In the wake of the success of the Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard, now executive director of Greenpeace, had the opportunity to travel to dozens of colleges and universities. In her keynote talk at the opening ceremony of the AASHE 2014 conference in Portland, she shared leverage points that can make a real difference, including commit to 100 percent renewable energy and divest from fossil fuels, as well as some great advice on how to stay positive on the path to sustainability (don’t miss the last quote at the bottom of the post).
Commit to 100% Renewable Energy & Divest from Fossil Fuels
I had the great opportunity to speak personally with Leonard the morning after her speech. I was curious what top action she recommended as a potential game-changer.”I think that going to clean energy is the number one thing. Commit to 100 percent renewable energy,” Leonard said. “This is really important. We can’t expect the energy providers to switch over unless they are secure the demand is there.” She pointed to Greenpeace’s new campaign Clicking Clean, which is working with business leaders to green their data centers. “If places like Apple, Google and Facebook can do it, colleges and universities can do it,” stressed Leonard. Collective commitments from these companies is providing a clear signal to utilities to build more renewable energy facilities, rather than coal-burning power plants.
She also points to the power of divestment. Some argue that even if you could get colleges to divest, it is just a drop in the bucket and won’t really hurt the bottom line of fossil fuel companies. However, according to Leonard, it is an incredibly important campaign. She believes that when colleges divest from fossil fuels, “it begins to remove the social license of companies. Do everything you can to get your university to divest from fossil fuels. And to invest in the clean-energy economy.”
How to stay inspired?
Leonard’s positive energy is contagious and I asked her if she could share a few tips on how she personally stays inspired. A few ideas she shared include:
- Find a buddy: It is easy to feel alone or marginalized on the path to sustainability. Find a buddy or allies. She pointed to Greenpeace Greenwire, an online platform where students can find other students who want to get together to work on these issues.
- Take the changemaker quiz: Did you take the quiz yet to determine what kind of changemaker you are? Once you have done the quiz, you will get an invitation to participate in the Citizen Muscle Boot Camp, a new group program that will build your citizen muscles (currently in Beta testing right now).
- Focus on solutions: Seek out information about solutions. Go to the Biomimicry website, read YES! Magazine, go to conferences, or visit solutions. “I visit solutions often, because if you actually visit them and see them with your own eyes, you internalize the knowledge that there is a better way. It seeps into every cell of your body, so you can’t get depressed because your entire body knows there is a better way,” shared Leonard.
- Make a personal decision to wake up every morning happy and excited: And last, but so not least, were some final thoughts from Leonard that brought tears to my eyes. I conclude with the entire quote because I found it very powerful:
“There is one other thing I do. I just made a personal decision not to get depressed. It is a personal decision. It is my most personal, fundamental act of resistance. I feel that these planet destroyers have taken so many things from us — the people who I loved that have died from cancer, the rivers that I used to swim in as a kid that I can’t swim in now, and my ability to breastfeed my child without fear. They have taken so many things from me. So I decided to draw a line right in front of me and say you can’t have my sense of joy and hope. It is a very fundamental, personal act of resistance to wake up every morning happy and excited.”