|Port-au-Prince, March 2010|
I took this picture last year in Haiti, ten weeks after the earthquake that filled Port-au-Prince with rubble, killed thousands and left thousands more homeless and living in tents. This river, filled with discarded plastic bottles and trash, runs through downtown, and I remember thinking as I clicked the shutter that I was looking at two kinds of disasters, one natural and one man-made. In that instant, I pledged to myself that I would never, ever drink water from disposable plastic bottles again.
I wish I could say that I have lived up to that promise, but I can’t. For lots of reasons, including the fact that it’s hard to change.
|Doubletree Hotel Portland|
Which leaves me grateful this Earth Day for event organizers that make it possible, and even easy, to make a more sustainable choice. These water stations at the 2011 Green Meetings Industry Council annual meeting in Portland, are a gorgeous example.
In their book Switch, authors Chip and Dan Heath talk about “shaping the path” — the idea that one can encourage change by making it easier and intuitive to do the right thing. “What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem,” they write. “When you shape the path, you make change more likely.”
Event organizers have an incredible opportunity to shape a sustainable path for their attendees, creating an environment where constructive, life-affirming actions are not just possible, but a pleasure. The upcoming APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards, which we wrote about in the May issue, offer planners a road map, but they still have to put their hearts into it.
This Earth Day, I am recommitting to that smallest of changes — avoiding plastic water bottles. I’ve tried this no-brainer before and failed, so if you have any suggestions or encouraging words, please send them my way.