Adam Werbach – Environmental Activist, Author, Speaker
Adam Werbach is a lifelong environmental activist and social entrepreneur. At age 23 Werbach was elected the youngest-ever President of the Sierra Club, the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. His activism began at age 8 when he carried a petition to school to oust Secretary of the Interior James Watt. Watt was eventually fired; Werbach was bitten by the activist bug. Werbach went on to create the Sierra Student Coalition, the national student program of the Sierra Club, recruiting 30,000 students from across the U.S. As a student activist, Werbach was instrumental in the fight to create Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks.
Werbach was mentored by legendary environmental activist David Brower, and with his encouragement was elected President of the Sierra Club. As President, Werbach launched outreach campaigns for the Sierra Club, succeeding in lowering the average age of a member from 47 to 37 during his tenure. He worked with President Bill Clinton to protect Grand Staircase Escalante, a fragile 1.7 million acre ecological zone in Southern Utah and to pass the toughest clean air standards in a generation. He wrote his first book “Act Now, Apologize Later” for Harper-Collins and barnstormed the country getting people to sign up for environmental campaigns.
He left the Sierra Club to pursue his passion for film and technology, creating Act Now Productions. He hosted the investigative newsmagazine “The Thin Green Line” for two seasons on the Outdoor Life Network, distributed educational environmental films to schools, and helped non-profits including the World Wildlife Federation and Greenpeace develop their communications strategies. He worked with bands including the Beastie Boys, Pearl Jam and Alanis Morrisette on benefit albums and activist campaigns.
Frustrated at the progress of the environmental movement, he joined the international board of Greenpeace and gave a speech entitled, “Is Environmentalism Dead?” at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. The speech was broadcast widely and found its way into the hands of the board of directors of Walmart. Walmart challenged him to engage their 2 million employees in a campaign to take sustainability mainstream. Werbach recruited a team of grassroots organizers to help associates in every Walmart store start their own “PSP” or Personal Sustainability Practice. The project contributed to Walmart’s efforts to become the largest seller of organic food and efficient lights bulbs on the planet.
Werbach wrote “Strategy for Sustainability” for Harvard Business Press in 2009 and became the sustainability correspondent for TheAtlantic.com. The book was named among the best business books of the year by Inc. Magazine. Werbach sold Act Now Productions to the Publicis Groupe in 2007 and became the chief sustainability officer of Saatchi & Saatchi. He served on the global board of Saatchi & Saatchi and launched sustainable products including the Toyota Prius and Vestas Wind Turbines. Werbach was inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Hall of Achievement, which he described as, “like Sarah Palin getting an award from the American Grammatical Society.” With the nomination of Publicis CEO Maurice Levy, he was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2011.
Werbach grew openly frustrated at the pace of change being facilitated by corporate sustainability efforts. He questioned whether the work he had done at Walmart had only slowed the rate at which things had gotten worse. He left Saatchi & Saatchi to co-found Yerdle, a sharing economy marketplace that helps people re-use their things. By 2016 Yerdle’s 900,000 members had re-used over 1 million items.
He spent 10 years filming and directing “This is Noise Pop,” exploring the nature of independent art with bands including Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, Spoon, The National, Bright Eyes, and Creeper Lagoon. The film was hailed as “one of the best music documentaries of the year” by Rolling Stone and premiered at the Roxie theater in San Francisco.
Werbach lives in San Francisco and Bolinas, California, with his wife Lyn and their three children.