113: Ann-Marie Heidingsfelder: A conservative voice (transcript)

January 5, 2019 by Dani Mihaleva
in Podcast

I love how I met Ann-Marie and we have become great long-distance friends. You’ll hear the story in the beginning of the podcast. I specifically sought her out as someone with different political views. Actually, one very good friend of mine as an aside is what anyone would call a climate sceptic. Yet he knows climate issues better than nearly anyone that I know and I’ve learned a lot from him. I do not want a bubble on this podcast of people who just simply agree with me or that everybody agrees together. So I hope that this conversation with Ann-Marie is the start of a pattern. She describes herself as a green Republican. She says there aren’t many of her. So if you also think that there aren’t many of them, I hope that this episode broadens your horizons as it did mine I’ll be frank. I would not balance issues as she does. But frankly I also don’t see the behavior of a lot of people on the left so consistent with their environmental values. I don’t see almost any Americans polluting less going out of their way to do so. So I disagree with a lot of people on the left with their stated environmental values and their actual actions. I have a lot of disagreement there because I don’t see a lot of consistency between what they say their environmental values are and how they actually act. I don’t think that people like her are rare but I do think that they are less heard and less welcome among people acting on the environment. So I hope that this episode broadens your horizons.


Joshua: Welcome to the Leadership and the Environment podcast. This is Joshua Spodek. I’m here with Ann-Marie Heidingsfelder. Did I say it right?

Ann-Marie: You did.

Joshua: And I want to start off with how we met. It’s a bit of a story here and then going to get to you and maybe you can say a little bit about yourself. So I live in Lower Manhattan and it’s virtually all Hillary Clinton supporters around here. And there’s an election recently a couple of years ago in which Hillary Clinton lost. And everybody here was totally surprised by it. And as was all the media. There is no sign of Trump’s support anywhere around here. And I don’t like being caught by surprise. And I thought this is really interesting and also the country is going into a direction that I don’t expect. And so I posted a story on Inc. where I have a column and I got in trouble for this. I don’t know if I told you I got in trouble. My editor was like, “Josh, this isn’t how Inc. works.” But the story was already out and it said, “If You Voted for Trump, I’d Like to Meet You” and a few people responded. You, Ann-Marie, is one of them and you are one of them. And then there was a follow-up article which I think was Leaders Listen Crossing the Digital Divide. And I spoke to you and others about what… I wasn’t trying to influence or persuade, I just wanted to hear like what was it like from another perspective. And I loved the conversation.

Ann-Marie: As I did as well.

Joshua: And now separately you are a coach, you coach for sales, you coach for management, leadership, you work with Ken Blanchard who’s been a guest of the show. And maybe you could describe yourself better than I can. Maybe you could describe your background a bit and then what it was like reading my article and that conversation that began I guess in late 2016.

Ann-Marie: Yeah, absolutely. You know I’m an ex [unintelligible] in Fortune 500 executive and I transitioned into a stay-at-home role when I had my daughter and decided to start a consulting and a coaching practice, ended up going back to school. I’ve got an MBA. I mean all those years of corporate experience and decided to put that to good use in my own business you know as a coach and through the years ended up doing considerable amount of leadership, development and sales coaching as you mentioned and all the while raising my daughter. And also, though simultaneously I kind of lead this ultra-life and I’m extremely politically active. I am what you would consider a political junkie. In fact, I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about the whole Brett Kavanaugh’s that you mentioned. So I was up a couple of times during the night thinking about that.

So as a result, though and I am a voracious learner, I am a voracious reader. So I’m out there and I’m not only in leadership development and in my personal life or personal development but politically as well and that’s how I came across your article. I’m sure there was probably a link you know either from Twitter or some social media that you know that I agreed in terms of you know getting information on what you had written. And so not only do I like to read about it but I like to respond on social media as well. You know I do a considerable amount of that too. So I think that’s how you and I ended up meeting was I had commented on that interesting article that you had written. And so I found our subsequent conversation so refreshing because you get this perception that people you know across the aisle aren’t really interested in you as a conservative and what you think and how you feel and how they tend to typically label you. And it was such an eye opener, Joshua, to talk to you and find out person-to-person that a lot of what we see and what we hear out there isn’t really applicable on a more personal level when you can get that one-on-one connection.

Joshua: I think there was a bit of a benefit that I got because since it was post-election there was no point in influencing one way or the other and I really did just want to hear and listen and I felt like there was something I wasn’t getting, something a lot of people weren’t getting. And actually, I’m really annoyed because people still that I talk to who are…They are still surprised with how things worked out and they still don’t try to understand the other people and I get a lot of people they don’t try to understand. They would still say things like, “Those people voted against their economic interests.” or “They voted for…They ascribe to them motivation that is not that person’s motivation. And they’ll say, “Why would someone do this? Why would someone do that?” And they ask it rhetorically as if the only possible answer is because they’re crazier, because they didn’t make any sense, because they’re full of haters like that. But if they actually would go to answer that question “Why would they?” [unintelligible] something inside them is “There some motivation.” Now I couldn’t answer that for myself so I was very curious to find that out and the only way I could find out was to ask people but it’s really still annoying to me as someone who works in leadership, if you want to lead someone and you don’t know what motivates them…

Ann-Marie: Well, and the other thing too is about leadership is that in leadership we have to make a distinction between fact and opinion. And I think sometimes people are so married to their opinions and the emotional component of what they believe that they dismiss facts. And so it’s kind of curious and I’ve mentioned this before that people who are very effective leaders in business are able to do that but yet in other aspects of their life don’t bring that same methodology or make those same distinctions. Because I think to myself this kind of… I think to myself, “Gosh, for all these people who are quote unquote in leader positions [unintelligible] and doing the things that they are supposed to do but aren’t doing it outside of work” escapes me, quite frankly.

