The Environmentalist’s Dilemma

One of the best things about being a runner is that I get to be (have to be) outside everyday. Rain or shine; in my hometown or halfway across the world. I have gone to the tops of mountains, seen beautiful sunsets, traversed muddy trails, and viewed pristine lakes. Because of this, nature has always held extreme value in my mind and it kills me to think that someday this beauty will look very different.

This is what moved me toward sustainable business and ultimately led me to the Net Impact conference. It was immediately clear that most people there were brought there by passion like mine, motivated by a deep love for something they wanted to protect or improve. It was incredibly inspiring for me to see all the positive things people have done. There is a certain adrenaline rush that comes from being surrounded by people who share similar passions like this. It’s a very similar feeling to the one I get after doing well in a race at a big track meet. In both situations, there is a process to learning how to contain and properly channel these emotions. You want to keep the buzz of energy going to ‘go forth and produce good’, but if you come on too strong, you will burn yourself out and/or just turn people away from your cause rather than draw them to it.

As someone fairly new to the specifics behind sustainable business concepts, I learned many things at the conference that shocked me and changed my views on everything from what I ate and how I traveled to how I felt about modern conveniences. I wanted to stop drinking milk, stop eating beef and chicken, stop driving my car, stop taking showers and tell the rest of America that they should too….but before I did all that, I had to get home to Oregon…..3.5 hr plane ride (.19 metric tons CO2), 2.5 hr van ride (.04 metric tons C02), 4 plastic plane cups, packaged airport sandwiches, half dozen paper hand towels, etc…..

What place do I have to talk about how America should be more sustainable?!

This has to be something that every new cause advocate goes through. How do you jump into a conversation this big without seeming like a hypocrite for living normally in this society? Sure, you could just go and have a carbon negative life as a hermit in the woods but how would that help educate others or change how the world operated as a whole? It wouldn’t.

Throughout the conference, I tried to take note of how the most effective individuals approached these issues. What I learned was that these people chose the topic that they felt strongest about and pushed hard for it while at the same time chipping away little by little at everything else.  Being persistent and consistent but generally flying under the radar a little bit on the peripheral items. Like other concepts in business, sometimes you have to give before you receive. Spend a little carbon in order to meet people in the society of today to gain their trust and attention before sharing what you know and how you feel about the changes that can be made. At Net Impact, I learned that you don’t have to always be a radical or a hypocrite or the best person in the world or the worst but if you truly care about something you can make a difference.

Written by bfranek@uoregon.edu

Bridget was a 2012 Olympian in track and field and will be graduating from the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center this December. She originally returned to get her MBA in hopes of better understanding the business side of sports and maximize her experience as a professional athlete. While at Oregon, she learned about the opportunities in sustainable business and has been inspired to figure out a way to use her background in sports as a platform for environmental improvement and social good.