Elizabeth Scrafford pauses while hiking in the Matanuska Valley in Alaska in the fall of 2013. She served as a community organizer in Alaska for a local nonprofit before joining the Sierra Club as an associate organizing representative.
Elizabeth Scrafford has seen the effects of pollution first hand. Once, pollution from smelters in her grandmother’s hometown caused all the trees to die. This tragedy inspired her to help communities transition to a clean-energy economy.
“I really believe that clean energy can offer both healthier communities and the good jobs needed in today’s economy,” Scrafford said.
Scrafford, 31, began serving as an associate organizing representative of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign last fall in 2014. The Sierra Club’s mission is to safeguard the health of communities, protect wildlife and preserve natural places through grassroots activism, public education, public officials and legal action when necessary.
“Coal-fired power plants increase health risks for asthmatics and harm those most at risk, and there are more than 20 coal-fired power plants in operation across the state of Illinois,” Scrafford said.
The mission of the Beyond Coal campaign is to build a responsible transition away from coal-fired power to clean energy, one community at a time. By frequently working with the local Sierra Club chapter, the Piasa Palisades group, Scrafford hopes to secure a healthier future in the Riverbend for generations to come.
“Every person in our community has the right to clean air and clean water, and that right is threatened when we allow outdated coal plants that lack modern pollution controls to pollute communities,” Scrafford said.
As the price of clean energy in Illinois drops, Scrafford sees the writing on the wall for coal-fired energy. She believes it is the responsibility of the community to come together and foster a responsible transition away from coal that protects workers while securing Alton as an economic leader.
“I’m eager to collaborate with many different members of the community on ways that we can make clean air, clean water and a vibrant economic future a reality for the city of Alton,” Scrafford said.
Scrafford, who originally hails from Hayden, Idaho, is no stranger to community organizing. She has worked as a community organizer in Chicago and Alaska through local nonprofits. She encourages local involvement with the Piasa Palisades group.
“The best part of my job is sharing ideas with many different members of our community who all share the goal of making our community great,” Scrafford said.
The Piasa Palisades Cabin Restoration Project received the Pride Inc. Outstanding Citizens Award and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award in 2014. Its next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17, at the Alton YWCA, 304 E. Third St.
The Sierra Club is America’s largest grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide. Nearly every state has a chapter that focuses on state-level issues pertaining to energy and the environment. In Illinois, there are many regional groups that aim to tackle issues from more of a local perspective.
Those interested in getting involved with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign can contact Scrafford at firstname.lastname@example.org.