Joshua: Yeah. In negotiations and business people expect the seller wants to sell it at a high price, the buyer wants to buy it at a low price. They have a fundamental disagreement about what the value should be but they might argue with each other but they don’t… Usually they don’t start insulting the other person and they don’t get all their friends together to gang up on the other one.

Ann-Marie: Right. And one of the things about it being a salesperson is that you co-create with their client a vision and so you both come from an orientation where you both are working towards that common vision. And I think what we’ve lost here is keeping our eye on the vision and what it is that we want for our country and for the people who live here and really everybody is really coming from a position of self-interest.

Joshua: So now you’re getting to… I want to say why we got in touch now which is that I just recently interviewed Jonathan Haidt for my podcast and he’s got a current book The Coddling of the American Mind. And before that was The Righteous Mind and the book The Righteous Mind talks about how the value of… It’s not just getting other people’s views but he talks about conservatives versus liberals and how they have different sets of values what he would call moral foundations and if you don’t understand the other person’s moral foundations, you don’t really know where they are coming from. And so it has been a couple of years since we last spoke and I thought yeah, this reminds me of what I contacted you and like people who disagree with me. Why I contacted them in the first place and I wasn’t really sure… I guess when I spoke to it wasn’t after the election, we didn’t speak about the environment. But this time I didn’t have the podcast then and so now I have the podcast Leadership and the Environment. When you think of the environment what do you think of? What does the environment mean to you?

Ann-Marie: You know I’ve always been very pro-environment you know ever since I was a kid. You know my mother brought me up to be very pro-environment. I think she recycled in the early 1970s before recycling was even a thing. She’d never throw away anything usable. She used it over and multipurposed it in order to really not throw it in the trash. She was a voracious reader and would show me articles about you know different testing that the army would be doing and you know just really gave me a perspective about how you really needed to educate yourself about what was going on out there and that the world was a beautiful place and that we’re stewards of the environment. We have a responsibility. And I really took that through a Jesuit education that I had at Boston College where again it’s all about social responsibility. And as I got older and more conservative in my views that perspective though never shifted that we have a responsibility for the world around us that this is where we get our life energy, this is where we get our inspiration, this is really a gift from God to us and that we have a responsibility to take care of it.

Joshua: And does that differ? And you said as your views got more conservative that didn’t change. So does that mean that there’s a conflict… I mean do you need to reconcile that with your political views?

Ann-Marie: And I think I’ve mentioned this before as well but I’ve kind of coined what I consider to be a new term and that is a green republic and I googled it and there is no such thing as a green Republican. But I liked it. I have basically integrated my perspective on the environment with the policies that I support and the affinity that I have with more conservative political leanings.

Joshua: So I think most of the people listening to this podcast, I hope that I have a broad range of listeners but I suspect that because the word environment is in there that it probably tends to be more liberal listeners. Do you mind describing your political views?

Ann-Marie: No, not at all. I mean I’m socially conservative. I’m very pro-business. I’m very pro-economy. I’m very pro-national security. I’m very pro-quality of life for the people who are living here which means that sometimes we have to make some hard decisions about how we address certain issues. But at the same time, you know I am still very pro-environment. And so it’s interesting because I don’t think people are aware that there are, I don’t want to say there’s a lot of Republicans, but there are Republicans out there who really do believe for example in [unintelligible] climate change and have you know research and environmental groups as part of their staff where they’re doing investigatory work or they’re doing you know legislative you know work in that vein. And so we look at conservatives there is a range of opinions within the continuum as there is in any group but sadly I think there’s you know people like to generalize and so they look at conservatives and they sort of lump us all in the same category as you know people who are just intent on I don’t know making money or growing business to the detriment of all the other facets of life, sadly.

Joshua: It’s hard for me not to ask are there people like that that are in your community?

Ann-Marie: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. And you know it’s interesting because when you connect one-on-one with people you realize you know as I said that those generalizations don’t apply. So it’s kind of interesting because I live here in California. I’m in Sonoma County. I’m probably in one of the most liberal you know places you could possibly live outside of where you’re living. But yet the people that are in my circles are all conservative. And these are people who are all very interested in environmentalism you know and doing things for the environment you know there are girl scout leaders that you know spearhead recycling projects. I mean there’s a whole variety of things that go on at a very low grassroots level and these are people who are conservatives.

Joshua: So how do you guys look at the people who vote the same as you do but when they bounce business and environment… Well. To a large extent those things overlap in business interests and environmental interests coincide but to some extent they disagree certainly and it seems to be in coal for example. Do you interact with people who vote similarly to you but view environment differently?

