Winter 2014 Sierra Club Newsletter Released

Four Lakes Sierran

Latest Issue Released!

The Winter-Spring Issue of the Four Lakes Sierran is now available!  For updated information throughout the year, visit and connect with us on Facebook.

click to download newsletter

– Table of Contents —

Articles & Updates

  • Chair’s Corner
  • Protecting Our Waters
  • Flying the Sierra Club’s Banner
  • Saying RAH Year Round
  • Sierra Club Gets the Inside Scoop on Mining Issues
  • Popular Muir Chapter Solar Program Awaits Focus on Energy

Events & Activities

  • Live Program: Ocean of Insight:The Six-Year Journey of a Wisconsin Environmental Activist Across a Fluid Landscape February 12
  • Volunteer Appreciation & Recruitment Party February 27
  • Spring Hike – New Glarus Woods State Park April 5
  • Dane County Streambank Restoration with Trout Unlimited

Volunteer Opportunities

  • Isthmus Beer and Cheese Festival:  January 18
  • WPT Garden Expo:  February 7 – 9
  • March 7 – 9:  Canoecopia
  • Dane County Farmers Market, Saturdays starting April 26
Posted in Activism, Events, Green Living, Outings, Volunteering | Leave a comment

Be Visible! Help Promote the Sierra Club….

“Organizational visibility is intentional, not accidental”
(Peter Brinckerhoff, The Mission Based Management Newsletter, March-April 2009)

As we approach the end of the year and the preparation of taxes, my husband and I review our contributions to a list of  organizations. A list detailing the last three years’ donations sits near the area where we pay our bills (Yep, we still write checks!) as a reference and a reminder. As I look through this I’m reminded of the amazing work these organizations do,and right in the mix is the Sierra Club.

Wisconsin Sierra Club Chair Liz Wessel

Wisconsin Sierra Club Chair Liz Wessel

It also brings to mind where I spend my volunteer time. There are a lot of groups on the list, and I cannot volunteer with all of them! Several years ago when I first ran for the Executive Committee, I made a deliberate decision to clear my plate and to put in some focused hours with the John Muir Chapter to ensure its success in the years to come. One of the  questions we should all ask ourselves is how, in the crowded world of non-profits, can we help the Sierra Club stand out amongst the many worthwhile organizations in Wisconsin?

We cannot assume that just because the Sierra Club has been around a long time (we just celebrated our 50th year in Wisconsin!), or because the organization has a national arm, that the John Muir Chapter does not need our support. By support I mean donating, volunteering and being visible in the community. The reality is that the John Muir Chapter and the local Groups need members to vocally and visibly align themselves with the Sierra Club. Visibility and affiliation can help with building and strengthening the Sierra Club. It serves a role in drawing new people to the Club, engaging existing members, and building the Sierra Club’s name and recognition. As members, our goal should be to shrink the number of people in our circles who say they have never heard of the Sierra Club.

So what specifically can we do?

We can start by talking up the Sierra Club and being visible. I often wear a Sierra Club button on my jacket (in fact I have a few that I pull from the closet complete with a button). I may be going to an unrelated meeting or grocery shopping or to the bank, but I am proud of what the Club has achieved and I want others to know about the Sierra Club. When I head out on a hike or picnic on summer weekends, I grab my Sierra Club hat. Not just because it protects the tops of my head and face but because it lets people know I am a Sierran. Whether or not people we meet on the trail or at a picnic spot say anything, I know they read the Sierra Club label. And when they do ask, I often can talk about the trail or park and make a connection to the Club. Or if I attend a meeting around Madison, during introductions I do not mention all the affiliations I may have. I tend to narrow it down to two – First Unitarian Society and the Sierra Club.

