Campaign for the Environment

Elise and I had, what I would assume, an underpaid door-to-door representative from the Texas Campaign for the Environment stop by and ring the doorbell while I was cooking dinner. Elise answered the door and I was quickly behind her (I knew it was going to be an annoying salesperson at the door).

Today’s campaign call: How waste policies, super-sized dumps and E-waste are trashing the Lone Star State. Specifically, how Apple Computers, Inc. has no free hardware recycling program leaving lead and mercury to seap into the ground and into our drinking water.

Anyway – had I answered the door, I would have politely said “No, thanks.” and shut the door. Since Elise answered the door, we had to hear the whole pitch. Part of said pitch included, and I quote: “Yeah, and, um, Jacob Kobbs (as he pointed to Steve Jobs’ name on the petition) won’t shell out just a little bit of cash for a recycling program”.

Blah blah blah… “Yeah, and, uh, Texas is number 46 in education.” Really?

Had someone who knew what they were selling stopped by, I might have donated to the cause. Instead I sent him on his way and he left us with some literature.

41 Replies to “Campaign for the Environment”

  1. I have a friend who recently was “hired” for the Texas Campaign for the Environment. She went out, unpaid on her “observation” day and was canned that night because she wasn’t able to raise any money for the group. I have been wondering if the group is legitimately a nonprofit organization. I visited their site and found no disclaimer about their nonprofit status.

    She was told each person has to raise at least twice what they are paid for the week or else. Of course she was not informed of any of this until after spent eight hours, unpaid, out canvasing the neighborhoods.

  2. In defense of the organization I work for, we are truly a non profit organization, we are classified in the state of Texas as a registered 501(c)(4) non profit organization, contributions made to TCE are not tax deductible, because we pass legislation. I apologize that your friend had a bad experience, this job is not for everyone. I know that how we are paid is explained in the interview before the observation day. and yes the observation day is unpaid, and we are required to raise a certain amount in contributions each week. I can tell you no one is fired on their observation day because they did not raise money, at the end of the obaservation day the person comes back and has a meeting with our staff director about how they did and if they think they are able to go out to neighborhoods and effectively organize the people. On my observation day I didn’t get any contributions, and I am still working for TCE. TCE has been around for 16 years, and has had 21 public health and environmental victories in that time. Our most recent victory was passing the producer takeback law here in Texas, which requires all computer manufacturers to have recycling programs in place for consumers for free. Our campaign is now focused on passing the producer takeback law on a federal level, and it will include all electronics manufacturers and all electronics.

  3. Sam came by to my door today. He was so rude, that even though I now know your group is legitimate, I wouldn’t give any money if my life depended on it.

  4. I don’t know his name but a guy with TCE came by tonight. Very polite and had all his non profit info on his clipboard. Didn’t feel like a sales-call so I am doing research to see what-is-what with the group. I am seeing some positive things so I will probably donate.

  5. TCE is a legitimate and very good environmental organization. As Robyn says, contributions are not tax-deductible because they engage in lobbying. I have volunteered many years with Sierra Club: we have similar restrictions. TCE has accomplished a lot on various fronts, recently especially the computer take-back campaign. They are doing excellent and important work. Texas is a state with the attitude that essentially says, “give business anything they want,” and it is a constant uphill battle to institute regulations that protect the public and our environment. I am always glad to see the TCE folks canvassing my neighborhood. Sorry to hear that one person wasn’t as well informed as he should have been; my experience (as someone who is also in environmental issues) is that they are doing a good job.

  6. I am a canvasser. If you do the research, you’ll see that TCE is a legitimate organization.

    I apologize that your friend had an unpleasant experience. I admit, observation day – and even now, canvassing is difficult. I knew door-to-door work would be hard. However, some days are better than some :) BUT, the thing about organizations like TCE is they are committed. They believe in change, and are passionate about getting things done. This is why I am still with them.