Ann-Marie: Not really. I don’t think anybody wants to see drilling off the coast of California out here. You know we really value our coastline. But the thing is at the same time we want to see the United States be energy independent. So it’s all about the art of compromise and working collaboratively to come up with solutions. And so maybe it doesn’t mean that we do extensive drilling but we do a small amount of drilling in a very you know remote area you know away from the beauty of Santa Barbara or something along those lines. But you know I think everybody acknowledges that there’s some sort of compromises that you need to make. You can’t kind of be 100 percent one way or 100 percent another way. So you can love the environment and want to protect the environment but you need to balance that with the other priorities that we have as a country as well.

Joshua: To me one of the big things that really gets me is that I feel like there’s huge growth to be had in wind and solar and renewables and that whoever takes the lead on technologies and getting the market share can have some big advantages and I feel like we’re really, the United States, from a business perspective we’re doing the best we can. But I feel like we’re not getting support from the federal government in those areas that we could and we’re losing ground in markets it seems to me numbering in the billions of people who could use these things.

Ann-Marie: Yeah and I think a part of it too though is that environmental, from the reading and the research that I’ve done, is that environmental groups have by and large abandoned endorsing Republican candidates and working with Republicans I think they’ve kind of written Republicans off. And if you can’t continue the conversation and again come at it from a win-win perspective, it doesn’t give you an opportunity to influence the decisions that are being made. So honestly, I think that there were so many regulations that were put in place that were so onerous during the Obama administration that we may be in a position right now where we’re maybe overcorrecting but again you know you see what the results are in terms of you know the increase in GDP.

Joshua: So if people did want to influence writing someone off and lowering the communication seems ineffective. I’ve never seen that…It’s really effective unless you’re just totally authoritarian. And what would work more effectively? What would you suggest? Because I think from a lot of people’s perspective around here, they would say, “They just don’t listen.” or “They would block everything.” Or…What would be more effective? What was missing?

Ann-Marie: You know the thing is that you know there are conversations that go on in different levels. The conversations that we have on local levels is certainly different from the conversations that we’re having on a national level. And I don’t pretend to be so insightful that I can come up with these big national solutions that really need to you know be addressed or come into play to get those conversations going. But I do know that you know people should continue to work together and converse on a local level you know for all of these shared goals that we have. So we have shared that take California for example. We have shared goals of wanting affordable housing, wanting to protect the environment. And so if you get people together and you’re talking about that you’ve got these shared goals, you’re able to better come up with solutions. And the thing is we do it locally you know at the very, very local level. But then you know at the state level there’s not a lot of that going on. We have a singular party. So there really aren’t those conversations going on at the state level here.

Joshua: It also seems like at the national level it seems like a lot of things going in unilaterally from the White House. I mean maybe it looked like that the other way when Obama was in…To me one of the big things is that the air, the water, the land, I mean I guess the land to be national, but the air and the water that we breathe and we drink and we swim in that’s a shared resource that we can’t separate us from other nations and so forth and so if we don’t have some sort of agreement with other nations, then we’re all affecting each other and it seems like that’s a very necessary thing but we pulled out of Paris and it doesn’t seem like we want to engage. And so at the national level I feel like you know this Tragedy of the Commons is I don’t know if people know the Tragedy of the Commons but you know if people share a resource and someone benefits from using you know more then everyone has a motivation to use up more, get personal benefit. But then you if you use up the Commons in the process, then everybody loses. I feel like that’s what’s happening and I feel like the United States is disengaging from both internationally and as well as within state to state that happens too because you know I mean we get your… We, in the east, the air comes from you guys over in our direction. So it’s interstate almost by definition.

Ann-Marie: Right. Right. Yeah and that’s a problem. You know I come from Massachusetts where we have these beautiful beaches in Cape Cod and if you look at what the air quality is there, it’s not good because of all the coal smoke that’s blowing from you know the Midwest and you know that Ohio area and everything. So yeah, I mean there are implications that need to be addressed. But I think that you know when you look at like the Paris accord and you see what’s going on, I think it’s part of a general tactic that you know and strategy with the new administration you know to kind of pull back and regroup, kind of regrouping that we’re doing right now. You know we’ve kind of been all things to all people and it really hasn’t benefited us in a lot of different ways. And you know things have happened that have really taken advantage of us as a country in terms of you know resources that we’ve put out there or money or aid or whatever and so I think it’s just really a time for reassessment and regrouping.

Joshua: Because to me it looks like a retreat. I don’t mean a retreat in a military sense but it doesn’t seem like we want to reengage. It looks like we want to say, “Look we’re not a part of this. We’re doing our own thing.”

Ann-Marie: Yes. They don’t know how big a priority it is, Joshua. Sadly, I don’t know how big of a priority it is because there are so many other priorities right now with national security and now that the environment is really smoking and you know to keep it that way.


Joshua: What you actually said was the environment is really smoking.

Ann-Marie: Smoking in a good way. It’s really moving along and you know regulations are you know aren’t strangling small businesses the way they were and so you know I think there are just so many other priorities right now that the effects are more amorphous. And so I think that there’s been a shift towards working on things that really have a direct implication in people’s lives. Whereas you know climate change and the environment the benefits are more longer-term, they are more amorphous. People don’t feel them every day. And so I think that you know the administration is working on things that really directly affect people’s lives every day. And the thing is it’s one of those things where you know you look at Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People you know you have to keep your eye on these things that are important but may not be as urgent. Because at some point we are going to have an urgency about it and we’re going to be behind the [unintelligible]. And I don’t have any answer for that sadly.

