Volunteer Q&A: Samuel Bean

This week on the blog, we’ll begin a semi-regular series of Q&As that will feature our Ready for 100 Chicago volunteers and coalition members. These Q&As will provide a deeper look at those who are involved with RF100 locally, and what motivates them to do this work.

Samuel Bean, 43
Ready for 100 Chicago volunteer
Experienced community organizer & lover of all things sustainable

How did you first get involved with community organizing?

In 2006, I was finishing my graduate degree (MA–Educational Psychology) and testing a few different professional waters. Having taught outdoor education in New England (1996–2000), I became intrigued by an ad I ran across for an environmental job with Clean Water Action.  Beginning in October of that year, I began canvassing around the northern New Jersey region.  Legislative victories such as a no-idling pledge for school bus drivers as well as green cleaning measures and the curtailment of pesticide use for school custodians were obtained around this time. As a former classroom teacher, I was pleased to witness improvements such as these make their way into the system.

After I moved to Texas the following year and began organizing there, a comparable victory in Port Arthur (involving the cancellation of a landfill proposal) was also handed down. Several electoral wins (mostly in Austin) provided new bicycle lanes, residential incentives for low-flow plumbing and rainwater barrels, as well improved transparency for the voting members of public utility cooperatives.

How did you get involved with the Sierra Club and the RF100Chi campaign?

During the latter half of my ten-plus years as an Austinite, someone mentioned the Sierra Club.  At the time, I was exploring various social hubs and began attending monthly chapter meetings, happy hours, and a few hikes in/around the city. In 2019, I moved to Chicago and naturally sought out their chapter.

What do you think our biggest challenge to getting to 100% clean energy is?

RF100’s biggest challenge is education. After talking to homeowners in several different parts of the country, I’m convinced that the dangers of continuing our reliance on fossil fuels are not nearly as well understood as they need to be. In many ways, the “This is the way we’ve always done it” mentality (common to public education as well) IS the biggest problem here. The transition to renewable sources (which in many ways is not quite as radical or outlandish as it seems to often appear to be) is an absolute necessity—but a slow process nonetheless.  The public needs to understand this process—why it matters, what it involves, who will benefit, when and how.

What’s your biggest win as an organizer?

Although it’s difficult to single out just one victory, getting bonds passed for bicycle lanes and public transit boosts has been huge—getting us a little closer to learning how to share the roads and making way for lower-consumption vehicles.

Where do you plan on taking your organizing skills in the future?

I’m currently the Waste Operator at Farmer’s Fridge, a salad company that has been keeping both residents and hospital workers fed with healthy food during COVID. My job is an environmental one—deciding which kind of waste goes where (and to what end).  I am, however, a believer in healthy grids—which sustain healthy societies. I intend on contributing my skills to developing and maintaining them in just about any way I’m able.