    Also, like they tell us in training, you never know what has happened with that person (like if they had a horrible day at work, a friend died, or found out they had cancer). In Sam’s defense, he could have met a really nasty person before coming to your door. He could have followed him door-to-door for the entire block, accusing him of soliciting, and whispering horrible things into his ear. (This happened to a friend of mine last night!)

    The thing about canvassing is we KNOW it is going to be rough. However, we are more committed to changing the world (for good). No one ever said canvassing would be an easy job, but it sure beats the hell out of working (and probably making alot of guilty money) for men like Lee Raymond (CEO of Exxon) or Rupert Murdoch!

    And besides, someones got to be an advocate for Saving the Planet!

    Thanks for holding on to that hope in humanity, Robin.

  7. I donated to TCE. I appreciate that the impression of an individual can taint your view of the organization as a whole, but please focus on the positive work that this great organization is doing. I’m on the Board of a non-profit and I know the challenges of trying to get a staff that is skilled, motivated and willing to work for little pay. It takes a while to find the right fit, but when you do they’re amazing (like the woman who stopped by my house and got a donation out of me).

    Work on one of those chakras in your image at the top of the page…it might make you more open to listening to people.

  8. @greg: I do listen to people, all the time, and wholeheartedly. I listened to the entire pitch of the door-to-door salesman from the TCE. Again, had he been a little bit more educated on the product he was selling, I might have been more inclined to consider donating. I think what TCE is doing is a great thing, it just wasn’t sold well to me. I’m a savvy consumer and if I’m going to be sold to, I appreciate speaking with someone who is a knowledgeable representative of the company that’s providing a product or service and is trying to win my business. Having been in a position to employ skilled, motivated and smart people, I know that can prove to be challenging, but I’ve found those people many times over. If I want someone to represent me, my product, my beliefs, etc., I’ll personally put forth the extra effort to make damn certain they know what they’re selling and how to pitch it. There’s no chakra necessary for that. That’s just plain, smart business. TCE is a business, right?

  9. Your choice to not donate to the organization based on the fact that it was being represented by someone that made some mistakes is somewhat understandable. But, hey, give him a break, he’s trying to do a good thing, as most of you have noted, he’s not getting paid much for it, but he’s still doing it, which means it’s something he believes in and cares about. The main thing is, he wasn’t selling anything. Unless you think that a clean safe environment is a product. He was trying to get help from the community, support, donations, letters written, etc. TCE has never lost a campaign, thanks to supporters. It’s 100% citizen funded, without help from good people, it can’t go on. Being the educated person you are, I don’t see why you couldn’t see past his mistake, take a look at the clipboard and read it for yourself if you didn’t think he was doing a good job, and help the organization out. Currently, we’re working on extending the takeback law to include tv manufacturers, with the switch to digital coming up, they need to offer free recycling to prevent 80 million tv’s from getting into our Texas landfills. If there are any supporters out there, head over to to donate or learn how you can help in other ways -Ryan

  10. I did make a donation. Although the woman who came to our door was one slither shy of abrupt, I could see her conviction and genuineness. She was very upfront about what they were doing and her role in it. They passed my solicitation test for a non-profit. She could tell and show me where each 1$ that was collected went. That has happenend maybe 3 times in my life. Great cause too regarding bringing some jobs back to this country.

  11. Hey Josh,
    Could you do me a favor and remove my post? I don’t like all my information (name, really) under google search. Thanks so much! I appreciate it. :) Lucy

  12. I had a ‘canvasser’ come to my door last week from the Texas Campaign for the Environment. After giving a long winded explanation on why I should donate to stop our e-waste from going to china. I decided I’d help her out by giving a $25 dollar donation. I wish I hadn’t, because I specifically asked her how much of the donations go towards the cause, she relied 75% or something. But after I did a little research, the truth is that these door to door people GET 50% OF THE DONATION straight to their paycheck.

