Trent Romer is a sustainability expert, author, and TEDx speaker who has spent 30 years in the plastic bag manufacturing industry before serving as a sustainability operating partner for a private equity firm.
His latest book, This Is Our Home is a cautionary yet inspiring tale to take personal action in the fight against the planet’s destruction.
Romer has multiple business and sustainability certificates and degrees from prestigious universities including Yale, Harvard, and University at Albany.
Interview with Trent Romer
Who is this book for?
This book is for people who want to help the sustainability movement but feel overwhelmed by the challenge.
Why did you write this book?
People asked me about the cover of my first book Finding Sustainability. The cover shows a lone kayaker on a lake embarking on a journey. My intention was the reader would see themselves as the one on the cover with their own journey to discover. When enough people asked if the person on the cover was me, I felt compelled to write another book focused on the reader. The book also offered the opportunity to write about my hometown.
What is the goal of the book?
The book poses two questions, and the book seeks to answer them. How to convince people to begin their own sustainability journey and once they decide to begin, what to do next. The book tries to make the journey personal and provide the reader with ideas, inspiration, motivation, and muscle (through story-telling) to take on the challenge.
The cover ties into the theme of the book. Can you explain?
The book helps the reader think in different ways. The book cover is a reflection. When we see nature as a reflection of us, things change. The leaves represent that individual action is needed. The leaves represent each of us.
The book uncovers “bandits” throughout the story. Can you tell us about these bandits?
In finding reasons to begin the journey, reasons to not get into the boat emerge. Reasons like “not in my backyard”, cost, convenience, the path of least resistance, and selfishness. The book calls them “bandits” as they steal a sustainability mindset. Being aware of these bandits is a big step to beginning your own sustainability journey.
You traveled to a lot of places in the book. Can you tell us about one that was inspirational in your writing?
Hiking in Yosemite National Park. The granite rock towers 2500 plus feet above the Yosemite Valley floor that teems with wildlife. The bright blue, cloudless sky is in sharp contrast to the gray granite and green pines. A trip up the road to Mariposa Grove finds giant sequoia trees that are 200 feet tall and 2000 years old. The need to preserve is overwhelming.
You also describe four superfund sites (places of extreme environmental degradation) you visited. Do any stories come to mind from one of those visits?
Picher Oklahoma was a place I visited. The town is abandoned. Waste from mining efforts in the 1900s led to unhealthy exposure to lead and zinc forcing relocations. The buildings that remain are overrun by vegetation. A statue of a Gorilla that says 1A Football State Champions 1984 still stands to this day on the side of the main road in Picher. Standing next to the statue was a powerful reminder of what was and what is — there are no more football games.
You mentioned the book tries to answer two questions. How to get people into their boat to start their journey and where to go once started. Does the book come to any conclusions?
The story of the book spends most of its time on the first question. Getting into the boat is a struggle especially as reasons not to get in are revealed. The struggle gets to the point of giving up before something is introduced to get past the struggles and offer some answers. I won’t spoil that event that turns the tide. Once in the boat, the book talks about ALMS as a direction to go. ALMS stands for Awareness, Like, Move, and Signal. Be aware of issues, combine what you like with actions, move on with your actions, and signal to others. Give ALMS to the environment.
If this book was written by someone else, how would you review this book?
I like books that tell a story — the story sweeps me up at the beginning, informs me in a creative way of something interesting, and drops me off in a different place at the end. Books that maintain authenticity throughout the story while making me think stick out in my mind. I hope I was able to accomplish at least part of this in the book.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating this book?
There are over 1300 Superfund sites in America today and 22% of Americans live within 3 miles of a Superfund site. Superfund sites are places of extreme environmental degradation whereby they are placed in a special federal program for funding and cleanup. Visiting and writing about 4 Superfund sites in the book provided a really good sense of what we don’t want — we don’t want future Superfund sites. The book also poses the question —– are we doing anything today that may be causing superfund sites in the future? In short, yes.
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer?
Wow. I am not sure I feel qualified to offer advice but maybe it will help someone. I am a big fan of thinking of writing as an exercise of selection. A tremendous amount of information is gathered combined with countless stories and ideas in your head.
The best writers are able to throw out the information that distracts the reader, edit out ideas that cloud the larger narrative, and reduce word “clutter”. The writer is the one who selects — it is up to you. I think of writing as being like a sculptor —– start with a chunk of rock and keep chipping away at what is not needed. What is left is what you wanted all along.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I played basketball throughout my 4 years in college — basketball has always been a big part of my life. I love 1980’s music —- I can’t seem to get my listening tastes away from my teenage years. My family means to world to me. My wife of 20 years and I have three sons (and a beloved dog) who are the center of our lives. We love to travel to the ocean and national parks for vacations.
Where can people buy the book and find out more information?
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major retailers. For more information, reviews, and photos from places in the book visit www.trentromer.com.