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Natural Resources

Editor's Note:

This Q & A feature of The Planet is a combination of how-to tips and activist experiences. Sometimes we'll consult an expert in the field; other times we'll solicit expert advice from our readers.

How do you get friends and colleagues to take action on environmental issues?

"Sometimes people aren't active because they don't know where to start - it helps to give people concrete suggestions. As an undergraduate, I wrote a blueprint for the University of Tennessee that outlined several ways to make the campus more environmentally friendly. It included using native plants and reducing chemicals in landscaping, improving energy efficiency in campus buildings by using flourescent lighting and increasing the number of recycling locations. The school formed a campus-greening committee and implemented a lot of the ideas. I still get requests for my original blueprint - it gives people a road map."

- Mary Anne Peine, member Bitterroot-Mission Group Montana

"I try to show my friends and neighbors that we environmentalists are not wackos - we are trying to save something for our kids and their kids, too. We save by adjusting our thermostats one or two degrees, by driving a little less and a little slower, by recycling, by avoiding pesticides and herbicides where we can, by doing small, simple things that can mean so much en masse. Eventually someone will ask us about our activities, and that creates an opening for a discussion."

- Mark Atwell, life member Cumberland (Kentucky) Chapter

"I try to get my co-workers to reuse, reduce waste and recyle. I mostly encourage this through humor - if I notice a pop can in Louisa's regular garbage can, I say something like, 'I know Louisa would recycle that can, so who threw this in her garbage?' I also throw out facts about why a material is not environmentally friendly, like Styrofoam. I made an unofficial office edict to not purchase it for use in our building and most people complied."

- Mary Trieschmann, member Illinois Chapter

"I provide information for people to use to write letters about marine mammal issues - and then tell them to write. That way, people educate themselves on the issue and send in a letter, which is a great activist tool. I recently wrote a sample letter to [Hawaii] Sen. Inouye asking for help to stop the Navy's dangerous low frequency active sonar program. My letter gives people the facts they need to write on the issue, but I specifically ask people to vary their own letter. Individual letters are more effective."

- Judy Olmer Marine Mammal Forum member

Want to contribute?

Send us your answers to the following questions for upcoming issues: What was your first action as an activist? What's your favorite green gift to give? To share good advice or stories, send them to "Natural Resources," The Planet, Sierra Club, 85 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA, 94105 or

Deadline: December 1

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