When we work on issues there are so many opportunities for us to promote the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club has always relied on its members to be on the front line of any issue, especially at the local and state level. Both the Chapter and National levels provide positions on a range of issues that can be woven into personal statements or letters to the editor. Or maybe you get a call to action from the Chapter to attend a rally or a hearing. Don’t forget to put on that Sierra Club button, shirt or hat as you leave the door.

shirtOf great importance is volunteer participation in other coalitions and networks. Volunteers serve on many bigger coalition efforts from mining, to water, to transportation and energy issues. As volunteer representatives of the Sierra Club, it is important to continue to associate our participation with the Sierra Club and to represent the Club’s position at these bigger tables. It doesn’t hurt to wear a button either! Within the constraints of the Club positions and the coalitions, we have a large Sierra Club tool box to bring to many of these efforts.

Consider our work on transportation. As volunteers, several of us from different areas of the state have participated with the broader coalition working to expand public transportation in Wisconsin. Within this coalition, volunteers have been free to develop a “Sierra Club” approach to the issue, working with labor to contest the Milwaukee County budget under then-County Executive Scott Walker, garnering support for rail service, and conducting community meetings to get people to talk about transportation and their neighborhoods. And now, volunteers are contesting the state transportation budget’s fixation on new road building to the detriment of road repair and transit development. These types of activities provide opportunities to hang out the Sierra Club banner, post things on the web and Facebook, show up at hearings, and canvass our peers and friends to join the Sierra Club in its vision for a multimodal, interconnected transportation system.

hatWe also need to be visible when the Sierra Club endorses a candidate. When we make an endorsement at the local or state level, Sierra Club volunteers are the positive, tangible benefit for a candidate. Signing in on a volunteer sheet as a Sierra Club member and wearing a button are simple steps to draw the connection. And when volunteers canvass, a button, shirt or hat, lets folks know that the Sierra Club takes democracy and participation seriously. Being visible may draw other people or Sierra Club members to this work.

Promotion and visibility serve a lot of purposes depending on the context. Visibility on the trail may make someone consider joining an outing or getting involved in a conservation effort. Showing up at a meeting with a button or identifying one of your affiliations as the Sierra Club may prompt a conversation about membership and why you joined. Wearing Sierra Club gear while volunteering for a candidate creates a link in the mind of the campaign staff and the candidate to the organization and its endorsement. Testifying at a hearing wearing a Club button and using the Sierra Club’s positions on an issue broadens the reach of the Club. Liking on Facebook or posting creates the buzz to attract new faces to the Club.

Our job is to fuel the Sierra Club’s efforts by building its name and recognition. We have the legacy, the reputation and the tool kit to meet today’s environmental challenges. But we need to keep letting folks know we are here. For an anecdote highlighting the need to be visible, Peter Brinckerhoff writes: “…in the weeks and months after the September 11, 2001 attacks, more than 100 non-profits were formed in NYC to help families, and survivors. Nearly all of them duplicated existing services already in place in New York, but those organizations’ low visibility prevented the well intentioned founders of these organizations from knowing that there were already resources in place.” (The Mission Based Management Newsletter, March-April 2009)

In a crowded nonprofit world, Sierra Club has a lot to offer and people should know about it. So let’s help make it stand out amongst the crowd!



Posted in Activism, Volunteering | Leave a comment

Year End Giving Time! Donate to your local Sierra Club…

Give To the Sierra Club

donateThe Four Lakes Group is always in need of funds to support our local activities.  We do get some money from membership dues, but its is usually not enough to cover all our expenses.  We lead outings, offer educational programs, have an active conservation agenda, publish newsletters, support our Madison Inner City Outings outreach program, send volunteers to training, and work on local  legislation & campaigns.   Because we do electioneering and lobbying, donations directly to the Four Lakes Group are not tax-deductible, but rest assured that they are put to excellent use.

Please make all checks out to the “Four Lakes Sierra Club”, and please remember to include your name and address so we can send you a thank you and let you know your donation was received!

Thank you and Happy Holidays!

