sierralitter.jpgIn San Francisco, the endorsement-flier business can be an ugly one, with voters’ doors festooned with political paraphernalia bearing the logos of all sorts of organizations, sometimes without those orgs’ knowledge. So, when a nationally-known environmental group’s name appeared on fliers left all over San Francisco’s doors and streets this weekend, you might assume that these tree-huggers would be aghast — but you’d be wrong.

Thanks for the Litter, Sierra Club reads the headline at Noe Valley SF’s blog post on Sierra Club-branded fliers cluttering their sidewalks.

And the blog’s commenters are none too pleased, either, with one saying that he recycled three on his run this morning, and another calling for the Club to be fined.

Handbill-plagued Noe Valley‘s not the only place this went down: Appeal readers were similarly incensed, with one sending us a blurry picture of the green fliers lying in the gutter, and another emailing asking “is this what my donation’s going to?”

Yes, the irony of fliers encouraging green living littering the streets (or even being printed on dead trees to begin with) doesn’t escape anyone here, but, knowing that candidates produce mailers bearing the logos of organizations without the consent of said organizations, before we started getting all Rain/Wedding Day, we called the national office of the Sierra Club (which is located here), who referred us to the local chapter of the Sierra Club, who referred us to the head of their political committee, John Rizzo. Rizzo, for his part, who owned up to the fliering, and expressed regret at the littering.

“There are people besides our people who and handing these out, and we’ve heard that some of them are getting sloppy about making sure they’re secure and don’t blow away” said Rizzo.

When asked about the whole “killing trees to make fliers to encourage people to be green” paradox, Rizzo seemed unfazed. “What’s the alternative” to paper, he asked. “Other groups are (fliering), so if we’re not going to do it because it’s paper other groups will be getting out their message but we won’t. This is still a good way to do that.”

“We don’t have the money to run TV ads” he said, noting also that money for the fliers comes not from donations you or I might make to the Club, but from candidates and Propositions “after we make the endorsements — no one is selling endorsements here.”

A contact with the national branch of the Sierra Club says that their policy is to use “better materials” for their outreach, but that fliers, themselves, are not frowned upon by the group. And the ones used locally are, Rizzo reminds us, recyclable.

Update 1:30 PM: Greg Dewar disputes the lack of funds argument both in a blog post from last month and in an email to the Appeal, noting that he finds it “amazing to see so many groups and campaigns (especially for DCCC) that have little money to begin with, who are spending big money on dead tree mail and doorhangers” when SF “has the highest concentration of voters online anywhere in the United States, and by using targeted online advertising, they could reach more people for less money.”

Photo: Noe Valley SF

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • Greg Dewar

    Thanks for the link. Rizzo’s “no moneys” argument is a non-starter – I’ve seen the Sierra Club selling spots on slate mailers and they have sent me a ton of postcards and I’ve been doorhangered twice. Most of the money spent on mail doesn’t go to the writer, designer, data vendor or mailhouse – it goes to the post office, which even with red-tag mail rates, still costs a lot.

    For every postcard they send out they’re spending at least 30-40 cents on the USPS – and most of it is ending up in the landfill or the recycle bin. If they’d spent their money more wisely, they’d be one of the few folks online, and they’d be reaching voters who’d actually see their message. Plus they could have their ads up on places like blogs and online news entities and so on, and even in places like the NY Times, all highly targeted.

    Oh well. I guess it’s better to do things the same way over and over and over instead of trying something new, and perhaps living up to that “going green” stuff for a change!

  • Greg Dewar

    Thanks for the link. Rizzo’s “no moneys” argument is a non-starter – I’ve seen the Sierra Club selling spots on slate mailers and they have sent me a ton of postcards and I’ve been doorhangered twice. Most of the money spent on mail doesn’t go to the writer, designer, data vendor or mailhouse – it goes to the post office, which even with red-tag mail rates, still costs a lot.

    For every postcard they send out they’re spending at least 30-40 cents on the USPS – and most of it is ending up in the landfill or the recycle bin. If they’d spent their money more wisely, they’d be one of the few folks online, and they’d be reaching voters who’d actually see their message. Plus they could have their ads up on places like blogs and online news entities and so on, and even in places like the NY Times, all highly targeted.

    Oh well. I guess it’s better to do things the same way over and over and over instead of trying something new, and perhaps living up to that “going green” stuff for a change!

  • Peter smith

    haha – hippies have to eat, too. that makes them hypocrites, too. and al gore is fat! haha! it all makes sense now. did sfist lose one of their writers? haha! so funny!

    in other news, i thought the sierra club was already outed. and since everyone is online in sf, everyone must obviously know this. or maybe we all know that dead tree advertising is still often the best way to go and that’s why, you know, people do it.

    boring. stupid toolbar, too.

  • Peter smith

    haha – hippies have to eat, too. that makes them hypocrites, too. and al gore is fat! haha! it all makes sense now. did sfist lose one of their writers? haha! so funny!

    in other news, i thought the sierra club was already outed. and since everyone is online in sf, everyone must obviously know this. or maybe we all know that dead tree advertising is still often the best way to go and that’s why, you know, people do it.

    boring. stupid toolbar, too.

  • Greg Dewar

    Whatever point you have , Peter, it’s lost in the many layers of snark. The fact is that dead tree mail is changing as a political medium. I know, as I’ve worked in the business for many many years.

    So, snark aside, the Sierra Club is simply not spending their money wisely, If they’d taken the money from one shitty postcard and put it in online as part of their plan they’d be doing a lot better.

    As it stands, most people don’t bother to look at shitty mail.

  • Greg Dewar

    Whatever point you have , Peter, it’s lost in the many layers of snark. The fact is that dead tree mail is changing as a political medium. I know, as I’ve worked in the business for many many years.

    So, snark aside, the Sierra Club is simply not spending their money wisely, If they’d taken the money from one shitty postcard and put it in online as part of their plan they’d be doing a lot better.

    As it stands, most people don’t bother to look at shitty mail.

  • Alex Zepeda

    As it stands, most people don’t bother to look at (shitty) online ads either. I was just looking at some estimates of roughly two-thirds (62-65%) of all Reddit users use an ad blocker. And in a tech savvy area were more people are familiar with ad blocking software and the security+privacy risks that online ads face, I’d expect to see higher usage rates.

  • Alex Zepeda

    As it stands, most people don’t bother to look at (shitty) online ads either. I was just looking at some estimates of roughly two-thirds (62-65%) of all Reddit users use an ad blocker. And in a tech savvy area were more people are familiar with ad blocking software and the security+privacy risks that online ads face, I’d expect to see higher usage rates.