Pagan Leadership: Community Building, Facilitation, and Personal Growth

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Pagan Events, Trash, and Environmentalism Part 2



Here's part three on my series on Pagans and Environmentalism, but it's technically part two of the article on Pagan events and trash. Brevity...not always my gift. :) Here's the first half of this article; it'll give some context and this part of the article will make way more sense if you read this first.


Volunteers and Delegation

And here's where we cycle back around to leadership and community building and how that connects to environmental efforts. One of the single most common things people ask me when I teach leadership is, "How do I get more people to care? How can I get more people to volunteer?" or "How can I get my volunteers to actually do work and not drop the ball?"

There's no easy answer to this question, though it's something I'll certainly write about in more depth in the future.

In a nutshell--you can't make anyone do anything. Some leaders luck out and have a lot of skilled, motivated people in their area. Others, not so much. Sometimes it's just a numbers game; if you live in a rural area and there are only 20 Pagans in 200 miles willing to maybe come out to events at all, there's not much of a pool of volunteers to pull from. Or, if you live in a city like Chicago, many of the "do-ers" already have their own groups and they don't want to be someone's volunteer or minion, they want to run their own show.

There are dozens of reasons why it's tough to get willing volunteers. There are folks who really aren't very motivated to help out, they just want to attend. A lot of leaders will pressure folks like that to take volunteer roles, and that rarely ends well. The volunteer either drops the ball, or burns out and leaves. Sometimes they can become a "do-er," but it's a roll of the dice.

I'm not writing all that to dissuade you from trying to engage people in your group to help you make your events more sustainable. Far from it. Just that you need to be aware that if you're trying to organize an event, and you're adding more to the team's to-do list, that you'll have to negotiate how that extra work is being done.

However, as I mentioned above, sometimes when you organize things differently, you'll find it saves you more work, or money, depending on how things go. 

If you're running a festival where you need to send a team of people to spend several hours in the hot sun picking up people's trash after the event, certainly it's worth the effort to offer better trash and recycling options, more education for each participant about expectations of trash removal, as well as clear consequences for leaving trash behind. 

Organizing and Strategy

Events require strategy. I'll be working up a series of posts on Pagan event planning, but in a nutshell, one of the challenges with Pagan event planning is that the events are often planned by people who have never run an event before. Or, they've only run that one event, in that same way, for years. 

It really does pay to approach event planning strategically, particularly if you want to make your event more environmentally friendly. 

Poor strategy and planning is the death of many Pagan events.  I've been a guest at a few festivals that failed to plan for a lot of things. One festival didn't think it was important to rent more than one port-o-potty, or let people know that there weren't any showers available at the 4-day high summer festival. Other events I've been at failed to provide accurate directions to get to the venue; folks who had been there before had no problems, but the newbies got lost. 

I've seen some events that tried to recycle but failed to label the trash and recycling bins. And other events that try to recycle but don't communicate to the attendees the importance of separating out the trash.

Again--recycling at a Pagan fest isn't going to save the planet (or destroy it) but it's one microcosm we can look at when planning Pagan events and thinking about how to organize our events. 

Festival Attendees

Going further, as festival attendees we can look for ways we can help leave a lighter footprint. Instead of "Glamping" and bringing a huge camping setup, and buying lots of stuff you might only use once in a year, how much stuff do you actually need to camp comfortably? Can you combine resources with another camper? And can you make sure that everything you bring with you, you take home, even if it's broken?

For those of you who drink, often Pagan events have people brewing their own wine or beer. Can you connect with those folks to give them your used bottles so those get reused? 

Can you reduce how much bottled water you're buying by using a refillable water bottle?

Think about every piece of camping equipment you buy, and consider what you're going to do with it when it falls apart. How can you ensure that the equipment gets reused or recycled appropriately?

For that matter, consider what you're eating at the festival and what impact that has. Meat (and big agriculture) is one of the biggest contributors to environmental destruction. Make sure that you're only bringing enough meat that you'll actually eat it, and that you know how to store it properly so it doesn't spoil. (I speak as a camper who has made this mistake in the past!)

And if you aren't an event organizer, but you'd like to see recycling at an event, or see people washing their dishes instead of throwing away bins full of plastic plates, you might ask how you can help as a volunteer.

Remember--we can complain about this stuff from the sidelines, but if you want it to change the best thing you can do is volunteer to help. 

Being the Change

There are a lot of things to consider with environmentalism and leaving a lighter footprint. While I can offer a lot of tactical advice, a lot of it boils down to one simple thing: Use less, and ensure that what you use can be reused or recycled. Try to use things that have less impact on the environment.

I again suggest signing "A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment" as an act of magic. It's an act of setting an intention. Instead of just pixels on a screen...think of it as joining with other Pagans to say, "Yes, I will commit to being part of the change." Which is setting a magical intention. 

So many Pagans use the phrase "be the change," but to do that, we have to actually stand up for the change, we have to do work to make that change happen. We set an intention, and then we follow it up with physical actions to reduce our use of this planet's resources and our contribution to pollution, deforestation, and more. Magic isn't just wishes and lighting candles. Magic is being the change and doing the work.

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An artist, author, ritualist, presenter, and spiritual seeker, Shauna travels nationally offering intensive education in the transformative arts of ritual, community leadership, and personal growth. She is the author of The Leader Within, Ritual Facilitation, and Dreamwork for the Initiate’s Path. She’s a columnist on ritual techniques for Circle Magazine, and her writing also appears in several anthologies. She’s also the author of several fantasy and paranormal romance novels. Her mythic artwork and designs are used for magazine covers, book covers, and illustrations, as well as decorating many walls, shrines, and other spaces. Shauna is passionate about creating rituals, experiences, spaces, stories, and artwork to awaken mythic imagination.  


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