Joshua: I mean the reason I’m doing this podcast… It happened after the election. Before the election I was doing things personally increasingly environmentally. I mean I was always environmental. I mean I would always turn off the light when I wasn’t in the room and you know that sort of thing. And then the election happened I thought oh, man, I see environment as I think different than almost everyone… I mean forget political sides. I think most people view acting on environmental actions as a distraction from what they really want to do and it’s something that it’s deprivation and sacrifice. And what I’m hoping to spread is that it’s joy, it’s discovery, it’s growth, it’s being in touch with your community, being in touch with nature and such a positive. And I feel like to not have that view I don’t get why… I mean I do get why but I disagree with the view of like, “Oh, this is like onerous.” or “It’s full of regulation.” when it’s to me it’s we’ve been so out of touch. You know when I was a kid what’s called the Crying Indian ad which was when you know for people who weren’t around in the 70s…

Ann-Marie: I remember that. I do remember that.

Joshua: And it was showing a Native American walking around, one who’s walking, one who’s boating and its litter on the ground. And then he gets by these roads like a highway and people just throwing trash out the windows of the cars and a single tear comes down his face. And the reason I looked that up recently is that I came across a bar chart in a newspaper some article that showed global plastic production and I saw that it was like decades going back to maybe the 50s and before the 70s the line was like one pixel. That’s how big the bar was and then it’s like the next decade much more and much more and more so that everything before. And so I wonder what that ad was. Everything before that was like really small, like the total amount of plastic ever produced in all of human history was roughly what we produce in a week or a month today. And at that time, it was a crying shame. And now we don’t even blink an eye, I mean every week.

Ann-Marie:  And sadly, I think people are opt for convenience over you know what the right thing is to do. And so we have like you know all this excess packaging and then sadly you know we do these symbolic things like a ban on straws in California. Do you know how little straws… I mean it’s a substantial but how little straws can contribute to the global… I think it’s like 0.4 percent or something along those lines. But everybody feels good because, “Oh my goodness, now we’ve banned straws.” when these are the same people that are buying… Instead buying from the bulk section at Whole Foods, they’re you know buying all this excess packaging at Walmart.

Joshua: And to me from a leadership perspective looking at people’s motivations, if I say to you choose one little thing that you can do, it implies that you don’t want to do it. And even for something bigger than straws if you got compliance on this one thing, if you reinforce that they don’t want to do it, you’re going to lose in a systemic sense because people are not going to do it more. What I try to share is that you know when I avoided packaged food, I struggled for a little while because my food was really bland but then I learned how to cook and I learned how to…Now I save money. It’s more delicious. I meet my farmers, I go out to the farm. My family we go to the farm, so it’s more community and I spend less time cooking and eat more food even though I’m getting more definition on my [unintelligible]. That’s what I want to share and that’s why I don’t get pulling out of Paris is viewing it as onerous and regulation is missing that…

Ann-Marie: Well, I do believe it was that as you know in fact, I don’t have the research on the facts in front of me but I do feel that it looked as though we were carrying the ball in some respects with that Paris agreement. And so the thing is that you know yeah, the U.S. needs to take a leadership position and things like that but the fact of the matter is is that it really needs to be you know… Yeah, we can curb our CO2 emissions here but if China and India and some of these developing nations aren’t doing the same and meanwhile you know it’s costing us here at home in terms of you know maybe from a business standpoint or something along those lines, then you know why continue doing it. I think I’m over simplifying the argument but I think that’s kind of the orientation that they’re coming from.

Joshua: That is the orientation that they’re coming from. And I disagree with it. And you know when most people use the term moonshot they talk about how you know we went to the moon and it was a big deal in the middle of the Cold War. And usually people say moonshot to mean the size of something and I’m going to use it in the sense of the positivity. You know we do these things not because they’re easy but because they’re hard, because it brings out one’s character. And I would say to me it seems like if we all got together… I’ll just say it, however it comes out and I hope people know what I mean. If we get together as a nation and say our values and we want to be in an environmental sense, we don’t want Love Canals burning and all this pollution stuff. We also want to take it, from a business sense, we want to take the lead on solar and renewables and things like that. And if others don’t follow us, that just makes them look bad.

Ann-Marie: But it doesn’t make them look bad. That’s the problem. But it doesn’t. There isn’t any pressure to bear on thем. You know if you put these goals and you know at the end of the day what really incentivizes behavior is when people are hit in the pocketbook. And that goes for countries and it goes for individuals. So when you want to alter behavior and especially you know if you want to get more of a grass roots interest and what the U.S. is doing from an environmental standpoint, people aren’t going to do it from an altruistic sense because if you look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs a lot of people are really still just concerned with food and shelter. They’re not there yet in terms of the whole self-actualization and what comes with being more altruistic. And so it has to hit people in the pocketbook that you know what if you’re wasteful, it’s going to cost you more. And sadly, I think that’s how you get people interested in making the changes that need to be made from the ground up.

