When to Shout Out Vs When to Shut Up

This post was originally published at www.greenphonebooth.com where I contribute as the Mindful Echo. It’s a great blog for those of you interested in environmental issues of all sorts. Check it out!

Environmentalism is complex. And complicated. And confusing. Making the best choices for the planet, while often offering multiple benefits for your own well-being as well, are not always the easiest nor the most popular. (Possibly because “easy” is what’s popular…?)

For me this sometimes means opting out of small aspects of events; skipping the water bottle at a corporate picnic, for example. Sometimes it means refusing to attend a get-together at an objectionable location (sorry non-research, non-rescue zoos). Sometimes, though, I’m not content to quietly let these things pass by. Maybe I have a vein of confrontation that runs beneath my introverted exterior or maybe certain things just push my buttons. Either way, I think it’s okay to speak out when you feel moved to do so. Our voices are important and the planet is a worthy cause. It might evoke an eye-roll or two, but that’s okay.

At the same time, we can’t all be full-time activists. Unfortunately, being outspoken isn’t always a welcome characteristic and it’s not always appropriate. If you’re wondering when it’s okay to climb up on your soapbox and when it might be a better idea to just quietly decline, you’re not alone. It’s tough to make that decision sometimes. For both of our benefits, I’ve made this handy list.

shout shut

Shout Out When:

  1. It’s directly causing you, another, or an animal physical pain.
    • It’s not hilarious to dump your leftover punch into the fish pond.
  2. It immediately threatens to cause you, another, or an animal physical pain.
    • It’s so easy to snip up those plastic six-pack rings. Just do it already.
  3. There’s an easily accessible alternative.
    • Hey guys, the recycling bin is *right there*
  4. You recognize it’s a lack-of-awareness issue.
    • It’s shameful how easy it is not to realize that almost everything is owned by Monsanto.
  5. It contradicts the objective of the activity.
    • These are often no-brainers but you’d be surprised how often people are oblivious. For example, seasoned hikers and campers who leave their litter behind in the woods.

Shut Up When:

  1. The power to effect change beyond your own actions is beyond your control.
    • You’re not going to convince everyone in that amusement park to go home and get their own empty water bottles to fill up on-site.
  2. The situation is culturally or religiously significant.
    • We need to be respectful of people and the planet. When in conflict, I put people first.
  3. It’s going to be hurtful to your family or friends.
    • This is more on the “people first” idea. If your bffs spent time planning you a special surprise BBQ birthday party, just keep your mouth shut about the styrofoam plates.
  4. An alternative isn’t financially feasible.
    • “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.” ~Bob Dylan
  5.  It doesn’t actually involve you in any way.
    • You can stand up for the earth without marching up to a stranger and demanding they compost their banana peel. Point out the compost bin next to the trash but you don’t always have to be confrontational.


This list is meant to be a little tongue-in-cheek. Of course, if you feel the need to speak out, DO SO. It’s the only way anything will ever change.



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