Checks can be mailed to:

Sierra Club
C/O Lacinda Athen
4909 Sherwood Road
Madison, WI 53711

Posted in Activism, Volunteering | Leave a comment

Photos from our Frac Sand Mining Program

We had over 100 people attend our Frac Sand Mining program at the new downtown Madison Public Library.

frac sand mining wisconsin To see the public photo album, visit our Facebook page This album is open to the public, but we encourage anyone interested in the Sierra Club to “Like” our page for updates!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Frac Sand Mining in Wisconsin Talk on October 29 in Madison

frac sand mineThe Four Lakes Group of the Sierra Club is sponsoring a presentation about frac sand mining by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (WCIJ) on October 29, at 7 p.m. in the Madison Public Library, 201 W. Mifflin Street.

WCIJ reporters Kate Golden, Ron Seeley and Alison Dirr, and Dave Blouin, Mining Committee chair for the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club, will discuss and take audience questions about frac sand mining, as well as Gogebic Taconite’s proposed mine in the Penokee Hills in Northern Wisconsin.

The booming frac sands mining industry, which supports hydraulic fracture extraction (“fracking”) of natural gas, is loosely regulated in Wisconsin and can produce harmful environmental consequences.  Regulation of these proposals resides primarily with local governments which lack resources and expertise to deal with them.

“Extractive industries such as frac sand and iron mining represent the most destructive and intense land uses in Wisconsin,” said Dave Blouin, John Muir Chapter Mining Committee chair.  “The rush to permit more of these damaging proposals is producing enormous stress on our lands, water and air and local governments and landowners are struggling to protect their resources.”

The October 29 presentation will be held at the newly-renovated Madison Public Library, 201W. Mifflin. This presentation will be a great chance to see the renovations at the library while learning about this important environmental issue. Refreshments will be provided.


Posted in Events | Comments Off

Fall Kick Off Wrapup, Photos and Volunteer Opportunity list….

Thank You to everyone who attended our Fall Kick off last week with Joe Parisi!

It was a great time.  Here are some of our board members with Joe and his staffer Melissa, L-R is Beverly, Lacinda, Joe, Melissa and Don.  More photos are on our Facebook wall, so head over there to check those out.  As a wrap up to those who couldn’t attend, and in response to a few who did that wanted a written overview of their options, we compiled a short list of our volunteer opportunities.   Please contact the person listed for more details, or feel free to reach out to Lacinda with any questions.

Four Lakes Volunteer Opportunities

  • Outings Leaders to hike, bike, camp, ski and more.  We’re always looking for folks to help get members outdoors.  Contact Kathy to learn more.
  • Paddling Outings leaders.  The statewide River Touring Section connects those that are into water sports like canoeing and kayaking.  Visit the RTS website to learn more.
  • Communications, Newsletter & Social Media team.  This committee helps spread our message to members and beyond and is open to anyone, though we’re especially seeking those with writing, graphic design, social media and web development skills.  Contact Lacinda to learn more.
  • Inner City Outings is our youth outreach program that connects nature deprived kids with the outdoors.  Leaders plan trips, work with our partner groups, and have a great time. Visit the ICO website to learn more.
  • Recycling Away from Home is our zero waste festival recycling and composting program.  We work with neighborhood festivals in and around Madison to reduce and divert waste that would otherwise end up in our landfill.  Contact Don to learn more.
  • Water Sentinels is a new initiative launched in partnership with the Madison Unitarian Society to monitor, learn about, and protect our area waters.  Contact Liz for more details.
  • Clean Energy and Clean Transportation.  The Beyond Coal and Beyond Oil programs to encourage a clean, green future are run from our statewide Sierra Club office.  Contact Elizabeth for details.
  • Political Committee.  Identifying and supporting environmentally friendly political representation, and educating the voters about their choices, is one of our most effective weapons.  If you want to help out, contact Dave to learn more.
Posted in Activism, Events, Volunteering | Comments Off

Get Connected With the Sierra Club at the Fall Kickoff

Joe Parisi

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi to speak at the Sierra Club Fall Kickoff

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi will be the keynote speaker at the Sierra Club’s Fall Kickoff, Wednesday, September 25, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at The Wil-Mar Center, 953 Jenifer Street.

