It’s Earth Day.
It’s an event that didn’t really even exist, to celebrate a movement that barely did, when I was young.
And my kids have been talking about it for a month in school.
Because it’s a different world, in terms of our understanding of the urgency of environmental stewardship–conservation, preservation, defense.
And nonprofits need to be part of it.
To be certain, I am not the first to point this out. There are entire organizations dedicated to helping nonprofits reduce their environmental footprint. There’s a pretty awesome guide to taking concrete steps towards more sustainable practices, while living your mission.
But I spend a lot of time in a lot of different nonprofit organizations, especially those actively trying to achieve broader-scale social change, and it’s clear that we still have a lot of room to grow.
I totally count myself among the guilty:
- Bought thousands of American flags, for a good visual for rallies, all shipped from China? Check.
- Made hundreds of posters on non-recycled posterboard, most of which didn’t get recycled later? Check.
- Drove 100 miles roundtrip every single day, usually by myself, to lobby in our state capitol? Check.
- Printed more hundreds of thousands of flyers than I ever want to remember (and postcards, and petitions), for all variety of different issues? Check.
- Bought supplies at the place with the best price and non-odious labor practices, without checking their sustainability policies at all? Check.
And we rationalize it, don’t we? Because our causes are so important, and our budgets are so strained, and our time seems more precious than fossil fuels. So we tell ourselves that any shortcut we can take is worth it, or we even stop seeing the environmental costs as part of the campaign analysis.
But we can do better than that.
Our children deserve it, and our would-be allies and advocates will come to demand it.
The advent of more developed technology makes effective mobilization without a heavy environmental cost more feasible. We can ‘be’ places that we are not, and we can make our voices echo, without burning up a lot of trees or oil.
We just have to figure it in, the way that we slice issues and map targets and plan tactics. On Earth Day, and every day, so that our victories can last forever, but our footprints will not.