around because there are people who motivate me to extend myself, particularly on a bad day.
I joined Sierra Club after I’d been reading Michael Brune’s words for a while. This guy has a way to put things together unexpectedly, such as “Civil disobedience can help to focus attention on a particular injustice. It was used historically to highlight wrongs in society—turning ancient redwood forests into paper towels or preventing people from sitting down at lunch counters because of the color of their skin.” I thought within his organization, I would meet interesting people like him, and have great flexibility on which cause to volunteer for.  
My Sierra Club experience officially started in 2017 when I got an unexpected email from then-chapter chair Sharon Koch. She asked me to start a zero waste committee. Then, they put me on the national Zero Waste Team. Then, I was introduced to the California Zero Waste Committee. I thought they really needed volunteers and put me “everywhere.” Then, I joined the California Water and Energy-Climate Committees, and recently the California Committee on Transportation and Sustainable Communities. Everything is interconnected. 
Working on an integrated solution with people from different committees or different parts of the country is very interesting, and frustrating more often than I prefer. But just about every day, I’m impressed or touched by some Club members. I’ll share a few names I got to know this year.
My first impression of Lauren Cullum, California policy advocate (Club lobbyist in Sacramento) was through a long email she sent about the last night of last year’s legislative session. I was happy to see this staffer cared. But I didn’t have any reason to interact with her until this legislative session started. Lauren’s email can come before 7 AM. She’s not just responsive, but also articulate - I wondered why. Turns out she has a master’s degree in Global Environment and Climate Change Law from the University of Edinburgh. Coincidentally, I also got to know national Club attorney Aaron Isherwood, whose emails and calls also come in between 7 AM and 5 PM. Every time we talk, I learn something from him. I love productive people. But those, who work extended hours, make me really aware that I spend only 40 hours a week at my day job. I actually like my day job, I don’t mind working overtime. But I’m also pulled by the societal impacts and urgency of environmental work. 
In addition, Sierra Club’s vast network can bring timely and nice surprises. Recently, I got an email from Alex Mintzer, who said he chaired the Santa Lucia Chapter’s Political Committee, was arranging a meeting with state senator John Laird and asked if I wanted them to discuss any senate bills. I didn’t even know there’s a chapter called Santa Lucia. Thank you, a political committee is a friend I love to have now! 
Another good friend to have is a communication committee. Pre-Covid, I hardly interacted with the chapters because I had a good relationship with newspapers. I saw the reporters often at government meetings. But as soon as the shutdown started, some of them were laid off, it also became harder to get op-eds published. I’m grateful to use the chapter’s communication channels to continue my advocacy, thanks to Jonathan Howard and the team who are always willing to try something new and now to communicate with the 35,000 Angeles members. 
Unfortunately, the Sierra Club is experiencing the negative economic impacts of the pandemic. Many good staffers are leaving. Many projects are on hold. I used to say “sweat or pay” to my fellow volunteers. But today, I urge you to step up at this critical time to protect the brand - if you’ve enjoyed being a Sierra Club member for any reason. Please: 
  • pay your membership today if it’s overdue, 
  • consider becoming a life member when you renew your membership,
  • consider becoming a monthly donor to the Angeles Chapter, California or national. If each of us pitches in $5 a month, we add up. 
Hoiyin Ip is a member of the Angeles Chapter. 

Header image: Angeles Chapter volunteers at a tabling event, 2019 John Nilsson


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