An Environmentalist’s Responsibility

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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?

19 replies on “An Environmentalist’s Responsibility”

I love this post! If we’re not all willing to make the little changes we fight for ourselves, who will? I believe that can apply in any situation. Thanks for letting your passion inform your actions & not just your words! 🙂


I can definitely relate. One of my pet peeves in a lot of environmental workshop and conferences. The words means nothing if we aren’t thinking systematically about our personal actions and choices. It really needs to be about walking the walk.


Lindsey – do we really know that styrofoam is worse than paper products – or washing all those cups?


I work at an ocean advocacy nonprofit and all we see is Styrofoam and plastic littering our beaches. Styrofoam takes something like 600 years to break down, so I think it’s definitely the worst.


Lindsay, thanks so much for posting this! I can totally relate…and it’s been going on for years. Time to stand up and speak up! As a positive follow-up, you might want to help the groups voice their displeasure with their suppliers…reputable suppliers will change their ways if they believe they are listening to customer desires. And if they won’t — well, there are plenty of new green companies who will be glad to pick up some business!


We are going to have to do way more than what you even suggest here to even get started on sustainability.
You didn’t mention whether the workshop gave a definition of sustainability. We all throw the terms around but people need a better understanding of sustainability and why it is important before they even begin to see things differently.
I gave a sustainability workshop some years ago ( held in a public library and no food offered at all) and defined it like this:

A balanced system of consumption and production which can be maintained in perpetuity* without degradation of the environment.

perpetuity* = approx 2 billion years until the sun goes supernova or some other calamitous event wipes humans off the earth

What’s your definition?


I have a little piece of paper taped to my computer that says, “if not you, then who?” Great that you spoke up and left all with a memory of something that needs to change.


Great blog Lindsay! I have a certain eco-warrior miff about non re-usable dining ware (among many others). Nothing crushes my heart more than to watch plastic forks, styrofoam cups (yikes!), and paper plates etc. dumped into the trash. Hotels / Motels are terrible with this problem! Thanks for sharing all your insight- love the layout of your blog too.


Heather, I completely agree a little part of me dies every time all of that gets dumped into the trash…especially since it’s all completely unnecessary! I’m glad you like the layout 🙂 Thank you so much for reading and take care.


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