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So, this hit my inbox:

Happy Earth Day! You are receiving this email as someone who has participated in the University of Rochester’s Go Green Pledge. As of April 1, 2015, you, along with 2,060 people have taken the pledge including students, faculty, staff, andRochester community friends.

On this Earth Day, we invite you to recommit to the pledge.  The pledge has been updated to include more everyday actions that can impact your environmental footprint; the food you eat, the waste you create, your contribution to the community and beyond. Make a personal pledge to pitch in, turn off, conserve and re-evaluate your daily habits. Improving the environment is easy when you commit to actions within your reach.

By re-entering the email address you used when you first took the pledge (in receipt of this message) on the main pledge webpage at http://www.rochester.edu/sustainability/pledge/, you can review the items that you once promised to do, as well as see if there are any new items you would like to add to your commitment.

We thank you for making the commitment to sustainability!


If you have any questions about the Go Green Pledge, contact _____ (name redacted)

No comments about me “making the commitment” folks! But look at what we learned in this message. Basically no one cares about “Sustainability” even if they could ever venture a guess as to what it could possibly mean. How can I say this? Well, our school community is bombarded with the “Go Green” stuff. It’s on the bathroom stalls, on every trash can, in all of the buildings, on all of the bulletin boards, in the library, in the classrooms, and most definitely in our morning e-mail just about every time we open it up. There are eCycle days and tours and all kinds of articles and features promoting all of the “good” things we do on campus. Yet in a community of 20,000 employees, and another 9,300 students and lord knows how many community supporters, we manage to get only 2,000 people to basically click a link that doesn’t require them to actually DO anything, it only requires them to input an email address to “SAY” that they care. Yet, out of a minimum population of 30,000 who quite literally is fed the “Go Green” marketing materials every single day, we have about 7% of the people even bother to click through to show that they care.

Why is this something to learn from? Because if there is ever a place where you have a self-selected and “indoctrinated” community of people who at the very least can fake that they really care and will do something, a University community is it. Yet among this highly selected population, less than 7% partake in this symbolic act?

I find this little bit of data surprising, my priors would have had me guess it was closer to 20% or more, since we have full-time staff basically dedicated to growing that number. I think it’s far more fruitful to point that out than to blog about a hypothetical response to the email that I used to send when I cared, such as, “Can I demonstrate my commitment to sustainability by ensuring that I avoid organic foods and avoid recycling everyday household rubbish both which use more resources than they claim to “save?” You see, no one wants to deal with those kind of questions. But it seems that the infinite set of “no ones” that I used to have in mind is a lot smaller than I thought it was.

Have a lovely day.

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