Martha Ainsworth

Member, National Sierra Club Zero Waste Team

Martha Ainsworth is a member of the National Sierra Club’s Zero Waste Team and author of the Club’s 2021 guidance on beverage containers. Following a 30-year career as a research economist and evaluator of public policy, she retired to be a full-time citizen activist advocating for zero waste. She leads the Maryland Sierra Club Chapter’s Zero Waste Team and co-organized the Chapter’s successful campaign for the state’s 2019 ban on foam food containers. She’s currently focusing on passing a Maryland beverage container deposit program and local plastic bag ordinances across the state.

Dr. Ainsworth has mobilized volunteers to systematically collect local data to inform policy decisions. She has organized surveys that recorded the carryout bag choices of nearly 83,000 grocery shoppers in 15 Maryland counties and Baltimore to measure baseline levels of plastic bag use and assess the impact of carryout bag policies. She organized a randomized survey of restaurants to assess baseline foam food container use and follow-up surveys to monitor compliance with local foam bans. The high compliance rate provided evidence that a statewide ban would be non-controversial and effective.