    Surely the other half then goes towards administration and the high cost of rent of an Uptown Dallas office. It seems to me like a scam.

  13. @Logan – I just wanted you to realize, and I honestly sympathize because it is a bit confusing, that these donations are meant to go towards administrative costs and pay towards canvassers and lobbyists. Think about it, the canvassers educate you on the subject, hopefully making you an active supporter, writing letters, and making a couple calls, and then on the lobbyists get to lobby in the name of communities full of people that care. These people have to eat and survive. The lobbying and the active support of the community is how the laws change. It is not an issue of the money being funneled to people improperly, you are thinking of a charity. This is a group lobbying for beneficial change in environmental laws of Texas. In order for them to dedicate 40+ hours a week, which is what it takes, I assure you, in order for these things to change, they must be able to survive. Please don’t feel that your money is misused, TCE has a track record open to the public that easily proves otherwise.

  14. I went to an observation day with TCU, was told that it was unpaid, however did not learn how we were really paid untill the end of that night, the first interview we are told we would make a set amount each week. Yet at the end of that night we are told, we have to raise at least $800 a week, of that $400 goes into your check, and anything over that %40 goes into a bonus for you. I’m not sure what happens with the rest of the money, so after I was given the job I decided to wait on starting so I could research the company as well as the issues. When I first told them I would like to wait a few days to start they were fine with it, untill I told them why. Then they had a problem with it and told me i should just start that day and that I would be taught everything I needed to know. I’m still very unsure about the situation. It seems to me like if you are going to be campaigning for anything you should be givin the chance to look into the issues yourself and the organization on your own without them teaching you what you need to know… So what does happen to the other %50 and %60 of the moneys that is donated???? Does anyone know?

  15. i don’t know if i wanna trust this blogs. lucy said she was a canvasser and josh said he didn’t give money to the canvasser because it wasn’t pitched good. however, after a few blogs later lucy is asking josh to remove her name. they sound like they know each other don’t you think? besides who writes so perfectly when they are blogging. i will be surprised if this is posted…

  16. It is really hard to feel the money is not being misused when you consider the pie charts they show you. Claiming that 73% goes to advocacy, when 50% goes to the person knocking on the door. Take that 50, add the 27% claimed as office costs and staff pay, and you have 23% that is gravy for the director of TCE. Is Robin Schneider the director? Is she pulling in 6 figures salary? If not, where is this 23% going? I think TCE is part scam, part cult. They take advantage of the public’s fear and the enthusiasm of their temporary workers who knock on doors all summer.
    Come late August, they have a staff of 3-4 people per office, and their director. TCE’s business model is not in keeping with the values they convey to the public.

  17. This is Robin Schneider and I am definitely not making a 6-figure salary – nowhere close. (I started as a canvasser for a women’s rights organization in 1978, and I was thrilled to have a job in which I could do something constructive on issues that I care deeply about.)

    The door-to-door public education we do every weeknight – and sometimes on weekends – is crucial to success on the issues we work on. TCE canvassers generated more than 65,000 letters last year. Those letters helped convince HP to take a stronger position against dumping our electronic waste on developing countries and helped convince the Obama Administration to appoint an environmental leader to oversee our regional EPA office.

    We are the only environmental group that does door-to-door organizing year-round in Houston, DFW and Central Texas. While some folks do this as a summer job, most of our organizers aren’t doing this as a summer job.

  18. They drop the canvassers off in dangerous neighborhoods, not allowing them to take their own cars, thus at the risk of being assaulted or worse. They are picked up a couple of hours later.

  19. I apply because to me their campaing sound legited but after going to the observation day Im over 100% sure that they are a scam. Is really sorry how they manipulated and turn all of their employees into crazy fustrated no life HIPPIES all of them smoke too much. They also came out with stupid “positive traditions” that make no scens to me is just a way of covering how miserable they are! I feel truthly sorry for anyone who works for these people!!! listen they are sitting on a office while u r out in the heat making more than 6 digits out of u n the community!! That is a fact im seen where the director lives u cant posible live like that with less than 6 digits!!!