Parisi will talk about county initiatives to help clean up our lakes, address the impact of climate change on Dane County, and increase sustainability and the use of renewable energy throughout county government. The Kickoff, which is open to the public, is sponsored by the Four Lakes Group of the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The Fall Kickoff is also the chance to learn about the local group’s programs. Attendees can learn about local outings and events the group sponsors, as well as conservation, youth programs, recycling, and water projects the group is working on.

“Please join us at the annual Fall Kickoff to learn more about what the Sierra Club is doing to protect our natural resources in Dane County and beyond,” said Dave Blouin, chair of the Four Lakes Group. “We’re very pleased to have Dane County Executive Joe Parisi join us to speak about the innovations and efforts underway by Dane County.”

There will also be food, fun, and live music. Come hear what’s happening, and how you can join in and help make the difference you want to see! RSVP today or if you have questions, contact 608-274-7870.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Sustainable Eating – Grow Local!

By Four Lakes Group Member Megan Arzbaecher
Originally published in Sustainable Times Magazine

To really discuss sustainable food systems means also talking about local agriculture, and the choices we make. Southern Wisconsin has a myriad of sustainable food options, giving everyone a chance to participate. While sustainable agriculture is important when talking about the planet and human health at the global scale, it’s also important at the local, community-based economy level. Wisconsin’s strong agricultural heritage and rich soils provides a strong base that continues to increase the presence of farmers’ markets and other local produce options.

Farmers marketMadison is a key local agriculture hub in Wisconsin and offers a plethora of food options throughout the year. This is perhaps most typified by the outstanding Dane County Farmer’s Market that provides a great venue to connect local farmers and food producers to consumers. On a normal Saturday it attracts around 20,000 people. From bread to strawberries to corn to baked goods, meat and cheese, you can find a near endless variety of foods. And if you can’t get to downtown Madison for the Saturday market, there are many other options on weekends and during the week. The Saturday Hilldale Market draws many people who want to avoid the downtown throngs. The Wednesday market on Martin Luther King Blvd is also much less crowded, but still offers a great variety of produce. The east side Madison market is another example of a local market that provides convenient access for local residents, as well as an outlet for other farmers or food producers.

With its great agricultural productivity, many other communities in Wisconsin have local markets highlighting farms and farmers in their area. It’s not uncommon when driving around southern Wisconsin to spot cheese factories, local meat stores, and farm stands selling produce and other items. In fact, many festivals such as the Sun Prairie Sweet Corn Festival are scheduled around times of abundance to celebrate locally grown offerings. Farm dairy breakfasts are also common in many areas and help connect people to their farmers.

Winter doesn’t halt the sales of fresh local foods. Many farmers and distributors store produce for months so we can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables despite the snow on the ground. Much of this can be found at local grocers such as Willy St Coop or the Viroqua Coop. Or you can shop the indoor winter farmers’ market located at The Monona Terrace or Madison Senior Center.

Shopping at local farmers’ market not only provides some of the best tasting and highest quality produce, as well as great variety, but can also be an economical option. Buying directly from the farmers or producers cuts out the middleman and store markup, often saving money. The Dane County Farmers’ Market also offers a Foodshare program, which allows any family or individual on Quest or Foodstamps to exchange their credit for market dollars and have access to healthy and affordable food options. Many vendors also contribute to the Second Harvest Food program that collects surplus or unsold produce to help sustain people in need.

