Outside institutionalised environmental activities, we find that individual efforts to combat environmental damage are at risk of succumbing to resignation. For her reflections on ‘green fatigue’ the author borrowed economist Alberta O. Hirschman’s psychological concept of the potential for disappointment. Whether and to what extent an individual is able to withstand failure depends on one’s mental fitness, the degree of support received from one’s social group, and historical and other circumstances. This article considers the proposition that the potential for disappointment largely hinges on what a person’s motivation is to engage in environmentally-oriented behaviour. The author works with a typology of motivations derived from categories of normative ethics: teleological and deontological ethics and virtue ethics. The article first describes these motivational types on a general level and then examines them in relation to environmentalism. The findings of this study may have practical as well as theoretical significance: environmental problems cannot be tackled solely through technical and scientific efforts founded on goal-directed, teleological motivations, as these are at risk of succumbing to disappointment and fatigue. Environmental problems must be approached from a broad humanistic perspective, as it is on that level that the ethics of environmental virtue take shape and deontological motivations are reinforced – two approaches that are not grounded in great expectations and are thus relatively resistant to disappointment from negative environmental development and provide a basis for effective goal-directed behaviour.