Motivations for Sustainability

By Nikki Wooten, Compost Initiative Intern

As a new cohort of IUOS Interns, the sixteen of us delved into A Conservationist Manifesto by Scott Russell Sanders. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University, where he taught from 1971 to 2009. Author of countless books and essays, Sanders is recipient of many awards for his work. Read his bio here.  For our final discussion of the book, we were lucky enough to be joined by Sanders himself.Image

How do we motivate others to care about sustainability? This is a forefront question for many of us. Sanders had a simple answer. We persuade people to care by appealing to different sources of value. He told us the story of a wealthy man he met years ago. Over the course of his life, the man had accumulated more wealth than he or his family could ever need. He decided to purchase a few thousand acres of land in Virginia. This land had recently been deforested, and the man worked with foresters to make sure that this land would remain untouched for future generations. In 300 years, the land would become an old-growth forest.

Sanders asked the man what made him do it. The man had not spent time in old-growth forests as a child, as Sanders had expected. Instead, he read books as a child that described majestic wilderness. As a boy, the man had imagined unruly, mysterious wooded settings. His imagination was his motivation.

Sanders stresses the role of imagination in finding solutions to sustainability issues. How can we make our daily tasks more joyful, more beautiful, less wasteful, more sustainable? How can we place ourselves in the shoes of our neighbors of all shapes and sizes, from the honey bees to the humpback?

I’m motivated by the simple belief that fresh, wholesome food should be available to all. We need healthy soil to grow nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables. As the Compost Initiative Intern, I’m working with IU staff and administrators to initiate a food waste composting program on campus, improving our soil at the Hilltop Garden while diverting waste from landfills. What motivates you to be sustainable?


4 thoughts on “Motivations for Sustainability

  1. I like how you apply Sander’s book and his idea of spreading a sustainable mindset to your internship with composting. Many individuals are concerned about the food that they eat, and they want to ensure that these foods will be safe for their families. By making individuals aware that there are foods out there that are both healthier for them and more sustainable, it will change people’s attitudes and their mindset behind the food that they purchase.

  2. “We persuade people to care by appealing to different sources of value”- I love this quote. I think far too often we forget how to make sustainability appeal to people. If we took the time to get to know people and what motivates them, I think it would be easier to present lifestyle changes to them.

  3. I’m so glad Sanders came to class and talked with us! I still had so many questions for him. If I had to say what motivates me to be sustainable… I would say that deep in my soul I can feel the connection to everything. That’s something I’ve tried to explain for a long time just to be laughed at, but Sanders conveyed it so beautifully in his book. I think he’s right that everything here has an intrinsic right to exist.

  4. I appreciate this notion of persuading people by really connecting with them, and in so doing, see whether it is really compatible with their own values or way of life. This brings about a personal kind of motivation of great strength, and brings us closer together as a society.

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