What does it mean to live sustainably? For Madhavi Venkatesan, the answer is simple. She defines it as “living my life everyday as though I recognize my own mortality.”
As the executive director of Sustainability Practices, Venkatesan has had a huge hand in delivering the non-profit’s message about conscious consumption. Primarily, the group is raising awareness by screening films tied into the theme of sustainability at local Cape Cod theaters. The series began in September with “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” and has since included similar productions such as “A Plastic Ocean” or “Divide in Concord.” The series will continue with the screening of “Tapped” on March 31, at 10 a.m. at the Chatham Orpheum Theater. Upon conclusion of the film, there will be a panel of representatives from Sustainability Practices to answer questions from the audience.
“Tapped” will have a similar message to previous films that focuses on why the plastic water bottle industry, in particular, is one of the largest contributors to plastic pollution. Venkatesan said that she hopes the film will dispel the false notion that bottled water is better than the municipal drinking water, which actually has more protections guaranteed by the Safe Drinking Water Act. Through “extremely powerful images,” Medhavi said, the film will be another effort to get more people talking about a Cape-wide plastic bottle ban.
Before starting Sustainability Practices, Venkatesan spent the majority of her career working in equity analysis and investor relations for multiple Fortune 250 companies. After leaving her position in finance, she decided to focus her career on sustainability. Although she already possessed a PhD, MA, and BA in economics, she made the decision to go back to school to get her master’s degree in sustainability and environmental management from Harvard University, as well as a master’s in environmental law and policy from the Vermont University School of Law. This led her to establishing her own non-profit devoted to promoting conscious consumption.
Venkatesan said that part of her reasoning for such a major change in her career path was that “most people complain about what they see outside, but they don’t understand how they are responsible for it.” Using her background in finance, she said that she hopes to help people “connect the dots” between their actions and the costs of those actions. Another way Venkatesan and her coworkers want to get the public involved before the Barnstable County midterm ballot is holding a Cape-wide film competition about sustainability for high school age students in June. The goal is to get “young people to sell (sustainability) to other young people,” said Madhavi.
With efforts like this to connect more with the local community, Sustainability Practices, lead by Venkatesan, looks to make all of Cape Cod more aware of their “wholistic impact.” “Tapped” is another step in the process of moving the Cape toward that philosophy.
Venkatesan recognizes that it is common for movements like this to receive significant push back, but still defends the cause saying “The only things that we regret, are the things that we should have done.”
She hopes her non-profit will continue to increase sustainability awareness, but does not fear her opponents on the issue. “Regret costs a lot more than the embarrassment that comes out of doing something and not getting the reaction you want” she said. With “images that you can’t shake” said Venkatesan, she is determined to instill this same feeling of accountability in the audience on March 31.
At the Chatham Orpheum
Saturday, March 31, 10 a.m.
Information and tickets: 508-945-0874