Sunday, January 8, 2012

Greenpeace Solicitors

At what job do you get to stand in the freezing cold being rejected time and time again, while people avoid even making eye contact with you because they know you want to take their money and will make them, too, suffer in the cold or be late for class or work?  Behold the amazing job of a Greenpeace solicitor. Everyone has encountered those Greenpeace representatives who stand on locust or walnut and stare you down from the end of the street until you approach. It turns awkward as you attempt to avoid their deathly gaze because you just know they are going to try to weasel you out of the $10 you just made at the behavioral lab.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a full-fledged environmentalist, but I have a hard time supporting those Greenpeace representatives. I am happy to show my support by going to events, signing my name to a petition, or doing a lobbying visit to the local congressman, but it is hard as a college student to give over my money to an international organization that operates on a very large scale with implications that are hard to see for myself. Not only are they annoying, but they make me feel guilty. In fact they make a lot of people feel guilty. People want to be able to help the environment, just not in the way they are demanding. Recently a friend said she wasn’t able to donate money, but would be happy to sign up for their newsletter to receive more information. The representative would not let her sign up unless she paid her dues. However, the newsletter is not limited to money-paying members online. You would think that to increase the organization’s support the rep would have gladly added her to their list and potentially increased their numbers at some events, but those solicitors only have one thing in mind – getting your money.  I usually just smile at them, say that I am an active member who participates in meetings [which is true in my home state of New York], and wish them a good day. That usually gets them really excited and their faces brighten up. It’s worth the white lie to see that joy after being rejected all day long.

I propose we set up a simpler way of supporting Greenpeace and other organizations that want to wave down our students. Students are so glued to their computers and smart phones that they are often willing to receive newsletters and will learn something from them. What if students were simply given the option to sign up for the newsletter without being hounded for money? In order to be efficient, organizations need two types of power – money and PEOPLE. They need constituents to lobby to their politicians, citizens to show up to events, voters to pass new bills and elect the best politicians for the cause.  They don’t just need money. Maybe if we didn’t think they were going to try to weasel us out of our few pennies we might stop more often or actually learn something about the cause from their newsletter.


  1. You are right to be annoyed by advocacy organizations imposing membership fees in exchange for access to information. There are other ways to serve Greenpeace. I became a volunteer for the Geneva group (rather inactive, but I write about nuclear energy and other related issues on my Websites and elsewhere which helps their cause). One advantage is that they send a lot of info about environmental issues in the community by Email and I've made some useful contacts at demonstrations.

    I too have been sealed off from the information vital to my advocacy - by the organization Next-Up because I'm not a paying member. I let the world know about it in my blog and sent them a critical message. We put our time and energy into advocacy and should have free access to resources. We are all working for the same cause. So - bravo for criticizing this type of behavior on your site!

  2. :) i did some work with grassroots campaigns and i also did some work standing in the freezing cold soliciting for causes... you are right, i do get happy knowing that a "no" from someone who is an active supporter makes my day a little better... in the scheme of things, those smiles adds up...

  3. Yes, Jin, I've also done some flyering. It can be extremely frustrating work...not always the most rewarding. And maybe not the most efficient and effective either.
    Thanks for the support Meris!