By Karen McDaniels, Co-Chair, ESRAG Central North America Regional Chapter

Lone Star PETS in Texas is Rotary’s largest President-Elect Training conference in the US. It is always held the last weekend in February and invitations go out to 10 Districts. 

This year, there were also attendees from three other districts, not previously invited.

Every new club president and their board are looking for ideas for “signature” projects for their year, as well as projects that club members would enjoy doing, with the potential to become annual service projects.

We secured an ideal booth location for ESRAG in the House of Friendship (see more, below). In our conversations with visitors, we learned that some clubs had done small projects, like planting trees or adding pollinator gardens to a park. There was a huge amount of interest in recycling when we presented the “Corks for a Cause” project. A few club presidents said they had no interest in doing anything environmental, but when we told them about the lithium-ion battery project with Redwood Materials, they were quite on board. We think people need to be presented with ideas that fit their club profile to get them engaged.

In Texas, the average Rotary district has about 75 clubs. PETS captures the club President-Elects, President Elect Nominees, District Governor Elects and Area Governors. I was able to learn that over 1,100 attended the training. Some brought their spouses/partners with them.

Here’s more about how we built on the official program and used informal conversations to present the opportunities under Rotary’s newest area of focus to leaders at PETS.

This is the first time ESRAG has been represented at Lone Star PETS. We exhibited in the Hall of Friendship. We were able to get a “double booth” for the price of a single booth ($60) and we got the best show location – the first big booth as you enter the Hall of Friendship. All social events were held in the Hall of Friendship, so all attendees gathered there at the morning and afternoon breaks for coffee, tea and snacks.  At 6:00 pm multiple bars were rolled in for evening socialization. At least one ESRAG member was at the booth whenever the House of Friendship was open. The ESRAG team was Mike Weaver of Pilot Knob Rotary Club, Sallie Moore of Arlington Sunrise Rotary, and me, from Denton Rotary Club.

How We Engaged People:

  • For everyone who stopped by, we asked about where their club was located, how many members they had and if they had done environmental projects of any kind in the past.
  • Then we asked about the kinds of projects their clubs liked to do that were impactful in their communities.
  • From this information we gave the following message “The purpose of ESRAG is to help Rotary clubs decide on and start environmental projects, then provide support throughout to make their club successful.” This seemed to work.
  • We offered to stay in touch through our newsletter, and 36 people completed subscriber forms. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, remember that these folks are Rotary leaders who are able to drive projects in their clubs and districts, so the potential for impact is quite high.
  • Some ESRAG members stopped by the booth and it was great to see that they were either Presidents-Elect or District Governors-Elect. Club leadership makes it easier to spread ESRAG’s message. We also invited people to submit their projects to our new Heartland newsletter. We have already received one submitted by the Interactors on the Gulf Coast! We also have two requests for an ESRAG speaker at Rotary clubs.

In conclusion, I think that as ESRAG members, we need to meet people where they are on their environmental journey, and avoid making them feel criticized. ESRAG members may need to take a few steps back to give a hand up to those who are not as far along as we are. While we have done a lot of work, there is a time and place to help clubs take their first steps to address the environment. Otherwise, what good is the Four-Way Test?

Karen McDaniels coordinated ESRAG’s exhibits at the 2022 Rotary International Convention in Houston and serves as Co-Chair of ESRAG’s Central North America Regional Chapter.