Ben Garbee
December 5, 2001

Internship Final Report

My Environmental Studies internship has so far been filled with confusion, excitement, stress, and disappointment. EcoPledge is my internship, which is an organization that targets companies that are environmentally destructive when the companies try to come across as a “Green Company.” EcoPledge has a list of ten target corporations that include companies like Coca-Cola, Sprint, Disney, Boise Cascade, Citigroup, Daimler Chrysler, Dell, Nestle, Pricewater House Coopers, and Staples. Once these target companies become part of the list they are written to and told that they are on the target list and if they do not meet specific demands that EcoPledge has, they will be put on the Ban List. College students are encouraged to sign the EcoPledge, when one signs the EcoPledge, they promise to not work for corporations on the ban list. They also promise not to buy products from companies on the ban list. Currently BP Amoco is the only company on the ban list. My internship is to get students at Whitman College informed about the EcoPledge and that it is available for them to sign. EcoPledge also sponsored the EcoConference in Washington DC October 19-21. They also have periodic action days where the pick one company and on the target or ban list and give them hell that day.

During the first few weeks in October I mainly focused on the EcoConference2001. Unfortunately nobody at Whitman was able to attend the EcoConference this year. It was very frustrating that I spent so much time working on raising money, organizing meetings, and talking for hours to the EcoConference organizers, when nobody came in the end. I was not even going to the conference and I was the one who did all of the work trying to get the other people to go. It was a good learning experience for me. I felt like I had a lot of responsibility getting students to the conference. EcoConference took up most of my thoughts outside of the classroom for two weeks. It was amazing to see how fast it grew. It started with a phone call from Ross Hamerssely asking me if I would help with the conference. He said that he had gotten my name from the Environmental Studies and some EcoConference posters that I put around campus. Then at the activism fair, with my table I had some interested people but nobody that thought it would be plausible to go to Washington DC in three weeks. Finally I sent out an all-campus email and suddenly the conference became very popular. I received about 16 emails from people interested in going to the conference. I was shocked at how many people were interested, it was in Washington DC and only two weeks away. Then the momentum kept building when the next day I receiving such a generous donation from Bob Carson and held my meeting with the interested people. There were 6 people at the meeting and they all seemed very interested. They said they would spend the weekend working on fundraising and getting their airline tickets. It was going great. Then after the three day weekend the momentum seemed to die. Three of the six people were not going to be able to attend the conference anymore, parents weekend. The people that still wanted to go were not doing any fund raising, or really anything at all. I started to feel like I was the only one doing anything. I gave everybody Ross and Liz’s email address and phone numbers and told them to contact them over the weekend and nobody did. Then the three people going dropped to two. Then after all my work I got an email on Monday night from the two interested people saying they could not go because it did not work out for them this weekend. So in the end there were no Whitman students at the conference.

Once a week I do a radio show on campus. During this radio show I play my favorite music but I also make plugs for EcoPledge. It is an easy way for a lot of people who wouldn’t normally hear about the EcoPledge to be informed. During my two-hour radio show we play the EcoPledge public service announcement at least twice and also talk about the EcoPledge. I got to speak about the EcoConference and I felt like it was really effective for me during the action days. I would announce the action day and tell what everyone should do on that day.

I found that all-campus emails were the most effective way for me to inform the entire campus of events EcoPledge was sponsoring. All-campus emails are annoying to get but they work. With them I was able to inform the entire campus of the EcoConference, which resulted in many people, even some non-environmental studies majors to show interest in the conference; I was also able to inform the entire campus about EcoPledge, and the action days throughout the semester.

The second half of my semester I found to be more difficult than the first half. With the EcoPledge internship I found it difficult to get things going this semester. Not that I did nothing, but it was hard to consistently find things to do. I am not sure if this internship should be used next year, as it is difficult when you are not working directly with anything or anyone. My main source was a man name Ross Hamersly, who I talked to many times with on the telephone and stayed informed about ecopledge through him.

The second half of the semester I worked on the Action Days of EcoPledge. Twice during the last month and a half EcoPledge had an action days. The first action day was a Sprint phone boycott. Sprint does not use recycled paper to print their cellular phone bills and EcoPledge put them on the Target List because of this. On October 25, 2001, EcoPledge asked everyone to call Sprint, (preferably not on their cellular phones) and tell them to start using recycled paper. I don’t think that the action days are very effective way to work. When you called the Sprint number you speak with an operator who has no idea what kind of paper their cellular phone bills are printed on, nor does she care. When you write an email to Sprint but someone who has authority on what kind of paper they use will probably not read it. I still felt it was my duty as the EcoPledge representative of the campus to inform the students of this day. I sent out an all campus email the day before the action day and my email consisted of everything that Sprint was doing and why they should stop. The email was fairly lengthy and I got a few responses back. I also told everyone who was listening to my radio show to call Sprint if they cared about this issue. The second day of action was November 15, 2001 and this time it was against Staples. Staples cut down old growth forests to make many of the paper products. As a result EcoPledge has put Staples on their target list. This day was similar as the Sprint day of action. I wrote an all campus email about the issue and told the students to either call Staples or email them and ask them to stop cutting down the old growth forests. This email sparked more interest than the Sprint action day, a group of students wanted to go to Staples with signs and talk to the manager. I was able to spark an interest and concern and there was a group of students that went to Staples and talked with the manager.

Overall my reflections on EcoPledge are mixed. During the first half of my internship I had the EcoConference and was able to put a lot of time into that. If I didn’t have the EcoConference I would have found it very hard to do an entire semester of the EcoPledge. It is great when students sign the pledge and really mean it but after some all campus emails about EcoPledge, and hang posters about EcoPledge, it gets a little redundant. I am glad that there were the action days this semester and I feel good about how those went. It really raised campus awareness of the companies and I was the only one with the information about the action days. I feel especially good about the Staples action day. My advice for future EcoPledge internships is two things; let the intern be aware of the EcoConference immediately, this took up just about all of my time for three weeks but if I had a month and a half to prepare for it, it would have been less chaotic. The EcoConference organizer does not necessarily have to go across the country to the conference but at least organize, fundraise, and get students informed and motivated. Second, combine the EcoPledge internship with something else that is related but also tangible on campus. I am not aware of all the possible internships available in this area but there has to be one that is similar to EcoPledge. I found it difficult to keep a tight focus on EcoPledge for the entire semester. I do feel like I was able to reach the entire campus with all that EcoPledge was doing and really spark people’s interest.