When Career Paths and Environmental Choices Collide.

Words by Ryan Woldt

Today I had to chose between taking a job or to turn down the opportunity because of a personal, environmental choice. It's the first time I've been confronted with such a challenge and it was a struggle. It was a struggle because there was so much good about the opportunity including the product, the people I'd be working with and it would have maximized the interpersonal skills, creative, marketing and branding skills I've been working hard to develop over my career.

The product was organic, healthy, local juice. The challenge was the container they used to distribute it were made of plastic. There were plenty of justifications for it including the process, the cost, and preservation. The bottles were recyclable after use. But it became a sticking point for me. How could I try to eliminate plastic in my own life and kitchen, and still be a representative for a company that puts more plastic into our environment?

By some recent reports more than 91% of plastics are never recycled, and plastic bottles while small, sometimes reused are produced in such extreme quantity that all the beach clean ups and trash patrol efforts may never be able to catch up.

That scary concept is part of the struggle. If we can't catch up why sacrifice ourselves, in this case my career path and my bank account for a lost environmental cause? The other day I watched a neat "How It's Made" style video about ping pong balls. It was an innocuous time waster while laying in bed about to fall asleep. The followed the life of a ping pong ball from small plastic disk through the factory to completion and it's future as a leisure or competition ball. They ended with statistic. A fact I have no reason not to believe. That factory, that one factory, produces 600,000 ping pong balls a day.

The number blew my mind. How many ping pong players are there in the world (or more likely beer pong players)? Those ping pong balls that won't break down for 100s of years. That plastic is almost entirely being amassed for recreational use. How do you make a choice that is pro-environment when you know all your efforts for a lifetime are equalled out or overwhelmed by the production of a single day at one ping pong ball factory?

The answer is hope. Hope that we're going to figure this all out. Hope that enough people will make enough choices leading us towards a solution. The answer is hope, and it is hard to hold on to. That was my choice to make. Ten years ago I may not of cared. I may have taken the job. Paid some bills. Bought some stuff, but the knowledge I've gained over the years about the effects of plastics on humans, animals and our environment became my line in the sand. That glass box of ignorance I almost wish I still had shattered long ago, and today I had to make a choice. I chose my belief system over my wallet and career. I hope it was the right one.

Where is your line in the sand?

Where is your line in the sand?