The Sierra Club is a national volunteer-driven non-profit organization, and the Lonestar Chapter where I am currently interning is the oldest grassroots environmental group in Texas. Their mission is “to explore, enjoy, and protect the planet!” and they work towards this through various goals within each division of the chapter. These conservation goals include clean air and water, smart energy solutions, land and wildlife protection, water for the people and the environment, promoting responsible transportation choices, and achieving a stable climate. These may at first seem like purely environmental protection goals, but at their core is environmental justice because the health of the human world is linked to the health of the natural world. Furthermore, the legislation having to do with issues such as where refineries are built or where toxic runoff ultimately ends up will more often than not negatively impact marginalized communities.
Since I’ve been working here, my supervisor, the director of the Lonestar Chapter, has allowed me to put a finger in each of these environmental issue pies, so to speak, and I’m usually given different tasks each day. I have worked with the Lonestar Chapter’s water resources specialist, who also works with the Texas Living Waters Project. Under her supervision I compiled cases of drinking water contamination (mostly limited to ground water cases) across Texas. This issue is quickly becoming more and more prevalent, and it is important to get this information available to the public in an easy-to-access form. Too many rural, lower-socioeconomic-class communities are being affected by tap water that comes out with harmful biological, chemical, or industrial pollutants.
I then moved on to work with the Lonestar Chapter’s clean energy coordinator. My tasks here included reading through the annual State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) reports from all the co-op and municipal electric utility groups in Texas. I then had to compile certain factors of each report into an energy efficiency scorecard, which we use to rank these utilities on all their measures to achieve more clean energy and energy efficiency. Finally, I drafted emails to each of these electric utility companies explaining the score they received and breaking down the categories in which they could improve to give their customers more access to energy efficient programs or equipment in their residences or their commercial businesses.
The latest work I’ve been doing is under the Chapter’s communication manager. He has put me in charge of our organization’s Media Clip Report, which compiles anytime we are mentioned in the media and asses the tone put out into the world. I’ve also been collecting information on the Sierra Club-endorsed challengers in Texas house and senate elections so that it can be put in one place for our members, or the public, to access.
Overall, my tasks are often spreadsheet- and research-oriented, but these intern-level tasks help the organization flow like a well oiled (or rather, green energy powered!) machine. By the time I depart from the Sierra Club, I would like to have accomplished more direct outreach and education with the local community, and also simply expand my knowledge of all the overlap between environmental and social justice issues.