Today, I attended a sustainability workshop. I walked in after signing in at the registration to pick up a bagel for breakfast. On the table were plastic utensils, individually wrapped containers of cream cheese, Styrofoam cups and plates, various juices in plastic bottles, and my arch nemesis…bottled water. My first instinct was to scream, but luckily I remained socially appropriate.
I listened during the meeting presentations and quietly posted to my Facebook and Twitter about my annoyance. One of my friends said that Styrofoam and plastic at a sustainability workshop is “like bringing a concealed weapon to an anti-gun violence seminar. Come on now, they need to get their act together.” Funny, but true. And they did need to get their act together.
When it was time for Q&A, I voiced my concern, frustration and disappointment to the entire group. The workshop organizer quickly scrambled to say that his organization was required to use the food supplier from the community center that the workshop was held in. A representative from the community center was in the audience and took responsibility for the unsustainable products saying it was “their fault.”
BUT I think it is the responsibility of the “sustainability” group who organized the workshop to work with whatever supplier to make sustainability events as…sustainable as possible. AND if that doesn’t work out, they should move to a new location with a supplier that’s more accommodating. Think asking for pitchers of water and paper cups instead of plastic bottles, or if the center can provide reusable mugs instead of Styrofoam. Simple changes, not rocket science.
Us environmentalists, sustainability supporters, renewable energy experts, Big Oil opponents, must always remember that we are ambassadors for the rest of the environmental community. Bringing our thermoses to work, refusing plastic bags while shopping, bringing reusable bags to the grocery store and using Brita filters in our homes, all make an impression on our friends, relatives and coworkers. We have an obligation as environmentalists to commit to these small changes, because if we don’t make the effort, who will?