Joshua: Well, that’s what I mean by the moonshot because no one benefited financially from going to the moon. I mean maybe [unintelligible] and you know some people some of the suppliers to NASA but mostly that was tax [unintelligible] all the scientists and engineers figuring this stuff out. But it was a huge benefit to Neil Armstrong on the Moon which by the way was on my birthday, [unintelligible] July 20. And that’s the thing that I think…

And there are lots of things where we as a nation and all nations I think people are very proud of certain things that are culturally not necessarily profitable that they care about. I mean when smoking was banned in New York City most restaurants do the voices that I heard were saying that if you ban smoking in bars and restaurants, then people are not going to go to bars and restaurants and we’re going to lose money. And that’s the opposite of what happened. What I mean the opposite happened but they didn’t know that at the time. They thought… I think everyone is glad, perhaps not Philip Morris or [unintelligible] or whatever. I think everyone’s glad that I happened. Actually, after that happened New Jersey was considered like Hoboken and Jersey City, I think they were thinking about doing the band before New York would and they didn’t. And then after New York did, they realize, “Oh, we’re losing people to New York because New York has a ban.” I mean on the face of it, it seemed like regulation it seemed like would hurt people pocketbooks but in the end it benefited everyone. And I feel like that’s you know smoking is one of the changes that I’ve seen in my lifetime that tells me that we can turn the corner on environmental stuff that people used to look at smoking as Humphrey Bogart. And now I think they associate it more with cancer. And I feel like that’s something that could happen. That’s my vision for the environment is that people just without thinking about it you consider who’s affected by this. And there would be some regulation but it would come about through popular support, through democratic means.

Ann-Marie: Yes. Well, the thing is that you know when you look at you know social responsibility you know I think companies can play a role where you know companies are getting more socially responsible in so many ways but the same companies that are putting out you know diversity training these are the very companies that have packaging up the ying-yang. So how socially responsible is that?

Joshua: The word is getting out about my famous no-packaging vegetable stews and so this company has brought me in to do you know do a lot of corporate speaking. This time I am doing corporate speaking and making dinner with no packaging. So it’s all local stuff. I mean it’s all stuff that I get from my CSA and from the farmers market and there’s not going to be anything to throw away at the end of it and everyone is going to find out how delicious it is. So they’re organizing this thing and they say, “And we’re going to give everyone a mug for coming.” And I said, “What’s the mug for?” And they say, “So people don’t have to throw stuff away.” I was like, “I’ve never been to someone’s place that they didn’t have more mugs than needed.” To say we’re going to have less stuff by giving people more stuff it’s totally backward. Like what happened to Be the change you want to see in the world. And they’re like use less plastic bags, here’s a canvas bag and giving it away for free makes everyone think, “Oh, there’s more canvas bags. Where this came from?” So they trip that what’s supposed to be reusable as trash.

Ann-Marie: Have you had any idea how many canvas bags I have? [unintelligible] I’ve got so many of them. Yeah, you can’t throw a walk at a fair without getting a canvas bag and a plastic water bottle.

Joshua: And I shop at Goodwill a lot. You know I got my stuff at the shop and there’s like they’re flooded with all the stuff of like how many reusable coffee cups or coffee mug things with the lids… They’re all over the place.

Ann-Marie: But someone has to demand it. You know it has to be the type of thing where you know consumers vote with their dollars where they have to really demand that these you know changes take place and it’s very hard. That doesn’t resonate in communities that have been economically devastated because they no longer have the manufacturing base like places of the Midwest. So you’re really not going to get that level of interest and that level of activism until you get people in a place where they feel economically secure. You know with economic advancement comes better education. And with better education comes greater awareness. One thing leads to another. And so it’s one of those things where economically we’ve got to make the changes that we need to to get a more robust middle class here so that people feel secure enough in their day-to-day lives where again they can make great educational choices, become more aware and become more activist.

Joshua: Well for more cases I would agree. Environmental stuff, I’ve not found that education… Education for people who are already predisposed helps. I think that will get them to act. But I have not seen that education has led to widespread change in people’s behavior and I see a lot of people for whom awareness ends up being instead of a stepping stone on the way to action becomes their ending point. And so they say well I’m wear these things while they do the polluting things. And what I found I mean a few things work I think more effectively like the greatest predictor of people getting solar is if your neighbors have solar. Now that’s not changing education. I mean we tend to follow our communities, we tend to follow the people that we consider leaders. OK. First let me not confuse anyone. I support education. I support science. I support legislation when it follows the democratic process. But I think that’s influenced the most of the people is going to and it’s not changing people who have other interests. And I think what’s preventing change is a lot of leaders, people in leadership position, people who were influential people, who themselves are not changing. And I can certainly pick Al Gore and Leonardo Di Caprio as big examples. They say everyone should do this while they justify not that. And as long as people… So the education is there, the science is there, but their own personal behavior is not there. And I think people tend to follow behavior more than they follow… You know people are going to follow what a leader does as much as what the leader says.

Ann-Marie: Now I do agree with the idea that you almost have to make it cool to do. 

Joshua: That’s what I am trying to do.

Ann-Marie: People do follow the pack. So you do need to make it cool to do. Which makes me think you know where are those public service announcements that you know we used to have. And where are the mechanisms that are getting the message out there? It has to be repeated and it needs to be repeated often.

