Viking Saga: How did you get started in the environmental field?
Suzanne Thompson: Way back when I went to college in the 1970s, you had the ecology movement, and you had Wayne Ruckelshaus, who was the first EPA director. You had a lot of interest in the environment in that time, coming out of the rebellious 60s into the 70s. I chose to study horticulture because I grew up raising tomatoes and I cared more about that than what women went into, which was Home Ec. generally (which my older sister had done). At the time I decided to follow my heart and what I was interested in doing, but then I added a journalism degree because I realized I needed to communicate. My craft and my trade was in communications, but I think I should have a topic to communicate about. But I didn’t officially become working as an environmentalist until three or four years ago.
V.S. What are the benefits of working in environmental?
S.T. I feel like the most important issue facing us right now is all environmentally based (climate change, sea level rise), where it’s really frustrating to try to bring the stove pipes together. You could say growing up in Connecticut is a very siloed state (each town has its own rules) so you have a full dose of that. I think it would be a very exciting time to be going into environmental topics.
V.S. How have you made it so that non-environmentalists can make a change in the environment?
S.T. I’ve come to realize that it’s listening to whoever your target audience is and understanding what are their needs and wants. That sounds kind of manipulative, but then again we’re all trying to get along and we have limited resources so we’ve got to figure out how to keep people happy and comfortable. Maybe they use less electricity or they carry their own bags around or they give up meat on more days. It’s a matter of listening to what motivates you, and I need to figure out how our product delivers that instead of hitting you over the head with what we believe is so great about it.
V.S. How long would you say it takes a person to make a change in the environment?
S.T. It takes a mindset change. It also again has to take something that’s easy for people, so it doesn’t seem like they’re giving up something or so they don’t feel like they’re being forced to do something.
V.S. Why do you think people still don’t attempt to make a change in the environment?
S.T. “So it’s all about me right?” change causes stress, and also we’re in a time that when we get scared. We’re not so open to try different things. I think we need more bans on plastic bags, fertilizers and pesticides because they’re too easy to use and people are too risky using them. For example, people don’t use gloves when spraying them (roundup or glyphosate) because it feels like 409 spray. So it’d be better if we banned the use of things which is very unpopular to do because it’s a job.