My Earth Day Dilemma: It’s not you, Earth Day. It’s me.

Recycle EarthEarth Day is a wonderful event that is an important driver of environmental causes. It educates and inspires people all over the world. And I have a problem with it. Here’s my Earth Day dilemma. It’s not you, Earth Day. It’s me.

The perception of people who work in the environmental field is often of a tree hugger or environmentalist. These terms can be endearing, but in this instance I use them derogatorily. I’ve been called both of these terms in both positive and negative settings. My dilemma is that Earth Day events often enhance or validate this stereotype, for better and worse. It’s the worse that bothers me.

I’ve spent my career as an environmental professional trying to discard any negative imagery associated with these terms. I present the job as more professional than the perception. It’s worked. This isn’t a one-time Earth Day exercise. Every day I am working to improve the environmental quality of a workplace, fielding questions and educating people on environmental issues from asbestos to zero emissions. I’ve been successful presenting myself as a professional. Presenting issues and solutions with science, health and personal benefits, as opposed to the feel good, save-the-world style.

I hope I don’t sound like the Earth Day Grinch.

Here’s an example. Teaching an environmental training course to a group of people for the first time, I’ve often felt this vibe, “Oh, here’s another hippy tree hugger trying to save an owl.” I’ve spent a lot of time overcoming that by educating people on the real, practical implications of these problems. Then they’re happy to be there; I’m happy to be teaching; and it becomes a productive day.

Maybe I’m too harsh on Earth Day. Maybe I haven’t experienced the right Earth Day event. I guess I need to find my own Earth Day Cindy Lou Who to change my attitude. Have a happy Earth Day. I hope you are entertained and enlightened.