How the Sierra Club is Saving the Planet – One Vehicle at a Time

By Laurel Brow

Your mom is calling. No, not that mom. Mother Nature.

She’s not mad, she’s just… disappointed. And everyone knows that’s worse.

Between global warming, endangered species, air pollution, and dwindling natural resources – you’re in for an earful. Will you answer the call?

Members of the Sierra Club are brave enough to hit “accept.” And then put it on speaker.

What is the Sierra Club?

The Sierra Club is a 130-year-old organization originating in San Francisco, known for bringing people together to engage in outdoor activities, advocacy, and political activism in the name of environmental conservation. It has millions of members and a chapter in every state.

The Sierra Club Mission Statement:

  • To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the Earth;
  • To practice and promote the responsible use of the Earth’s ecosystems and resources;
  • To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.

Essentially, listening to Mother Nature is a top priority for members, and they want to share her concerns with the public. The Sierra Club is a 501(c)(4) organization, which allows them to be vocal advocates for environmental legislation and endorse political candidates with pro-environmental voting records.

From corporate interest groups rolling back climate protection legislation to the ongoing effort to convince large segments of the population that climate change is real, Sierra Club members certainly have their work cut out for them.

What is the Sierra Club Foundation?

The Sierra Club Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, supports many of the activities of the Sierra Club through community-focused fundraising and organizing:

“Our continuing work toward a just and healthy planet for all is rooted in strong relationships with community groups, local officials, Native American Tribes, social justice organizations, and others. By increasingly centering our support in community-based organizing, non-traditional partnerships, grassroots action, and power building, we are powering our future.”

As a 501(c)(3) organization, the Sierra Club Foundation can accept tax-deductible charitable donations. This designation enables the foundation to receive monetary and non-traditional gifts from supporters.

One of the easiest, mutually beneficial ways to support the Sierra Club Foundation is to donate a vehicle you no longer use or need. Think of vehicles broadly. Through their partnership with a nonprofit called CARS (Charitable Adult Rides & Services), the foundation accepts cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs, boats, and even planes.

CARS can pick up vehicles from anywhere in the country and then sell them through an extensive network of auction yards and specialized retailers. The proceeds from the sales are then used to fund the Sierra Club Foundation’s mission of preserving the Earth’s resources.

Why would I want to donate my car to the Sierra Club Foundation?

Perhaps you have an old van sitting in your garage that you never use because it isn’t fuel-efficient. Or you have a boat that needs expensive repairs, and you wouldn’t make much from selling it on your own. Or maybe a relative of yours passed away and left their car behind, and you’d like to donate it to a worthy cause in their memory.

As of April 2022, over 8,000 supporters have donated their vehicles to the Sierra Club Foundation, resulting in over $3 million in funding. This unique gift can be an excellent way for donors who cannot give monthly to show their support for the cause.

Most people appreciate the convenience of having their vehicle towed away for free, and many qualify for a substantial tax deduction, making the process worthwhile financially as well. It can also be a lovely way to honor a loved one who has passed away and left a car behind.

Vehicle Donor Testimonials

“Fifteen years ago, the garage door opened, and this little Jetta was inside with a big red bow. We have spent many amazing years and miles together. Drives to skating practice, off to college, and then across the country to California for grad school. Today I donated her to the Sierra Club in hopes that the car which enabled my adventures will fund some for the future generation.” – Katie B., vehicle donor

“My husband and I are big supporters of protecting the environment. Our jobs switched to work from home, and we no longer needed a second car. We couldn’t think of a better nonprofit to give to.” – anonymous Sierra Club Foundation vehicle donor

“We decided to donate our car to the Sierra Club because it’s such a worthy cause – helping the environment. The process was very easy. They picked up the car when we scheduled it, and we got a tax deduction.” – Lisa and Anthony, vehicle donors

What will happen with my donated vehicle?

Here’s what the Sierra Club Foundation will do with your donation:

If your car is from the year 2000 or later, it will be sold at auction, and the proceeds from the sale will go to the Sierra Club Foundation.

If your vehicle is from the year 1999 or earlier, it will most likely be recycled. This is because old cars tend to be more harmful to the environment due to higher emissions.

If you have an old classic car, it may be sold instead of recycled due to its value as a collectible.

What is vehicle recycling?

It’s no secret that automobiles contribute to air and water pollution. But many people are unaware that vehicles can be recycled, helping to conserve resources and produce less waste. Almost all the parts of a car or any other auto can be recovered, with a recycling rate greater than 80-90% for a typical vehicle.

Here are some examples of what recycling your vehicle can accomplish for the environment:

Your Car Donation Makes a Positive Impact

More than 80% of a car can be recycled.

14 million tons of steel salvaged

More than 80% of a car can be recycled.

Recycling 13 million automobiles in a year recovers 14 million tons of recycled steel, saving enough energy to power 18 million households for one year.

The steel industry uses 74% less energy by recycling steel instead of producing new steel. That’s equivalent to annually saving about 85 million barrels of oil.

85 million barrels of oil saved

The steel industry uses 74% less energy by recycling steel instead of producing new steel. That’s equivalent to annually saving about 85 million barrels of oil.

24 million gallons of motor oil reused

2 million gallons of water can be contaminated with just 1 gallon of motor oil. Each year, the automotive recycling industry ensures an estimated 24 million gallons of motor oil is reused and not wasted.

Recycling your vehicle can lead to a 76% reduction in water pollution and 86% reduction in air pollution.

Reduce Pollution

Recycling your vehicle can lead to a 76% reduction in water pollution and 86% reduction in air pollution.

A California study estimates that cars 13 years old and older accounted for 25 percent of miles driven but 75 percent of all pollution from cars.

Every ton of new steel made from scrap steel conserves: 2,500 lbs. of iron ore, 1,400 lbs. of coal, 120 lbs. of limestone.

160,000 Tons of Steel Recovered

Every ton of new steel made from scrap steel conserves: 2,500 lbs. of iron ore, 1,400 lbs. of coal, 120 lbs. of limestone.

Recycling your old car helps transform old steel into new steel for thousands of other uses!

How do I donate my vehicle to the Sierra Club Foundation?

Call 855-33-SIERRA (855-337-4377) or go to to start your donation. You’ll need to give some basic info about your vehicle, and you’ll arrange a time for someone to tow your vehicle away at no expense to you.

Before the tow truck arrives, make sure to clean out your belongings. For those of you still using CD and cassette players – don’t forget to check inside!

File a transfer of title form with your state’s motor vehicle agency. This will release you of any liability over the car once it is donated.

The donor service representative you speak to about your donation will be able to answer any questions you may have about the process.

Mother Nature is calling. Will you answer?

Donating your car to the Sierra Club Foundation can have a lasting impact on their work to curb climate change, fight for clean air and water, and spread the love of the great outdoors.

If you’ve decided to donate your vehicle and replace it with a more fuel-efficient alternative, head to the Sierra Club’s electric vehicle guide for assistance in determining which EV is right for you.

If you’d like to learn more about the Sierra Club, you can visit their website at