Joshua: Well, that’s where this podcast comes in. Now you’ve segued again. I think I talked to you before when we were setting up the meeting that I have people who are guests and I ask them to take on a personal challenge to live by their values in something that they might have been doing so that listeners can hear there are other people doing this. You know so if there are people who are Trump supporters who are listening to this or conservatives who lean conservatively and they think, “Well, you know all these other people do stuff but I’m not one of them.” then I want to give you the chance, well, just to do something. I mean you talked about what the environment meant to you and I heard it’s family, I heard it is caring. Can you say again when you think about the environment, what is it for you?

Ann-Marie: Well, you know it’s being a citizen of the world. I mean you have a personal responsibility… I feel you have a personal responsibility to be a citizen, a good citizen of the world and a good steward of the environment that we’ve been blessed with. But getting back to real quick about you know like conservatives and how they address the environment. I don’t know anybody in conservative and in my friends and associates who doesn’t recycle or isn’t acutely aware of the environment and does their part. I don’t know anybody who has a blatant disregard for the environment who’s conservative. But on a community level and Massachusetts is a very liberal state, I lived back there in 2003 to 2005 and my community did not recycle. Here I was, I’m probably the lone Republican in my neighborhood and putting all my recycling in the car so that I can take it to the dump and meanwhile my neighbors‘ trash cans are overflowing with cardboard boxes and everything and these are the Elizabeth Warren fans. So go figure. You know it probably you know comes down to you know how you were raised and what it is that you really value, I guess.

Joshua: Yeah, it really gets me that there’s a lot of people who talk about environmental things and…

Ann-Marie: Well, they want you to do it. You know they make the argument because they think you should be making the changes that you should do it. One of the things that Republicans find so maddening is the hypocrisy of the progressive left where they want all these changes made but they don’t want to be the ones. They want you to make them. So for example you know they want more affordable housing, they do not put it in Malibu. So they want you to you know be more circumspect in terms of you know your practices when it comes to recycling and driving an electric car but “Don’t tell me I can’t take my private plane all over the United States where I need to go.” Mr [unintelligible] from salesforce.com or whoever you are. It’s the hypocrisy that Republicans find so maddening.

Joshua: Yeah. For me I find that I don’t see that as a political issue. I just see that as everyone because I agree with you what you said about conservatives that you don’t know anyone who doesn’t care about the environment.

Ann-Marie: Oh, I don’t. I don’t.

Joshua: I find that as well. So that puts them in the same boat. I was saying “I care about the environment” but also not… I mean they might say “We have to balance this, we have balance that.” But they also fly all over the world at a moment’s notice and they’re all… Like I feel that is an American thing of choosing comfort and convenience over stewardship. And I probably early would have lofted at Republicans or conservatives. But I agree I see it as much as independent of political persuasion. We consume hundreds of times more than others. And that’ll be great if it translates to happiness but we got opioids and we got people taking Adderall. We got like all these issues that suggest that maybe these things aren’t helping us as individuals, as people, as communities, as a nation, that we’re obese, we got diabetes, that seems pretty similar to the packaged food and the food that is doing that seems pretty similar to me. So I mean what I’m trying to do with this podcast is change the tone from deprivation you know changing as deprivation, sacrifice or somehow against what you really like which is somehow fast food. And I want to get people to discover what I’ve discovered and there’s nothing special on me which is that eating packaged food doesn’t make your life better, living fast and loose like just living a jet sort of lifestyle… Having family all over the world means you spend less time with them, not more. And I love family. When I was a kid I was like, “Oh, I am going to get away from my parents.” but now I really like it. I like responsibility. I like accountability. It makes my life better. Sorry if I am getting too…

Ann-Marie: The thing is that you know as a leadership development coach writer and as a sales coach you know I’d suggest that you know people who are interested in making changes take one two or three small things that they can do that they can be very passionate about and not only do them but evangelize about them, you know commit to be an activist about it because that’s where the momentum is going to come from. It’s going to come from the consumer. It’s going to come from the individual user of and person living in the environment. You know I think to try to you know depend on you know a top down strategy it’s not a good one. Plus, you know we’re in a society where we don’t want the federal government telling us what to do. I mean people really need to take that personal accountability and spread it around.


Joshua: So given what environment means to you with stewardship and with all the things you said, is there something that you haven’t done that you’re thinking about doing? It doesn’t have to change or fix all the world’s problems overnight but it can’t be something you’re already doing and it can’t be telling other people what to do. It has to be something that you do.

Ann-Marie: Something personal like a personal goal for myself?

Joshua: Yeah. And the size of it doesn’t matter.

Ann-Marie: But I’m getting more and actually it’s kind of interesting because of the lag time has been since you and I first talked. What was it? 2016? I’m still struggling with reducing my individual packaging. So it’s something that I have become very conscious about and it’s something that I feel like I’m not there yet. And so it’s something that I’m just really trying to make you know a bigger effort and a bigger impact on the amount of packaging I’m bringing into my house. And I really noticed it, Joshua, because I lost my house in the Sonoma County wildfire. So I had to buy a lot of things and replace a lot of things. And holy cow, the packaging never stopped coming in. It was unbelievable. You can’t believe you know boxes that I still have on the side of my house, for example. But I’m trying to make others more aware of the packaging situation as well. I thought that was a very admirable goal that you had. You see that’s how changes are made. In talking to you something completely different from the political spectrum, see the influence that you had on me just in that one small… It’s not a small area but not one area.

