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A Sustainability Novice Becomes a Leading Advocate of Green Efforts

Sustainability Spotlight October 2012

When Gary Urbatis became a Viridian Associate in November 2010, he was completely unfamiliar with the term “sustainability.” Fast­forward 17 months and not only has the Pennsylvania Executive Associate come to completely understand the nuances of it, he has also become a leading proponent of Viridian’s sustainability efforts.

“I am an outdoors kind of person and seeing garbage everywhere detracts from the beauty of what is around us, so getting out there and either planting trees, pulling weeds or picking up garbage makes a tremendous difference and makes everything look nicer,” Urbatis said. “I didn’t know what sustainability was until I attended Viridian’s Momentum event, but since then I have come to learn that it means improving our environment for future generations.”

Over the past few months, Urbatis has taken an active role in getting other Associates involved in several sustainability initiatives. He spearheaded an Earth Month event in April to clean up a park and river in his hometown, traveled four hours to help at his sponsor’s Earth Month event and, more recently, hosted an event on Sept. 15 in Pennsylvania in which Viridian teamed with Allegheny CleanWays and Friends of the Riverfront at their annual coastal cleanup. During that cleanup, volunteers cleaned up the Allegheny Riverfront and Girty’s Run in Millvale as part of the Tireless Project, a collaboration of several organizations with a common interest in Pittsburgh waterways.
For Urbatis, the best part about these projects is realizing how a few hours of volunteering can really make a difference.

At the river cleanup, “I was cutting invasive plants along the building and one of the high school girls from the Rowing Club stopped and said, ‘Thanks for cleaning this up. Our building looks much better now.’ Whenever someone acknowledges and appreciates the little things that you do definitely warms your heart. It makes you feel great that someone has noticed your small contribution.”

Urbatis encourages all Associates to take advantage of their local sustainability events as often as possible, as sustainability is core to Viridian’s mission. Those that attend these events have the chance to spread the Viridian message to others while beautifying the environment.

To plan a successful event, Urbatis suggests getting the word out to your fellow Associates, family and friends, being determined to show up and do the work, and having a clear vision for what you want to achieve.

“You have the opportunity to stand in front of everyone at these events and inform them what Viridian is about, find out what they are doing in their lives and ask if they are interested in a golden opportunity,” Urbatis said. “After attending sustainability events, you have an added appreciation as to what these events can do and how they help to improve the community. Individual contribution, collective impact!”

“Don’t be afraid to get involved,” he added of planning and attending sustainability events. “The first step might be the hardest but after that the rewards will be very intrinsic.”