Environmental Affairs –
Flo Sandok’s mission to protect the earth
As a young girl concerned about the world, Flo Sandok used to pick up litter she found scattered around the New York City neighborhood where she grew up. But it would be years before she considered herself an environmentalist.
Today, having spent more than 40 years in Rochester, Sandok has sealed her place in the community as a leader in environmental concerns. “Our own well-being is deeply tied to the well-being of others, everything we share with the earth,” she says.
GLOBAL ACTION ROCHESTER
Sandok is one of about a dozen volunteer members of Global Action Rochester, a loosely organized grassroots community group that seeks to educate people about environmental issues and to advocate for change on the local and state levels. Global Action’s current focus is primarily on energy and climate change, although in the past the group has taken up such topics as pesticide use, organic foods and natural cleaners. Some of the issues the group is pushing for are better insulated homes, energy-efficient cars and appliances, solar energy and energy rebates, Sandok says.
She has made a name for herself through her work with Global Action and has spoken before the Rochester City Council and at various area board meetings. She has ventured to St. Paul many times to discuss environmental concerns with state legislators and has journeyed around the country to attend training conferences. Sandok has written letters to the editors of newspapers and she has rallied her fellow citizens. She has even taken part in protests, once venturing to Washington, D.C., for a protest about the Keystone Pipeline System.
As for her role in Global Action, Sandok considers herself a motivator. “Each one of us in the group adds something from our own abilities and I think I’m a good motivator,” says Sandok, who also used to teach art and art history at Rochester Community Technical College and art classes at the Rochester Art Center.
The work with Global Action hasn’t always been easy, nor has it always been well-received. But enjoying the work and taking the causes to heart has helped her stand behind her own beliefs and those of Global Action, even in the hard times. “In whatever you do, you have to enjoy it, even something as serious as this,” she says. “How long could you go on with something if you weren’t enjoying it? You want to do it in a way that reflects your caring and your passion about the role that you have in this world for helping it become a better place.”
COUNTING HER SUCCESSES
Sandok counts among her biggest successes as part of Global Action the Minnesota Parents’ Right-to-Know Act, which deals with pesticide applications at schools and the notification of parents of its use. She also helped organize a local presentation with New York pediatrician Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., one of the world’s leading advocates of children’s health and an authority on pesticide use.
Even little things make a difference, says Sandok, like a weeding project several years ago that encouraged homeowners to use a special tool to dig up weeds instead of using pesticide. Organizers even convinced a local school to give it a try.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
In fact, it’s small successes, like the weed project that can have a much bigger impact than some people may realize, Sandok says. “One of things Global Action hopes to do is show people that they really can make a difference-writing letters to legislators, making that one phone call. It does makes a tremendous difference,” she says. “People are shy and hesitant and think they don’t make an impact — let me tell you that they do. People can be so powerful, and they should know that.”