Sierra Club NYC Puerto Rican Day Parade volunteers, and the bags of recycling they filled during the parade.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Puerto Rico and meet members of Sierra Club's newest and fastest growing chapter. I was impressed by their passion for the cultural heritage and natural beauty of the island. Across generations, Puerto Ricans are coming together to protect their home.
Just this spring, after years of tireless work by thousands of people at rallies, letter-writing parties, festivals, and public hearings, Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla signed a law protecting the island's Northeast Ecological Corridor - more than 3,000 acres critical to the leatherback turtle.
Last Sunday, just before heading out to march in New York City's Puerto Rican Day Parade, I joined a group of Sierra Club activists who thanked the governor for his commitment to protecting the island's natural beauty.
As part of Sierra Club's diversity and inclusion effort, we are expanding our program to reach out not only to island residents but also to Puerto Ricans who live in communities across the country where the Sierra Club is active. Where better to start than New York City, with its population of more than one million Puerto Ricans?
Edwin Sanchez was one of the people who joined the Sierra Club's contingent after hearing about our participation in the parade online. He told me that he's been coming to the parade for 35 years but wanted to do something different this year.
Edwin (pictured above, on the left, with the sunglasses and red and white hat) joined an awesome team of Sierra Club volunteers and staff donning turtle costumes and collecting recycling as our float moved up Fifth Street through Manhattan and Central Park. He has the energy and enthusiasm that defines Sierra Club members, and I loved watching him smile, laugh, and dance his way along the parade route.
More than 65 bags of bottles and cans later, we had reached the end of the parade route. I was seriously tired and sunburnt, and Edwin was still smiling.
I loved working with Isaili Mariñez, the Sierra Club Puerto Rico Cool Cities Chair, Jessica Seiglie, the chapter's Zero Waste Chair, and with Kristal Ibarra of Sierra Club NYC. Those three worked many hours to pull off such a recycling feat at the parade!
Every week, something like this demonstrates to me that people working together can make a difference. Whether it is working to protect a special area like Puerto Rico's Northeast Ecological Corridor or cleaning up a local park or stream, volunteers are making a difference -- especially during a time when we're facing some serious threats to coastal areas and to islands like Puerto Rico from hurricanes and flooding. At times I feel discouraged about solving climate disruption, but seeing people like Edwin get involved -- for an afternoon or a lifetime -- gives me hope and keeps me going.
Yours truly carrying some recycling bags before the parade.
Thank you to Edwin and to all the volunteers who participated in the parade in Sunday. For more information about our Puerto Rico chapter, check out their website.