03 Jul How to Talk to Your Friends About Sustainability
Guest blog written by Madison Adams.
The world is changing nonstop, including the environment. Unfortunately, the state of the planet isn’t going in a positive direction. CO2 levels are the highest they’ve ever been, massive heat waves (and cold fronts) are popping up all over the world, and the Earth’s heat-repelling ice is melting. It’s becoming more important than ever that every inhabitant of the Earth make a noticeable effort to reduce their footprint.
Scientists used to fear that the Earth would reach maximum capacity in the near future, but that is looking less likely now that the Earth is struggling to sustain its current inhabitants. Our efforts, no matter how small, to reduce our personal impact are what are going to make the biggest difference in the long run.
Making sure that you are telling your friends about the little ways they can help the planet can be just as important as your personal actions to change water use habits, for example. One person’s efforts are not going to save the planet, but word-of-mouth is a great way to start and an important step towards changing the way we treat our planet. The tips below are a good way to start the conversation.
Talk about it
Your friends want to hear advice from people who have earned their trust and respect, like you, more than a random website or government initiative. No matter the subject, people listen to others who are like them, whether unsolicited information or not. When it comes to having a conversation about changing habits and lifestyle, thoughtfulness and kindness are key for making the conversation productive.
First, try to imagine what it’s like to be the person you are approaching and remember your feelings when you learned some of your most cemented, common habits were bad for the planet. Depending on the person, they might shut down immediately if you tell them that the way they brush their teeth uses too much water, so thoughtfulness is key. Most importantly though, make sure you’re actually having a conversation with them, not just giving instructions and critiques.
Highlighting your own experiences changing your habits is a great way to make the other person feel less intimidated and thus, more open. Also mentioning things that you and your friend(s) can do together to change behavior is a smart way to engage them in actionable behavior changes.
It’s much easier to make changes when you’re not the only one keeping yourself accountable. For example, teaming up with a few of your coworkers and carpooling has perks like group accountability. If you all agree to travel together, the whole group profits from reduced gas prices, time saving (since your travel time has now become workable if you’re not the one driving), in addition to reducing CO2 output.
According to the United States EPA, from 1990 to 2015, there was an unprecedented 37% increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The planet cannot sustain this rate of increase, and reducing the number of cars on the road is an effective place to start.
Let’s do this together
If carpooling isn’t an option for you and friends, find activities that are both fun and teachable sustainability moments. Suggesting something like going to the local farmers’ market on the weekend to buy produce is both fun and is a good lesson in behavior change.
Most people don’t think about how their food requires transportation, so reducing that distance as much as possible helps eliminate the environmental impact. If you go, make sure to bring reusable bags instead of plastic!
Many environmentally-savvy people are shifting to using hemp products, like paper and fabric, because it has a faster growth time, thus it is more sustainable. Hemp bags and clothing are rising in popularity, both for their style and durability and are a great way for you and your friends to be unique while also avoiding wasteful consumerism.
Finding ways to reduce plastic use can also be a challenge that you creatively tackle with your friends. More minds are going to make more ideas! For example, replacing plastic cups with glass jars that are reused from other products (like salsa jars) can be a fun way to see who can be the most creative (and save the most money).
Day by day
Finally, reminding your friends that all of their lifestyle changes don’t have to be immediate is important. It can take months to phase out old habits and products and replace them with new ones, but steady improvements eventually turn into big changes.
One key thing to remember, though, is that being an example to your friends of sustainability is the best way to expose them to eco-friendly habits. A good role model never hurts; and who knows, maybe your friends will end up selling their belongings and moving into a tiny house… all because you had the care to talk to them about sustainability.