The Course of Reason

A Sustainable Secular Movement

October 28, 2011

The perspective offered in this piece comes from my education as an Environment and Business student.  In a sentence: Environment and Business focuses on teaching students to find business solutions to the issue of environmental protection and the development of sustainability plans to achieve that end.  Sustainability in this sense means: Meeting the needs and wants of the present without compromising the needs and wants of the future.

Note: I intend for this to be my first piece written as a member of the CFI On Campus Publications Committee. -Chris

Second Note: This article focuses on how CFI can become an organization that promotes sustainability.  I am relatively new to the CFI organization and so will grant that perhaps these ideas have already been considered and implemented.  Nonetheless, I wish to offer my perspective.

Now your immediate thought may be, “Environment and business?  Those seem like contradictory terms.”  Indeed, years of environmental destruction wrought by businesses leaves one with a cynical frame of mind.  Furthermore, my education has left me feeling that the reality of sustainable business is far from the ideal of sustainable business.  But I do see hope.  I do see a growing movement that is committed to sustainability.  Next you may be asking, “What does this have to do with the secular movement and, in particular, CFI?”

CFI is an organization.  It has clear positions and roles for members, committees, and a clear mission statement.  As such, the ideas behind the thinking of Environment and Business can apply to this organization.  The following is a brief list of ways in which CFI can strive to become a sustainable organization and promote sustainability.  The size and scope of this effort would all depend on the resources available and the will among CFI to initiate such a plan.

1) Promotion.  Marketing - yes marketing, that tool that is often associated with convincing us to buy things we clearly don’t need can be used as a tool for good - can be used to promote sustainability initiatives.  Whether something as simple as handing a pamphlet out at a conference to give tips on how to live sustainably to promoting environmental causes, marketing can be used to spread a message that is less “buy, buy, buy” and more “rethink, reuse, reduce, recycle”.

2) Set goals.  Create a simple list of ways in which CFI can become sustainable.  Find ways to reduce waste, make conferences more energy efficient, etc.  Brainstorm a list of ideas and targets that the organization can achieve.  Create the list and work with an independent 3rd party that can track the progress of the organization to see if it is meeting the expectations set out.

3) Produce a sustainability report.  It is what it sounds like.  An annual report that updates stakeholders on the progress CFI has made on the path to sustainability is an excellent tool for measuring organizational performance and creating recommendations as to how the organization should move forward.

These are ideas are just a small part of becoming a sustainable organization.  Suffice to say that, a serious effort would require a much longer and more detailed plan, but this provides a skeleton to get readers interested in the notion of sustainability.  This would require a concentrated effort from all levels of the organization.  Sustainability is no longer just the role of an environmental department.  As secularists I believe that we all understand that science shows how we are connected to and dependent upon the web of life.  We should strive to act in a manner that acknowledges this fact.  Organizations have the ability to become part of a sustainability movement, if they are willing to work for it.

This post originally appeared on the Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers of Waterloo blog.

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About the Author: Chris Burke

Chris Burke's photo
Chris Burke holds a Bachelors in Environmental Studies: Honours Environment and Business from the University of Waterloo. Next he will be working towards a Masters of Environmental Studies in Sustainability Management. He's an active member of the Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers of Waterloo student group. In his spare time he enjoys reading and playing music.


#1 Dren Asselmeier on Friday October 28, 2011 at 7:04am

I love this. I think that it is crucial that we think critically about how our work and our lives impact the environment. We should care as humanists, but we should also want to set a good example for other organizations to follow. I really appreciate this perspective.




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