Rapid industrialization has come at a high cost to the natural environment in Vietnam. Frustrated with regulatory inaction, Vietnamese citizens from many social backgrounds have taken direct action to protect their country’s natural environment. Most studies about environmental disputes in Vietnam have focused on large-scale conflicts, leaving smaller-scale rural disputes comparatively under researched. Drawing on in-depth interviews, this article explores how knowledge about environmental activism can transform the claims made in small-scale disputes. It examines why these disputes can sometimes succeed in mitigating environmental harm when complaints through administrative and judicial avenues fail.