Sandi Sturm knows it is possible to ensure a bright future for our children and future generations. The challenge is getting information and resources for climate change into the hands of the community. So Sandi developed EnvironmentalGroups.us, a website that serves as a searchable clearinghouse of environmental non-profits in the US. Her website educates and empowers local communities to make the changes necessary for a healthy future. Learn how Sandi is making an impact on climate change on Search and Replace.
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[00:00:00] Announcer: Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialist at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode.
[00:00:09] Joe Taylor, Jr.: What if you know you want to help make a difference in your community, but you don’t know exactly where to start? I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. This is Search and Replace.
Having spent the first part of her career as a business writer, Sandi Sturm was looking for inspiration about the next chapter in her life and she tells us that hints from the universe sometimes do show up in bright lights.
[00:00:40] Sandi Sturm: I decided to go to graduate school at an older age and I was searching, and it’s funny, we were in Colorado at the time and we went to the movies and the University of Alaska came up on the screen advertising, which was odd.
But when I looked into it, to make a long story short, they offered me a free master’s program and a job. We bought an RV and we went up there.
So we’ve been off and on an RV. We had a little 19-foot travel trailer, then sold everything and went to Alaska; ended up being there 12 years. We’ve seen some very unusual things as we’ve seen some very disheartening things as far as the proof of climate change out there.
We’ve been evacuated three times due to wildfires. I’ve seen a house fall into a braided river up in Alaska due to the high temperatures and rapidly melting glaciers. We’ve experienced what has a blip in the news, which is a big difference.
[00:01:48] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Sandi leaned on her background as a marketing specialist to start organizing other people who wanted to help fight climate change.
She discovered some unexpected resistance for many people thinking about tackling the problem at a grassroots level.
[00:02:02] Sandi Sturm: Four, five years ago, we were in Grand Junction, Colorado. I called together all the environmental groups in town. I had a knowledge of some of them because I had lived there before and I thought it would be best if we all worked together on this big topic instead of all competing against each other, to bring our resources together.
In a small town, I guess it’s about 40,000 people in that area, you’re going to compete for those, the nonprofit dollars. Right? So they’re all competing for the same pie. And I thought, let’s bring them together. And people showed up, we had a meeting. But before the meeting, one of the groups went out, pulled their people outside and said, don’t agree to do anything.
I’m like, what? So then I said, you gotta leave your egos outside the door because this is a big problem and we all need to work together.
[00:02:58] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Like many of us, the pandemic forced Sandi to think differently about how she could accomplish her goals.
[00:03:03] Sandi Sturm: We sold what we had gathered and decided to get this RV, but we bought it the July before the pandemic. I can remember the date, March 8th, 2020. Everything ended. All the work that we were doing on the road – cuz we were taking our messaging people about climate change and what they could do about it. We were going out on the road and then all of a sudden we were stopped. It was just dead.
We’re still in the RV right now. We’re in Vermont. I’ve been here all summer in a couple of different spots. But we’re working for parks and whatever we could do because our work never did come back.
You have to adapt, right, and do what you can. So that year, 2020, is when I wrote my book. So it gave me time to do that.
We’ve only been traveling in the US in a little bit of Canada, but people are generally very nice and willing to talk. We’ve met a lot of people in a lot of groups, nonprofit group leaders, and the biggest commonality is people don’t know what to do. We’ve been inundated with all this bad news in that feeling of hopelessness sinks in, and once that sinks in, you just give up and put blinders on and you don’t do anything.
Our focus is more giving solutions and I wanted to focus on families so that you could, there are things you can do, little things that you don’t think mean much, but can make a very big difference.
[00:04:35] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Thinking about how she could help other people overcome those negative feelings. Sandi drew on experiences like the one in Colorado where larger groups sometimes overshadow work happening at the community level.
[00:04:48] Sandi Sturm: When you get new people in town and they wanna go work with a nonprofit group, the only ones that show up really on a Google search are, like, Sierra Club and the big ones. Not the little local ones. Like the local ones fighting for clean air right in your neighborhood. I saw that as an issue.
So we built this site. We’ve got about 1800 groups on there right now, and I keep trying to get more. I want at least 50 per state on there, so that’s something that’s always the ongoing. But then once we get all these groups, I would like to get people, maybe if there’s groups from different cities and different states working together.
Imagine the voice we could have if I had even just 10 from each state. Imagine the voice we could have as far as the policy goes. Yeah, I’m really excited about that.
[00:05:41] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Sandi urges us to remember that it’s a little daunting to try to save the world all at once.
[00:05:46] Sandi Sturm: My hope is that more and more people will learn ways and realize too that you don’t have to change everything. You don’t have to do a 180 to with your life. These simple things can be done.
Our family, we practice giving experiences instead of stuff. For example, for any holiday. I think every action we take, every purchase we make, everything we do has an impact. It has a carbon footprint. So even before you go out and just make a purchase, just think of the lifecycle of that and your actions. What’s the lifecycle? So just getting that one point and thought in your mind could make a big difference.
[00:06:31] Joe Taylor, Jr.: That’s author and climate activist Sandi Sturm, founder of Earth Focus Group. We’ve got links to Sandi’s initiatives in our show notes and on our website at searchandreplace.show.
Search and replace was produced by Nicole Hubbard with support from Christine Benton, Connie Evans, Amelia Lohmann, April Smith, and executive producer Lori Taylor. Our theme music was composed by Alex or ReFire. I’m Joe Taylor, Jr.
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