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What does an Environmentalist do?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An environmentalist will typically make efforts that contribute toward environmental goals or work for businesses and organizations that further environmental efforts toward conservation of natural resources. Within the context of promoting environmental goals, there are a wide array of potential jobs and efforts that someone can have or put forth. An environmentalist working at a large corporation might make efforts to promote environmental efforts that also save the company money, ensuring greater likelihood of acceptance of such ideas, while someone working with an environmental organization might distribute informative fliers or protest the destruction of a natural park or body of water.

While many people may label themselves as environmentalists, a professional environmentalist is typically someone who works professionally in a way that furthers the various goals of environmental preservation and conservation. Someone with these attitudes and goals could simply recycle materials he or she uses, reduce the amount of energy or water he or she consumes, and reuse various household objects rather than disposing of them. While these would all help promote environmental causes, they are not necessarily the same as what someone working professionally in an environmental career would do.

A professional environmentalist would likely work for a private company or an environmentally oriented organization, or as an individual activist. Corporate environmentalists may initially seem like something of an oxymoron, considering the view of many environmentalists toward major corporations. This type of environmentalist will typically work for a large company or corporation and look for ways to reduce that company’s impact on the environment. He or she could work with various departments in a company to reduce paperwork and convert systems to digital storage and mail, find ways to reduce pollution created by manufacturing plants, and work to utilize space for offices in a way that does not negatively impact the environment.

An environmentalist could also work for an environmental group and take a daily role in promoting environmental awareness. This can involve anything from distributing leaflets and flyers to pedestrians, to writing up press statements or organizing concerts to raise awareness about a particular issue. An environmentalist working within an organization might also help arrange a protest or appear on news programs to spread the message of his or her organization to others.

Lone environmentalists can also work in ways similar to a professional environmentalist within an environmental group. These individuals can also take somewhat more extreme measures, however, such as sabotaging construction equipment involved in deforestation and trying to stop whalers through direct interference. While these people may produce noticeable results, they often work in ways that are illegal and so may be viewed negatively by others working to spread an environmental message that is more moderate in tone.

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Discussion Comments

By indigomoth — On Oct 25, 2013

@pleonasm - To some extent I think a lot of environmentalists are being vilified by certain vocal members of society. When I hear the word environmentalist, I think "global warming" and I know for some people those three words together spell out "nut job".

That's largely because of the way it's been portrayed in the media, as a bunch of hippy nonsense.

In fact a lot of the people who research global warming wouldn't even consider themselves to be environmentalists. They just know a catastrophe when they see one.

By pleonasm — On Oct 24, 2013

@croydon - I mostly associate the word with an environmentalist career path, whether that is through science or policy. I don't really think of people who recycle or walk to work in order to save fuel as being environmentalists, although I know they sometimes refer to themselves as such.

So I guess I think it makes sense for environmentalists to always be on the fringe, because they are generally at the polar opposite to people who don't want to consider the environment at all.

There are people who own six cars, there are people like me who try to walk whenever possible, but still have a car, and there are people who refuse to have anything to do with pollution. For example, there was a blogger I heard of a while ago who tried to live for a year without throwing anything away.

I would call her an environmentalist, I suppose, but I wouldn't call myself that. I'm just someone who happens to think the world is a bit better off if I try to walk when I can.

By croydon — On Oct 23, 2013

I wish that the term "environmentalist" wasn't such a loaded one these days. I think it makes it harder to get anything done. People associate being an environmentalist with either being a scientist or being a hippy and that doesn't have to be the case.

I think there should be room for a kind of moderate environmentalist, who doesn't think people need to be wiped off the Earth entirely, but that they just need to work out how to moderate their activities. The best kind of environmentalist is one who understands that real change can only work if people want it to happen. Forcing it down their throats doesn't solve anything.

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