  20. “I apply because to me their campaing sound legited but after going to the observation day Im over 100% sure that they are a scam.”

    You’r inability of handling a job doesn’t make it a ‘scam’ Given your negative “holier than thou” attitude it is no wonder you aren’t around there. People with that sort of attitude can go and work at Burger King.

    “Is really sorry how they manipulated and turn all of their employees into crazy fustrated no life HIPPIES all of them smoke too much.”

    Do they smoke to much? Yes. The rest is just an opinion from a person who was incapable of making it past the observation day.

    “They drop the canvassers off in dangerous neighborhoods”

    Yes real dangerous neighborhoods like North Dallas, Plano, Coppell, Denton, etc.. Which is of course ludicrous

    “thus at the risk of being assaulted or worse”
    and in the 15+ year history how many cases of assualts have occurred…. 0? none reported? do some research before spewing nonsense.

  21. I have gone to three interviews over the years and they seem kinda culty. I couldn’t take the job each time because something wasn’t right.

  22. P.S. I don’t think they are bad people but I noticed they have a tendency to take over people’s lives. It might be a cult but some of the aspect are cultish.

  23. I worked for a similar organization (under the same umbrella group, many of the same organizers, etc.) for about a year. Here is the truth about TCE and others like it:

    1. It is not a scam, other than to extent that was outlined here. There is a purposeful deception at the door about how your money is spent. To be clear: 50% goes to the canvasser. 50% goes to pay rent, a small program staff, automobile upkeep, office staff and materials, and a small percentage to what is called the Hudson Bay Company, which provides managerial training, personnel training, and is the overall umbrella group responsible for the canvassing staff, but not programming. Let me be clear, though: NO ONE IS GETTING RICH.

    2. They do a helluva lot of good work. Like their methods or not, they are an effective advocate for environmental and social change.

    3. The cult-like atmosphere derives from a number of factors: primarily a very young staff that works very late nights in a high-pressure fundraising environment. You do the math. Lots of partying, lots of friendly competition. The staff gets to know each other very well and it does become somewhat cultish as a result.

    Overall, it is an organization that is built on layers of conceit: they truly want and try to do good work. They don’t want you to know that they pay their canvassers (surprise!) half of what you give them, they don’t want you to know that they party and smoke. But other than that, you can trust them as an organization.

  24. Regardless, if my money can get bodies out there, supporting and voicing the same environmental concerns I have, they can have it. It is 32 degrees right now, and this young kid comes to my door because he cares about tv’s and computers being thrown into our landfills; I care deeply about this issue, but not enough to be out combing neighborhoods at 8:00pm in freezing weather. Our money is not going to a “product”, it’s going towards a CAUSE; there is a difference; and usually, for a cause to be recognized, you need warm bodies… pun intended :)

  25. I worked for TCE about 10 years ago and James is correct. I received 50% of all my donations.

    Never give money to anyone door-to-door. Your money will make a greater impact by donating to a proper charity. Check out Charity Navigator and determine which one will most effectively use your dollars.

  26. I know these posts are a bit old, but I feel like adding my own two cents to this argument.

    I worked with TCE in the summer of 2009 because I believed in the cause and since I was new to the area, I needed the money and I knew some people in the Austin office. I began working and enjoyed the people I worked with, but had some problems since I didn’t necessarily agree with some of their beliefs, I ignored this since everyone is entitled to their opinion.

    I worked everyday in the good old Texas heat and did my best every day, sometimes I made the quota for the day, sometimes I didn’t. When I went through a stretch of bad times I was spoken to by one the director and he gave me a “warning and pep talk” to help me out.

    As some people who have had this job before, they know it’s not easy to sway people and instead of harassing them, you simply say “Okay, have a nice day” so you won’t tarnish the name of who you work for. I had a week where I didn’t meet quota and the director sat me down and politely fired me.