Joshua: Yeah. A week or two ago I threw up my garbage for the first time in 16 months but I had no… If you’d asked me a couple of years ago was that a goal, do I think could achieve that, I would think I would have made it a goal. I would not imagine it achievable. But at first, I went from maybe I’d throw out the garbage once a week. Then it was like once every two weeks, then it was once every month, once every three months and now I think the next time it will be significantly longer and my peers… I will send you links to my previous guests, including Bea Johnson is a big one. Her family of four produces a jar full of trash per year.

Ann-Marie: Isn’t that amazing? And the other thing too is reusing things so for example I had a whole house full of items that I needed to get. I’d go to the local consignment shop, I’d go into antiques stores you know about vintage glass. You know I can’t see going and you know buying new things with all the energy that it takes to produce new things when there are perfectly good old things out there quite frankly that need homes.

Joshua: So it sounds like this is a change that you are interested in making.

Ann-Marie: And it’s something that I’ve been promoting. So I know a lot of people that lost their homes in the wildfire and I’m like, “Hey, go to the vintage store. You’ll not only get something you know you’ll get something very unique, really well-made inexpensive.” You know aside from the whole environmental impact of that.

Joshua: And I would add to that, this is on my side, but I’d also say or consider not getting something and doing without…. Most of us have a few things we don’t need.

Ann-Marie: Oh, and it really came to light when I lost my home. Because you’ve got to figure, I had what 30 years’ worth of accumulation. And so now when you look at what I have it’s like, oh my gosh, I mean it’s really amazing. In fact, Bob and I, my husband and I always said, “We have too much stuff, just too much.” Some people give you you know [unintelligible], you know you got kids, you end up accumulating more things, you know it really borders on the ridiculous.

Joshua: And the flip side of it is not having those things to me. I don’t know how you view it but to me when I get rid of something that I don’t need the word freedom is what’s in my mind.

Ann-Marie: I am purger. I’ve always purged. For as much stuff as we had I used it all. I mean I had two sets of china and I would use both sets. But the thing is is that I don’t keep anything I don’t need. I mean if I don’t need it, it goes to Goodwill.

Joshua: And to me it’s also one of the big challenges what makes me feel like I’m swimming upstream in American culture today is you have to refuse so much and you have to refuse multiple times. You are like, “No, I don’t need a bag. No, I appreciate it but I really don’t need a bag. No. Please, I would like no bag. Thank you. I have a bag here.”

Ann-Marie: And I tell my husband, “Do not bring one more water bottle in this house. I don’t care if they are free. Do not take it.” My husband he is always like, “Oh, it’s free.” Well, you know free comes with a cost, my friend.

Joshua: What you’re saying now is reinforcing my view that I really don’t view this as a… It is political in the political world it’s a political issue.

Ann-Marie: From a policy standpoint.

Joshua: Well, can we make it a SMART goal? Something specific and measurable and attach a time to it.

Ann-Marie: For me personally?

Joshua: Yeah.

Ann-Marie: Oh [unintelligible], yeah. Let’s do that. OK.

Joshua: I feel like that resonated with the coach in you.

Ann-Marie: I don’t know how I am going to measure it though because I would like to make a bigger impact on what I’m doing personally versus the packaging. How’s this for a SMART goal? What I will do is that you know I do admit sometimes I will go to a closer grocery store and buy things not in bulk because it’s easier and faster. And let’s do this. I can make a goal to…I have started meal planning better. So what I’ll do is actually plan my trips to the grocery store during the week instead of making them more spontaneous. I could plan my trip on Mondays to Whole Foods and buy what I need in bulk.

Joshua: And is that bringing your own containers?

Ann-Marie: Yeah. Because for as much as I try to buy bulk, I don’t buy everything about because as I said my week is busy, I haven’t meal-planned real well and so I’ve been you know running to Safeway and just picking up quinoa like in a package. I just started meal planning last weekend again. So what I’ll do is make that grocery store run on Mondays and now I can do it at Whole Foods or just get what I need so that we can buy it all in bulk.

Joshua: OK. So the specific goal is that for some period of time you will only… The things that you can get in bulk, you’ll get in bulk and refill.

Ann-Marie: I want to say six weeks. You know why? Because it takes six weeks to form a new habit.

Joshua: OK. So then is it OK with you if we schedule our next conversation in six weeks?

Ann-Marie: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s coinciding with the detox that I happen to be doing so this is great. I am detoxing my grocery shopping as well as my physical self.

Joshua: OK. I hope that this gives you the chance to do the evangelizing, the experience and sharing on your end that you described as being effective.

Ann-Marie: Yes. And I post for business. I post for personal. I have a pretty big circle here. I have also leadership positions at school, my daughter’s school and church. In fact, I should probably put a goal to that too in terms of how many people a day I can talk to and just let them know what I’m doing. Because let’s put it this way. If you saw a great movie when you tell people about it? You know, “Hey, listen I just saw a great movie. Something that you might want to see.” So when you’re doing something that you can say it’s just great and an awesome for the environment you should be excited enough to want to share it.

Joshua: Yeah, exactly.

