(Not) Seeing Eye to Eye With Co-Workers About the Business of Earth

What to do when colleagues in the workplace just won’t — will not, will not, will not — reach a little further to the left with that grip of paper they no longer want hanging around, instead opting for the trash can rather than the nearby recycling bin?

Not long ago, when I finally joined Big Cooperate America after resisting for more than a decade, it didn’t take long to realize I had cloaked myself in an environment that was not ‘green.’

The company, a rather major one, considers itself an environmentally aware corporation. And it is — to an extent.

But only to the extent of its masses, which are still more inclined to consider recycling paper and plastic bottles the cutting edge of the green game.

But, looking at the positive, it’s been a lesson in accepting limitations. As I said in a previous sustainablog.org post — CNN’s Glenn Beck and Other Doubters Need More Faith — one person can only do so much on a daily basis.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to strike a balance between my drive to recycle every scrap of paper with the idea that I must not alienate my co-workers.

One, it will create a polluted work environment, if you will, causing tension and resentment.

And Two, it will only turn them off of the cause. (They may never ever ever be turned on to the cause, but jabbing them in the ribs every day with guilt trips won’t do any good either.)

How to Make Earth a Better Place

I continue to ponder my role in making this world a better, cleaner, more protected place. It has so many problems and so many different viewpoints on solving them — or neglecting them — that it’s a daunting mission for all of us.

In my quest to seek middle ground and solutions with people of opposing views, I have backed off feeling the urge to chide co-workers. I just let it go and don’t bother with getting riled about it.

Instead, I try to keep my modest grumbles silent and any eye-rolling hidden when I see that someone opts to toss copier paper into the trash can instead of the recycle bin around the corner.

If no one is around, I’ll move it to its properly useful place.

In general, I try to hold firm in living my life as I see fit and not remind those around me who do not get it, that I do not approve of how they are living theirs — at least this one aspect of it. Unfortunately, that seems to be more or less every one of my colleagues, right now.

(Frankly, I consider preachy religious fanatics to be a nuisance. And in the attempt to minimize hypocrisy, I’m hoping that my “religion” of caring for humanity and the Earth — by the way, shouldn’t that be the same goal that so-called religious zealots should have? — will just respect what I do. Who knows — maybe they’ll one day follow suit?)

Another lead-by-example I’ve opted for is: Instead of taking food from my workplace cafeteria in styrofoam, I carry the plates and bowls and silverware to my office. Then I return it by the end of the day.

It’s what I consider the right thing to do, even if styrofoam piles high in trash cans around the headquarters campus, contributed by a couple thousand of my workplace neighbors. I quietly do it.

Just as I quietly ride my bike to work — often the only one on the campus who does (again, of nearly 2,000 people). But people see me. And since I’ve begun, two others ride at least some of the time. Maybe — just maybe — my example had something to do with that.

In all, continuing to live in a responsible way while stepping aside as others live, well, in other ways, seems to just be part of finding personal balance for me — emotional balance, as much as anything.

Anyone got other constructive suggestions for coping with minority status as an Earth-lover in the workplace?

Related posts:

Xerox: Walking the Talk on Sustainable Business

It’s Not the Economy; It’s the Environment

Simple Living and Operating a Sustainable Business

  1. Bobby B.

    Sometimes you have to accept things as they are and seek to influence a small circle. For example, I have no license to walk into my kids’ public school classrooms and offer counterpoints to the green theology being presented to them as factual science. I can, however, offer those counterpoints in the privacy of our home. I tell them to learn what the teacher wants for the purposes of passing the tests, but understand that all of the course content is not necessarily gospel.

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