Good deeds stick
Alaska outdoorsman uses stickers to reward conservation
An Alaska campaign to bolster conservation efforts relies on one simple theory: everyone likes acknowledgement for good deeds. With Stickers for Conservation, you simply donate or advocate for conservation to claim a sticker as reward. It really is that simple.
The first stickers went out in January 2017. As of mid-March, Stickers for Conservation has inspired 153 donations totaling $15,575 to conservation nonprofits. Other good deeds include 114 calls and 96 letters to legislators, meeting with representatives, and processing waste vegetable oil as a biofuel.
Trustees for Alaska has received a handful of donations through the program, including at least one from a new donor who heard about our work because of Stickers for Conservation.
The all-volunteer Stickers effort is the brainchild of Luc Mehl, an outdoorsman who grew up in McGrath and now splits his time between Anchorage and Valdez. Sponsors like Great Land Trust, Axiom Data Science, Rising Tide Communications, Fairweather Ski Works and Alpacka Raft support the work by helping cover the cost of production and pay the artists who make the designs.
Trustees attorney Brian Litmans interviewed Luc about how he got the ideas for Stickers and what the wilderness and outdoors mean to him. The Q&A has been edited here for length.
Can you tell us what Stickers for Conservation is all about?
I’ve been taking advantage of Alaska’s wild lands my entire life, but have never put effort into preserving/conserving them. The tone of the new Federal Administration made me nervous about the future of Alaska’s wild lands, so I started thinking about how to help protect them. I don’t have financial resources, but I do have a big group of friends, so the idea evolved into an effort to get my peers to join me and get more proactive about conservation. I’ve always loved stickers, and knew I could get artwork from a few friends, so I started printing stickers (100 of each design). I mail the stickers to people that make claims, typically, donating to an environmental organization, writing letters or calling representatives. I also send out infrequent emails with summaries of current environmental issues that folks might want to act on, to earn their next sticker.
What does adventuring in Alaska mean to you?
I think my wilderness exploration has two facets.
One side is about collection. I want to ‘collect’ as much of Alaska’s landscape as possible, by traveling through the land on my own power. I’ve got a map of where I’ve been, and I look for gaps to identify where I want to go next.
The other facet is about testing my strength and skill set. I remember finishing a challenging trip from Thompson Pass (Valdez) to McCarthy, and thinking, “I needed everything I’ve learned to pull that off.” Meaning, years of learning from mistakes, rock-climbing skills leftover from high school, whitewater navigation from the previous summers, etc. It was incredibly rewarding to put all of those skills to use on a single trip.
Why did you decide to put this campaign together?
I’m at a point in my life where I’m ready to give back. Maybe I’m just getting older (I’m 38), but the Trump headlines were definitely the catalyst I needed to step-up my conservation game. I’ve been taking conservation efforts for granted; I think most of my friends do too. But I can be much more effective leveraging my group of peers than working on my own.
How can other sponsors or volunteers get involved?
Yes! More sponsors equals more stickers. I received a grant from the “Awesome Foundation” that will cover three artists. WONDERBUILD.com and The American Packrafting Association just signed on as well. In return, I include information about the sponsor when I mail the stickers. Potential sponsors can email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The sticker claims haven’t overwhelmed me yet, so I haven’t had to reach out for help.
How does art interact with conservation for you?
Oh, good question! I haven’t thought about this connection yet, but maybe the stickers are a visual cue that reminds me what I love about the mountains. I love discovering new details in the stickers, just like I love discovering new details in the landscape. I’m very visual. Seeing the landscape is my greatest motivator to spend time outside. But more than anything, the images on these stickers just make me smile. I am extremely grateful to the artists that have donated designs. The artists have all really appreciated being able to contribute too.
What were your thoughts when it came to what not to put on the stickers?
I decided to keep the stickers ‘clean’ (no websites, slogans, etc.) as a way to highlight the artwork. I chose to print quality over quantity, opting for UV-resistant all season stickers, and large dimensions, typically 5 inches across. The designs are from professional artists, and I want to honor their vision. I know I’m losing something by not having branding that guides people to a website, but my hope is that if someone sees an image that captivates them, they will ask about it. Starting that conversation is probably the most valuable thing I can offer: Where did you get that sticker!? What did you do to earn it? Why is conservation important to you?
How many organizations have received donations as part of this campaign?
56 organizations have received donations. The largest number of donations (as of February) have been to Great Land Trust (17), Alaska Conservation Foundation (9), Trustees for Alaska (7), Cook Inlet Keeper (7), and then national organizations like Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Earthjustice (6 each).
You list Trustees for Alaska as a “Big Player” in the Alaska conservation community. What do you think is important about our work?
Most of what I know about the Trustees is from my friendship with (Trustees attorney) Katie Strong. I have huge respect for Katie, personally and professionally, and she was a major influence on the Stickers for Conservation planning. (My understanding of) Katie’s opinion is that the most effective way to oppose environmental threats is through litigation, so I’ve shared that opinion with the Facebook group and folks that have made sticker claims. I’m counting on Trustees for Alaska (and other environmental law firms) to do the heavy lifting in conservation efforts! I hope that these stickers will drive support and recognition to the Trustees for their work protecting Alaska’s wild lands!
Anything else you want to share with us?
Just a shout out to the artists who have donated their time and art. I believe the quality of art is what is making this project legitimate. People are thrilled with the designs, size, and quality of the stickers. My girlfriend was skeptical about using stickers as motivators… until the first batch arrived.
- Greta Van Campen (Maine)
- Annie Brace (Anchorage)
- Aurora Sidney-Ando (Anchorage)
- Valisa Higman (Seldovia)
- Deland Anderson (Homer)
- Leighan Falley (Talkeetna)
- Katie Schuler (Washington DC)