Ever tried to encourage the people around you to take on a more ethical, conscious and environmentally friendly lifestyle? If this is you, then you may have realised that this can be quite hard work! With lots of competing priorities in life, living an ethical lifestyle is not always high up on the agenda of others.
Since I have been consciously trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, I have met challenges when trying to share these ideas with those around me. But I have also had the pleasure of slowly but surely gathering a community of friends and family who are striving to live a lifestyle that helps to care for our planet.
Here are five ideas that helped me to encourage others to join the ‘eco club’. Maybe you could give them a try?
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
Never underestimate the impact of your actions. Take every opportunity you can to explain the reasons for your ethical choices. This may be something like bringing along your own cutlery when you go to a café to avoid using disposables, carrying extra shopping bags so you don’t have to buy any new plastic ones or bringing your sandwiches in a re-usable sandwich wrap, rather than cling-film or tin foil. People will notice (more than you might think) that you must really care about this whole ‘environment thing’ if you have gone to all that extra effort.
SHARE SOME HOPE
It’s very easy to try and use scare tactics, like climate change statistics or facts about humanity’s impact on the environment to encourage people to change their lifestyle. I have found that people don’t tend to respond well to fear, because it’s hard to hear and feels uncomfortable. This can cause people to switch off. Instead, how about sharing stories of hope; for example talking about a friend who has made a huge difference to the environment by going zero waste or somebody who is campaigning to ban single use plastics at their place of work or education. Make your friends aware that they have the ability to be a part of this movement too.
YOU’RE NOT JUST A DROP IN THE OCEAN
I’ve been asked before “but surely you’re just one drop in the ocean. How is what you’re doing really making a difference?”.
Well, have you ever heard the story of the boy and the starfish? A boy is walking along a beach where thousands of starfish have been swept up onto the shore. The boy starts throwing them back in the sea and is challenged by an old man who says “what’s the point, it won’t make any difference as there are far too many to throw them all back in”. The boy turns to the old man, throwing a starfish back into the sea and says “it made a difference to that one”.
However insignificant you may feel in the fight for environmental justice, you are making a difference, even if it is not as easy to measure as the boy and the starfish. Imagine if one by one, people started to help the boy throw the starfish back into the sea. What would the impact look like then? If you can inspire two people to make positive environmental lifestyle changes and they go on to inspire two more, and so on, and so on, this seems like a big impact to me.
It is easy to feel frustrated when you know people who have no desire to make ethical changes to their lifestyle. Try not to condemn them. This is only likely to make people more resistant. Instead, you could share the journey that you have been on and how a more conscious lifestyle can start with tiny changes. Rather than suggesting that your friends should make a big change, such as going 100% zero waste immediately, you could suggest that they start off with small changes, like cutting out meat for one day a week or buying an eco-cleaning product rather than their normal brand next time they are at the supermarket.
It can be hard for people can to empathise with environmental issues that occur far away, for example rainforests being cut down, or extreme flooding in India. Physical distance from these problems can also make people feel powerless. If you can help your friends to understand that making green choices can positively impact their local communities, for example, reducing the amount of litter on the street and reducing the impact of chemicals on the local wildlife, this is more likely to spur people on to make changes.
So why don’t you give some of these ideas a try? We’d love to know how big an impact we can all have together. Let us know on Instagram @wearetearfund