    He knew me personally and of my predicament of not being able to find work elsewhere and told me my termination was because not meeting quota. I asked him why would I be fired if I’m out there everyday in the heat helping the cause and spreading awareness, even if people didn’t donate. He told me that doesn’t matter and I’d be most of a financial burden by being paid. The Irony was that same day he was complaining about corporations who fire workers when they don’t meet quotas

    While their cause is worth fighting for, I’d rather work directly for an NGO or NPO than them.

  27. As much potential as there is for environmental organizing in the state of Texas.
    I wouldn’t waste your time interviewing for this organization or donating to it.
    For a non profit their overhead is extremely high, the pay and benefits are horrible and you would be better off waiting tables.

    This organization should be audited, and I refer specifically to the potential for organizers to pocket any cash donations whether or not they meet their daily/weekly goal of fundraising.

    At least have a uniform shirt to look somewhat professional.

  28. This organization has high turnover.

    Typically workers either quit or get fired for not meeting their daily/weekly fundraising goal, no matter their experience or time at the organization.

    Don’t believe me?

    Look at their 2010 annual report they give out and then compare those names to the website.
    Different names.

    They post that they are hiring on craigslist every week, because the turnover is so high.

  29. The canvasser was assertive, although friendly and knowledgeable. Although my defenses usually go up instantly I wasn’t rude and I think I’ll donate next time if I can spare some money.

  30. I know this is going to sound stupid but I’m just trying to make sure Texas Campaign for the Environment is not some scam. My husband gave out his debit card number and I’m just a little nervous…anyone know?

  31. Maria, your debit card should be fine. TCE is not a scam, the money you donate goes toward funding the environmental campaign that they are working on at the time (so whatever the person who came to your door told you.)

    I was hired by TCE but ended up declining the job after research of the employment life. I think the organization accomplishes wonderful things, but the high turnover rate, lack of job security, and overall working conditions left something to be desired. I couldn’t justify moving to Austin for a job that couldn’t guarantee paying me for my work.

    Essentially, TCE canvassers work as door-to-door salespeople, but instead of selling a product, they are trying to motivate the public to donate to a cause. It’s difficult work and I applaud any person who has the willpower and ability to stick it out.

    Don’t judge them too harshly, they work in harsh conditions and oftentimes get met with slammed doors in their faces. I can’t tell you how many times I had doors slammed in my face on observation day. It’s a frustrating, albeit rewarding, occupation.

    If a TCE canvasser ever comes to my door in the future, I’ll be sure to donate a few bucks and invite them in to refill their water bottles. It’s a tough gig, but it’s not a scam. They’re just underpaid and overworked idealists trying to get you to listen.

  32. Are you guys crazy sending out solicitors door to door in this day and age. One just showed up at my door in pitch black darkness. Imagine if I was a gun-totin citizen, I know your grassroots and a noble cause but call off the annoying solicitors!!!! Not to mention,door to door cold calling these days is about as safe as hitchhiking in Mexico,….for your employee AND for me. Cut the crap and quit the soliciting..someone’s gonna get hurt. Anonymous

  33. I have an interview with the Houston chapter at 4 tomorrow. Or should I say, HAD an interview. I decided to do a little research on the place before tomorrow and boy, am i happy I did.

    After reading ever single comment on this website, i will not be attending the interview tomorrow.

    I believe in the cause, but I need a job with a set paycheck and set working conditions.

    Thanks guys.

  34. Just went through this – despite a No Soliciting sign and that we’re in Richardson, TX and soliciting rules are very strict. They have to have permission from the city and wear a badge to solicit. If they don’t, the police ask us to call them in. I listened to her, which I never do, and decided not to even call the cops on her for soliciting. My question is, why on earth solicit door to door when there’s social media and so many other ways to get the message out there? Doesn’t everyone know by now that people HATE solicitors?

