A Checklist for Grassroots Activist Success

Grassroots activist Sandra Steingraber and a local citizens’ group, Peoria Families Against Toxic Waste, teamed up with the local Sierra Club chapter and Peoria’s medical community to block expansion of a hazardous waste dump that sits on the border of their Illinois town of Peoria. In the end, the landfill expansion was denied. Here’s their formula for success with grassroots activism.


| October/November 2007



Read about this successful checklist for grassroots activist success.

Read about this successful checklist for grassroots activist success.


Photo by Fotolia/Deyan Georgiev

Technology, networking and old-fashioned foot work are just a few tools for successful grassroots activist success.

A Checklist for Grassroots Activist Success

When Sandra Steingraber received a call for help from an organization attempting to block expansion of a hazardous waste dump that sits on the border of their Illinois town of Peoria, she rolled up her shirt sleeves.

The author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment, Steingraber was no stranger to the devastating effects of toxic chemicals. “I had my own experience with cancer living in this very place, quite possibly from carcinogens in the water,” she says. The landfill (one of only a handful in the country that accept some of the most dangerous chemicals known to exist) threatens an aquifer that provides water to both central and northwest Illinois.

Steingraber and the citizens’ group, Peoria Families Against Toxic Waste (PFATW), teamed up with the local Sierra Club chapter and Peoria’s medical community to educate themselves and the public. In the end, thanks to countless hours of testimony and thousands of pages of evidence, the landfill expansion was denied.

So how do you take on Goliath and win? PFATW leader Kim Converse shares their formula for success with grass-roots activism:

Find diversity. “The great strength of our group is that we each had different talents and interests: finance, science, outreach, politics, fundraising, research, writing, media exposure, etc.”





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