Ann-Marie: OK. So I’ll make a point of at least… I bet I could talk to two people a day. I mean I could be in the grocery store at the checkout and you know how you chit-chat with the cashier? That’s a person who you could tell, “Hey, guess what? For six weeks I’ve been buying everything in bulk.” And then everyone around is just going to hear.

Joshua: I have my standard thing when they keep trying to give me bags, I say as a joke I’m trying to save world but then I often say, “No bag. I’m not good at polluting. I let other people do that.”

Ann-Marie: But here’s the whole bad conundrum, and I get to go on and I know and you need to probably cut off, but the Institute, the ban on the bags. I actually use the grocery bags because I use them for trash because they’re biodegradable. But what it’s basically done now has shifted people to using plastic garbage bags. OK so that’s great. So meanwhile we’re saving all these bags in the grocery store and now what we’ve done is we’ve incentivized people who maybe aren’t as conscientious to use these plastic garbage bags.

Joshua: Well, I can’t speak to everyone right now but between you, me and the listeners I’ll give you my solution for that.

Ann-Marie: Oh, I’d love to hear it.

Joshua: Because I compost everything compostable. And after that everything is dry not wet so I put the recycling in the recycling and what’s left is the landfill stuff. I just use a canvas bag because…

Ann-Marie: Oh, a canvas bag? OK.

Joshua: And now my building I walk down the hall and dump that down the chute but I don’t use plastic bags. And people say oh but I use this for, like when they get them from the grocery store here they’re still free, and they’re like, “Oh, But I use it, I use it.” I turn away every plastic bag I can. We are swimming in plastic bags. And if I need a plastic bag, I go downstairs in my building there’s the recycling and people put plastic bags there and I use one of their so it is basically already in a landfill. There’s still sadly an infinite supply of plastic bags and I don’t need to get a new one. So I refuse bags. I don’t know the last time that I accepted a bag hat someone offered me and my trash goes in a canvas bag and you know the size of a canvas [unintelligible] bag. That’s the size of a bag that took me 16 months to fill.

Ann-Marie: That’s amazing. That is really amazing.

Joshua: Once you do it, I can’t imagine putting… The way you talk about your husband with the plastic, that’s how I think about putting something composable into the garbage. There’s no need for plastic bags at home of any sort.

Ann-Marie: Right. Yeah. I’ll tell you. I just do not like plastic bags. I go and visit my parents on Cape Cod and go to the grocery store and you know there they are filling the plastic bags and I’m like oh my gosh. I see people just walking out with bags and bags, I just want to cry. But again, these are the people you know you look at the state of Massachusetts, these are some of the most liberal progressive people in the United States and there they are walking out with all their plastic bags.

Joshua: I think that the comfort and convenience transcend political, everything. It’s just so easy. And I think they feel guilty and if they face up to it…

Ann-Marie: But you have to laugh. Here there are put the bags in a car with the Hillary bumper sticker.

Joshua: I think as you talk about them a little bit of Massachusetts accent is coming out.

Ann-Marie: I think so too.

Joshua: I want to wrap up with… There’s plenty of other stuff that we could talk about and I hope we get to in the next conversation.

Ann-Marie: I hope so too.

Joshua: Is there anything I didn’t think to ask that’s worth bringing up?

Ann-Marie: No, I enjoy every conversation with you, Joshua.

Joshua: Me too. It’s really the conversations that I had with you and a couple of others after the election really changed a lot for me and that’s probably why when I read Jonathan Hyde stuff… He was showing that what I did this one time… I hope everyone listening to this you know even more than…Well, on par with whatever environmental changes they make, also, it’s just like listen. I can hardly put myself at the top of list of the people who do this. I can just say compared to before I’m doing more.

Ann-Marie: Yeah and listening is a key leadership skill. So if you want to tie in the whole you know leadership skills set, they always say you know listen more than you talk… Ken Blanchard. He’s got good quotes around that but you should be doing 80 percent listening and 20 percent talking.

Joshua: Ann-Marie, thank you very much. I look forward to talking to you in about six weeks.

Ann-Marie: Thanks again for having me, Joshua. It’s been my pleasure.


I love Ann-Marie’s enthusiasm. I can’t wait to hear her results. The reason I brought her on because I wanted to hear views that I had not heard before. And I did. I hope they are new for you. Again, I have to repeat although I don’t hear liberals reducing their packaging that much. That is when I see people who reduce their packaging, I think it tends to be more liberals. But there are a very small number. If you look at overall liberals, very few of them are changing their behavior. Even though they criticize, say, Trump for pulling out of the Paris agreement, they themselves are way outside the Paris agreement. I’m not going to name the names of people close to me but nearly everyone I know and I know some people are pretty liberal pollute more than nearly anyone who has ever lived. If that’s you, I think there’s a lot of potential for growth that I think you’ll appreciate acting on even if you disagree with Ann-Marie’s politics. Don’t you appreciate hearing the voice of someone that you haven’t heard before? Don’t you like yourself being heard? If you know political activists, people who organize for politicians or for views that are against mine that you haven’t heard on this podcast or if you are one of them yourself, please get in touch with me. I’d love to have them on here because in my view leadership begins with listening, it begins with soliciting views that you haven’t heard before and being able to bring diverse views together. Most of all, I hope that learning about others helps us learn about ourselves.

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