Another popular option is community sponsored agriculture, or CSAs. CSAs link farmers directly with consumers in a mutually beneficial arrangement where farmers have guaranteed customers by selling ‘shares’ before the growing season, and customers have a guaranteed source of healthy and reasonably priced produce. As a share can be fairly large, this is often a popular option for families or groups who receive generally a weekly selection of seasonal produce. Much of what will be received is agreed upon ahead of time, but vagaries of weather and crops may alter the weekly allotment, both in variety and quantity. This also encourages experimentation with recipes and preserving foods!

community gardenAn even more economical and sustainable local option is growing your own food. Home and community gardens are sprouting up all over Madison, such as in Eagle Heights, along the east side bike path near the Goodman Center, or at Troy Community Gardens. Community plots come in a variety of sizes, and may also offer access to tools, water and other necessities. Even if you’re not convinced you have a green thumb, you can always start small with herbs and potted plants on a porch or patio. Before you know it, you might turn into a real gardener. And community gardening not only grows produce, it grows community.

Eating locally not only supports sustainable agriculture, but also the local economy. To help raise awareness about the benefits of local food systems, the Willy Street Coop sponsors an Eat Local Challenge to encourage support for local food production. Participants determine what proportion of their food they want to acquire from local sources, and the Coop provides information about their food sources. However, by buying local, more of the money spent also provides support for our local economy. Of course, buying primarily local products is easier in the summer and fall when Wisconsin offers a much greater quantity and variety of local seasonal produce.

Many restaurants also feature locally harvested produce or locally grown meat options, and even list the farms the various items come from. By choosing to eat at these restaurants, you contribute not only to more sustainable food systems, but sustainable local economies. It’s a win-win!

With the growing season in full swing, not to mention the loads of great festivals happening throughout the area, opportunities to eat local abound. And the nice part is that you can know where every mouthful comes from – and where your green is going to. You can boost your health, support your local economy and shell out less of your own green – all while being green.

Posted in Green Living | Comments Off

Sierra Club and Friends of Monona Bay Tackle Trash at Brittingham Beach

The lakes in and around Madison are one of our city’s indisputable jewels.  Unfortunately, these same lakes are seen by some citizens as a dumpster.  Diapers, plastic bags, cigarette butts, and beer cans litter the shorelines detracting from their beauty and creating safety hazards.  Fish, turtles and water fowl can become entangled in discarded fishing line or the plastic rings from six-packs.  Paper, Styrofoam and plastic bottles can clog drainage areas and create floating waste islands, marring the landscape for paddlers.

Luckily, there is something being done to address this issue. Two local groups will be tackling trash at one of the city’s most popular areas, Brittingham Beach on Monona Bay, by hosting a shoreline cleanup.   The Four Lakes Sierra Club and Friends of Monona Bay are sponsoring a work party as part of the county-wide Take a Stake in the Lakes program on Saturday, June 29 from 10 a.m. to Noon.  The cleanup will be followed by a social lunch.

brittingham park signVolunteers can RSVP at VolunteerSpot, then meet at the Brittingham Beach House, 701 W. Brittingham Place, now home to Brittingham Boat Rental and Cafe at 10 a.m.. Useful items to bring include rakes, canoes and kayaks as they can be used to collect trash and weeds from the water.  After the work party, volunteers can stay for a social lunch.  Brittingham Boats offers Babcock Hall Ice Cream, coffee drinks and “make your own” grilled cheese for purchase.  Volunteers are also encouraged to bring a dish to share.  Free “Take a Stake in our Waters” t-shirts provided to volunteers.  For questions, call 608-274-7870.

Posted in Activism, Events, Outings, Volunteering | Comments Off

Compost, Recycle, Reuse – Oh My! Waste Reduction in Madison

By Four Lakes Group Member Megan Arzbaecher
Originally published in Sustainable Times Magazine

recycling binsRecycling has been commonplace in Madison for many years as a means to reduce waste. The Madison Streets & Recycling division employs a single stream recycling system which is easy and simple to use. Residents combine their recycling materials in one collection bin, rather than having to sort items individually based on categories. The city does curbside recycling biweekly, and there is no additional work of taking recycling to an offsite facility or sorting into individual bins.

