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Conservation Begins with Grassroots Groups

Updated on November 30, 2010

Conservation Begins with Grassroots Groups

Issue at hand is conservation. Radical changes are needed, and they do not happen overnight. Individuals, single-issue movements and collaborations are necessary components of any type of movement. The green movement is no exception. Single-issue conservation movements, or grassroots groups, are launching pads. Failure or success, these movements and their people start the ball moving.

Conservation is defined by Oxford Reference Online as “the sensible use of earth’s natural resources in order to avoid excessive degradation and impoverishment of the environment…an awareness of the dangers of pollution, and the maintenance and preservation of natural habitats and the creation of new ones.” Issues of conservation involve “economics, law, social sciences, and religion” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2010). With these two definitions alone, one could see how multi-faceted and complex conservation is. Any issue this complex will have many trials and errors. The goal is to keep conducting the trials so that eventually there will be successes, and there are successes.

Some grassroots groups start with individuals trying to do the right thing. Others see a problem, and try to find solutions. Yet, other groups are in the process of connecting individuals, groups, and businesses together to bring about changes that each are working towards.

Yvon Chouinard is the founder and owner of Patagonia. Patagonia is an outdoor equipment and clothing company. Chouinard is responsible for his company switching to organic cotton for their clothing. (Garber, 2009) Toxic chemicals are used in the industrial farming of cotton. Even with the challenges of switching to organic, Chouinard states that “…it’s the right thing to do” (¶9). Chouinard has help launch 1% for the Planet. More than 1,200 companies donate 1 percent of their annual sales to environmental groups. (¶8) These companies are working directly with the environmental groups. Chouinard has set an example by putting his environmental concerns before his bottom dollar.

Make It Right is a foundation that Brad Pitt established to help rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. “The foundation has commissioned 13 architecture firms to design affordable, green houses “(Bernstein, 2009, ¶2). By utilizing his Hollywood status, Brad Pitt is helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina and bringing awareness to environmentally friendly homes. These homes utilize materials and features that are non-toxic and energy efficient. (

Cities and states have started their own conservation programs. One such program in New York helps landlords who are in need of fixing energy and water systems that are wasteful by offering mortgages or refinancing. (Appelbaum, 2009) This initiative is helping landlords finance outdated systems in the hopes that loans will pay for itself with the energy savings.

Some communities, colleges and state parks are using solar-powered trash compactors instead of regular trash cans. The compactors hold up to 32 gallons of compacted trash. (Liisa, n.d.) The cost of green technology can be formidable to budgets. New York City’s Department of Sanitation sees it as a better investment to purchase more trash cans due to the upfront cost of the compactors. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is expecting to reduce weekly trash pick ups by 70%, resulting in a savings of $13 million over 10 years. (¶22)

In my area, southwest Missouri, there is the Well Fed Neighbor Alliance. Their mission is to bring together “individuals dedicated to the re-localization of our local food supply, fuel supply and economy” ( This group, and others, is aware that what they do personally impacts the earth and its resources.

Eco-Patent Commons is a group of companies coming together to pledge environmental patents so that anyone can use them for free. Eco-Patent Commons started in January 2008 with 11 patents, and currently has 100. (Tripsas, 2009) While sharing patents will have some challenges, working together to benefit the environment has advantages. One example is that I.B.M. has contributed “a recyclable cardboard packaging insert that requires less fossil fuel to create and transport than the foam inserts that are no commonly used” (¶4).

National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and supporters worked together to achieve many conservation victories in 2009. NWF considers an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announcement as “the single largest step the government has taken to confront global warming to date” (National Wildlife, 2010, ¶2). The EPA announced that “global warming pollution ‘endangers public health and welfare’ under the Clean Air Act” (¶2). This achievement and others were due, in part, to NWF supporters sending thousands of emails, handwritten letters and making phone calls to government officials. (¶1) This type of activism, phone calls and letters, is something anybody can participate in, and can be very influential.

In a memo, the US Department of Interior and President Obama recognized that individuals, groups, businesses and governments are coming together to preserve and restore natural habitats. Their efforts through partnerships and programs can be “scattered and sometimes insufficient” (, 2010, ¶3). America’s Great Outdoors Initiative promotes “community-based recreation and conservation” (¶6). While this initiative does not actually fund anymore programs, it does acknowledge that each person and group has potential to create necessary solutions. is an international grass-roots organization started by Bill McKibben, an author and activist, and some students at Middlebury College. McKibben sees that climate change will need national and international laws capping carbon. (Wendy, n.d.) was started to “raise awareness and press for political action” (¶7). The internet is a great tool in creating an international network to find and implement conservation solutions.

Grassroots movements can be compared to throwing a rock in a lake. There is an initial splash. Perhaps, the rock may sink and never be seen again. The ripples that are created are expanding and can be far reaching. The key to conservation is bringing people and organizations together to facilitate ideas and action. In referring to grassroots groups for corral reef ecosystem restoration, Krumholz and Barber (2010) stated it this way, “they can successfully tackle localized problems and simultaneously work tirelessly to raise awareness about the bigger issues.” This can be said of all grassroots groups, single or collaborated movements.


(2010). ACTIVISTS MAKE A DIFFERENCE. National Wildlife , 48 (2), 48. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

APPELBAUM, A. (2009, November 18). Helping Landlords Save on Energy and Water Costs. New York Times , p. 7. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

BERNSTEIN, F. (2009, November 29). Brad Pitt's Gifts to New Orleans. New York Times , p. 8. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database

conservation. ( 2010). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved May 12, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:

conservation. A Dictionary of Chemistry . Ed John Daintith. Oxford University Press, 2008. Oxford Reference Online . Oxford University Press. Liberty University. Retrieved 13 May 2010.

Garber, K. (2009). Not in the Business of Hurting the Planet. U.S. News & World Report , 146 (10), 63. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Krumholz, J., & Barber, T. (2010). Avoiding "Band-Aid" Solutions in Ecosystem Restorations. Ecological Restoration , 28 (1), 17-19. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Liisa, R. (n.d). Trash cans dumped for sun-powered compactors. USA Today , Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

TRIPSAS, M. (2009, November). Everybody In the Pool Of Green Innovation. New York Times , p. 5. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

U.S. Department of Interior. (2010, April 16). Presidential Memo: A 21st Century Strategy for America’s Great Outdoors. Retrieved from

Wendy, K. (n.d). 'Eaarth' author: Young people can save world. USA Today , Retrieved from Academic. Retrieved May, 15 2010


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