  35. Texas Campaign For The Environment is a f^cking scam.
    Knocking on doors to get people to support electronics recycling is really donate to get a paycheck. It was a major clusterf^ck

  36. I was invited to observe and after visiting the website I kinda wanted to not attend. I observed on Thursday which was staff day. Lots of young people…somewhat wierd and introverts. I am nonprofit and I always have been. I needed some money to pay off my last 5 car payments..I already had income and due to me being nonprofit..I said the money wasnt important. They teamed me up with a young guy name Eddie who graduated from Texas A&M He was very shy..held his head down alot He knocked on about 60 doors and maybe 20 people were home.. I felt so sorry for him. It reminded me of Oliver, the movie..I was wondering where is his mom or dad. The females we rode with were very loud and they laid down the rules as if we were kids..The paperwork must be just for show because its not hard to make a spreadsheet..they are very unprofessional and if they are promoting a better earth why not stop the partying and the smoking..the car smelled just like smoke. These kids are being exploited and someone needs to look into this mess of an organization. People don’t give your money to them give it to someone who truly means what they say and actually do whats right..This organization is blown up and they falsify their pay to get you in the door..this is pure door to door scamming and exploiting of young adults..

  37. I was curious about the TCE representative coming to my door, and found this site. I must say, the young man was very sincere, polite, and knowledgeable, but knocked in spite of a no soliciting sign. He was very good at what he did, and I wish him well. The young lady observer did just that – in silence. I did not give money or write the letters requested without looking into the group. I’m sure my name and address will be on all kinds of mailing lists for similar causes, and I regret giving that information. I also suspect this site is operated by the TCE since employees have responded to complaints. (Josh’s name is at the bottom of this page.) FYI, there is a business in Irving that takes electronics for recycling or repair and resale. There is a small fee for tv’s or computer monitors containing contaminants.

  38. TCE is most definitely a cult. If you are considering an observation day there–don’t do it. I spent a fair amount of time as a canvasser in one of the larger offices. If you check the website for the key warning signs of a cult, TCE shows all of them. You will be love-bombed, surrounded by new instant friends. You will spend all of your time with them, allowing the organization more time to immerse you in the cult environment. Your head will be filed with grandiose ideas that you are in an epic struggle with TCEs targets and be rallyed each day by the canvas director in a speech that is a strange cross between a sales pep-up and a hellfire enviro-sermon. You are constantly pressured into group activities, meetings, extra Saturday-canvasses.

    The other thing about TCE is the focus they put into creating a show for new recruits. Older staff is instructed that EVERYTHING is about the new people. You have to watch what you are saying about canvassing and the reality of what you are doing because the leadership is scared it will scare off “observers”. TCE is absolutely desperate to hide from new people how often you will be dealing with police. Mentioning a police encounter in nearly any context except for privately with the canvas director is forbidden. You will be sternly reprimanded for not “talking right”about canvassing. This includes any mention of police, hostile people (who do pull guns on canvassers), vicious dogs, etc. The fact that TCE hides these potential realities from new canvassers, while convincing them to walk around a neighborhood alone all night asking for money, makes me think what they are doing is unethical. Any organization that has to hide the reality of it’s beliefs and practices is NOT a legitimate organization.

    Does the program staff actually lobby the Texas legislature..yes. And they have açomplished political victories all across Texas in cities, including plastic bag bans, etc. But the reality of their recruiting tactics and the atmosphere they create is that they are a cult. The canvas in particular which, as someone mentioned,is actually partially run by the FOR PROFIT Hudson Bay Company, who provides the training structure and district representatives whom the canvas directors report to.

    Its also a pretty common in-joke that they are a cult. A lot of them are sort of proud of it. Long story short: I generally agree with their politics, but the canvas has all the bizarre, deceptive and manipulative traits of a cult and I would not recommend becoming involved with them.

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