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Sierra Club Air Alerts

As summer ozone season approaches, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Team is looking ahead to ways we can raise community awareness not only of the hazards of ground-level ozone, but also of how coal-burning power plants are a prime driver of this hazardous pollution. One way to make that link is by offering our users a service to alert them to the local risks of smog pollution -- and always presenting them with information and ways to to take action.

Our friends at Mobile Commons have designed and built a tool that uses our existing technology resources and does not require users to download or install any apps. Apps are only effective if an organization can spend a great deal of time and money advertising and encouraging tens of thousands of users to download and install. We wanted something that more closely resembled a service and had fewer barriers to entry. Mobile alerts are just as fast as app alerts, with the added benefit that we can grow our subscriber list much more quickly.

Goals

While we’re promoting this tool as a service to our users, it will also benefit Beyond Coal and the Sierra Club in some very significant ways.

First, it can become a flagship digital product, showcasing how the Sierra Club and Beyond Coal are using technology in ways that are meaningful in the real world.

Second, it will help build a sense of urgency around all our air campaigns by continually reinforcing the link between power plants and communities’ immediate air problems.

Beyond those broad goals, the mobile alert tool is designed to accomplish more concrete objectives:

  1. Increase our mobile subscriber list from 50,000 users to at least 57,000. New subscribers can be targeted for mobile actions immediately, and are given frequent opportunities to take online action -- taking online action or providing their email address will automatically add them to Convio so they can be targeted in regional and national online campaigns.
  2. Contribute at least 5,000 comments toward our goal of 25,000 additional comments to the EPA on the need for a strong smog standard.

How it works

Users can sign up in one of several ways:

  1. Texting a keyword like AIRALERTS to 69866 automatically adds them to our air alerts group.
  2. After taking action on a related issue, users can sign up from their computers.
  3. Users can join online through a special page on BeyondCoal.org that can be viewed from their phones.
  4. Organizers will have a special keyword they can add to event signs, allowing event attendees to subscribe on the spot.