In 2010, the cost per household for waste management services was $226.87 or $18.89 per month. Because of its simplicity and low cost, the city boasts a 66% participation rate, and results in a significant amount of waste being diverted from the landfill. Streets & Recycling recently modified its rules to include additional items. In 2012, they started accepting pots & pans, small metal appliances, and plastic bags as part of the curbside recycling program. However, there are certain materials that the city can’t take such as light weight plastics since the recycling company cannot deal with these materials. For up to date information, check out the Recylopedia available at

For items the city is unable to collect at the curbside, there are offsite collection centers. Electronics can be recycled for a $10 fee at one of two facilities. This not only keeps toxic materials out of the landfills, but also allows some of the items to be repurposed or broken down into useful components. Madison also has the Stuff Exchange (, a city sponsored website for reuse of unwanted items. Items may be given away or offered for sale and participants can create a “wanted” list for items they are looking for.

But even the extensive recycling still leaves a tremendous amount of waste that ends up in the landfill. And landfills are neither popular to construct or cheap to operate. Recently, the City of Madison rolled out the innovative Organics Collection Pilot Program. This 2-year pilot program is focused on testing the viability of citywide organic waste collection. The costs and benefits of the program will be analyzed to determine whether it is cost-effective enough to implement citywide.

compostingIt began in June 2011 with a small number of volunteer households in two neighborhoods and businesses, and grew again this year to include the Madison Children’s Museum and Fair Oaks Diner. The city’s Streets division collects organic material, which includes anything that used to be alive such as plant matter and food waste, but also cardboard, pet waste, and paper. They come and pick up the waste weekly and deliver it to the Columbia County Compost facility. As the organic matter decays, the city utilizes an anaerobic digestion system to create two beneficial outcomes from the waste.

According to the pilot program’s website, “An AD system will produce lots of valuable compost, but it is also designed to capture all of the methane (biogas) that is generated during the digestion process. The biogas can then be used to power a generator or fuel cell to produce electricity or used as fuel for collection vehicles”. This pilot program is a huge opportunity for Madison. If the program proves cost-effective, Madison can break ground on a completely sustainable system for organic waste. The rich composted soil could be utilized throughout the city’s gardens, while the renewable energy has endless opportunities for transportation, electricity or heating.

Of course, personal composting is a great way to reduce your ecological footprint. Starting your own compost shouldn’t be intimidating; it’s easier than you think! Get a covered bin for a self-contained system, or attend the City of Madison’s compost sale for a ready-to-go bin. Then follow the 50-50 rule- use 50% brown waste, such as leaves, and 50% green waste, aka food scraps and grass clippings. This will give you a good carbon and nitrogen balance. After the first week, your pile should reach a temperature of 140 degrees, and you will need to turn it every few weeks. This aerates the soil while also mixing up the compost. Then after 4 months, your compost should be ready to go!

Another new program begun fall of 2012 was Leave the Leaf. The City of Madison will kick off this program in the hopes of reducing the problematic disposal of leaves every fall. People view leaves as a waste product and nuisance to yard maintenance. However, there are lots of potential benefits of leaves including mulch, natural fertilizer and garden cover.

The goals of Leave the Leaf include reducing “phosphorus runoff from leaves, improve the quality of area soil and lawns, and reduce the need for more leaf collection trucks and staff”. The program will over education seminars for dealing with your leaves such as mulching and composting them.

The final program to highlight is RAH, or Recycling Away from Home. Sponsored by Sierra Club and Marquette Neighborhood, this joint program aims to offer recycling and waste reduction efforts at festivals and events throughout Madison. With so many summer activities around the city, there is a huge potential for waste, since many festivals have no recycling programs. RAH uses a network of volunteers to set-up and takedown waste bins as well as advocate for more sustainable systems of event planning. RAH educates food and drink vendors on purchasing recyclable or biodegradable materials and reducing the waste they generate at the events.

While waste generation represents a huge problem for the future of the planet, cities like Madison are creating innovative, new programs to encourage people to take control of their refuse and recycle. Single-sort recycling, RAH, Leave the Leaf and composting are just a few of the opportunities for you to get involved in greening our city!



Posted in Green Living, Recycling | Comments Off