An Open Letter to My Green-Collar Colleagues

An Open Letter to My Green-Collar Colleagues

Dear Fellow Green-Collar Professionals:

I’m a sustainability coordinator at a large research institution in Dallas. Like many of you, I attend conferences for inspiration and information on green business practices. Unfortunately, sitting next to some of you at these events makes me feel like I received a detention slip for The Breakfast Club. Please do us all a favor and watch/re-watch the 80s cult classic, identify your character, and take action to combat the negative side of the professional stereotype you are projecting:

Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) – You are pretty in green, uptown girl. Thanks to your fat stack of family cash, you can afford to take a non-profit job and still look good. Draped in the finest fair trade garb with a face perfectly enhanced by mineral cosmetics, you own the room. The meat that fills your belly spent more time outdoors than most American school children. In your driveway, the latest electric vehicle is being charged by Green Mountain Energy, along with your sense of self-worth, both of which are rapidly renewable resources.

  • Tips: Work to overcome eco-elitism by recognizing that some people are only paid enough to be Wal-Mart shoppers. Help other members of the privileged class see their role in funding a renewable future. Keep your sass and high regard for professionalism.

John Bender (Judd Nelson) – You are more tattoo than man, and hang your fedora in Denton, TX. Sitting backwards in your chair, you make it known to everyone that you are too cool for school. You stumble into this environmental summit, or whatever, with heavy eyes and a snarky graphic t. Double-fisting craft beer, you are an eco-activist and blogger.

  • Tips: Yes, I met you at the Gasland screening but no, you should not overcompensate for your jazz cigarette-induced ink choice by making your nickname “train wreck.” Have that tattoo laser-removed immediately. Buy a long-sleeved shirt and keep the sleeves rolled down when you’re at work. Keep fighting the man but seek therapy for your daddy issues in order to fight for the best man you can be, too.

Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez) – You are the boss or at least you want to be, downtown man. You dress the part and know your worth. You work hard and kiss enough planet to rise into management. The profit part of your “triple bottom line” gets a lot of attention and you communicate at the C-suite level. But sometimes your environmental integrity is compromised in an effort to reach your goals.

  • Tips: Keep leading the pack but let other people talk, especially the quiet nerdy kids.  Try balancing that three-legged sustainability stool with as much emphasis on people and the planet as you place on profits. Also, once you reach the top, don’t forget to reach back for the rest of us.

Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) – You are so crunch granola and your legs are so hairy that it’s hard to tell when you are bottomless. You take the train everywhere and live with several fur babies in Deep Ellum. You may enjoy writing and drawing for the planet, but you come off as a nihilist.

  • Tips: Girrrrl, that no-poo shampoo is not working for you. Use some head and shoulders. Take a Toastmaster’s course. Your voice matters, so please use it, but tone down the doomsday vibe. Charge more for your talent or start by at least charging something. Show some respect for the profession by ordering business cards for your next conference.

Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) – Your pocket protector is showing, suburban dad. You struggle with interpersonal relationships but are a stellar mathlete and energy engineer. If you are lucky, there are one to two others like you in an organization so you never have to eat lunch alone (although you would prefer it).

  • Tips: Nerds are cool now, so be one. Invent a carbon-capture device, end climate change, and save the rest of us. Or at minimum, make sure there aren’t too many math errors on other people’s spreadsheets.

Carl the Janitor (John Kapelos) – Let’s not kid ourselves. We are all Carl. And Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason) is our boss on a bad day. At some point, we each end up collecting alkaline batteries and picking trash out of blue bins. Our jobs are both a calling and a trap.

  • Tips: Keep cleaning up other people’s messes, but don’t make it your job exclusively. Walk a mile in the housekeeper’s moccasins at least once a quarter. Custodial staff are the unsung heroes of recycling and sustainability programs.

As Andrew says, “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”  But please leave the weird loner version of yourself in secondary school and get yourself together for the planet’s sake. If you don’t, you can eat my shorts.

Love always,

Tiana Lightfoot Svendsen

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