How To Encourage Others To Embrace Sustainability

You might be making great strides towards a more eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle. But what if there are others in your life who are not following suit? It can be frustrating when we are living with people who don't necessarily think as much (or at all) about the problems that are facing our planet. How can we encourage others to embrace sustainability and share in our green goals?

Changing hearts and minds can be a tricky business. People can be reluctant to change, and stuck in their ways. It is normal for people to get stuck in a rut and continue in bad habits without really thinking about it. But people do change – even if they do so slowly. And there are certain things that you can do to get people to shift in the right direction. Here are some tips to help you convince others to join you as you try to do what is right for people and our planet:

Lead By Example

First and foremost, it is important to make the necessary changes yourself. We all have areas where we could do better. And if people see you making changes, then they are far more likely to follow suit. When you practice what you preach, and make real strides, people are far more likely to listen to you. They will also be able to see what is possible, and see the benefits for them in making those small changes to their daily lives.

Make Sustainability the New Normal

Every journey begins with a single step. But over time, small incremental steps begin to add up. Before look, you look back and realise just how far you have come. Doing something new for the first time, and being ahead of the curve, can be daunting. It can be intimidating to go against the flow. But as more and more people embrace sustainability, it becomes the new normal, and those who do not take steps in the right direction are the ones who find themselves going against the flow. 

If we are not surrounded in our homes by people who think the same way we do, we can feel alone. But when we reach out to others, and cooperate, working together for positive change – it is less isolating, and much easier for us to sweep others along for the ride. When we make sustainability the new normal, make it seem less foreign, we can use a positive kind of peer pressure, and encourage even the most recalcitrant to see the writing on the wall.

Provide Tools To Make Things Easier

Sustainable Bottles

If people in your household, or among your friendship group, are reluctant to change, this can often be because sticking with old ways of doing things just seems easier and more convenient. The easier something seems, the more likely people are to do it. One thing you can do to encourage people to make changes towards a sustainable, zero waste lifestyle is to provide them with tools to make things easier.

Giving people reusable bags, bottles etc. won't always mean they use them. But when these things are around, and easy to just grab hold of, making the change can come much more naturally. And they will soon see that embracing sustainability does not need to be inconvenient after all.

Keep the Conversation Going

Things cannot change unless people keep talking. Having interesting conversations about the world's problems – and how to solve them – is crucial for positive change. It is important to keep the conversation going – not just with those already on our wavelength, but also with people who do not necessarily think the same way as us.

But Don't Preach

It is important to remember, however, that talking does not mean preaching. We should keep talking about sustainability – but it is important not to bore on. “Green fatigue' is a barrier to real and lasting change. Make sure you do not become preachy on the subject. Have open, two sided and non-judgemental conversations, calmly, and when the appropriate moments arrive, and you are far more likely to make headway.

Don't Get Overly Emotional

It is also important, when having conversations about sustainability, not to get overly emotional. It is natural to become passionate and distressed when you think about the problems we face. But using overly emotive or manipulative language can be a sure-fire way to put people off. Especially when people feel personally attacked by the things you are saying. Try to stay calm, and while emotion can be appropriate at times, often, staying cool and collected, and relying on science, facts and statistics, can be more useful.

Know Your Audience

No two people are exactly alike, and it is important to recognize that when trying to talk about these issues. Think about the person you are talking to and the type of things they enjoy. If you talk about sustainability within the context of something that interests them, this is far more likely to keep the conversation going.

For example, if the person you are talking to loves gardening – but does not garden organically – then talking to them about organic gardening practices and plants could be a good way to get through. If they love fashion, then talking about sustainable clothes or materials could be an interesting way to get their attention. If they love watching sports, or technology, you could talk about some ways sporting venues or tech firms are improving their sustainability.

Know The Best Way to Get Through To Each Individual

Remember too, that just as people have different interests, they can also take in information in different ways. Some people can take in written or spoken information well. Others respond best to images or videos. Yet others learn and absorb information best when they are actually doing something with their own two hands.

If you want to present them with some interesting information, think about which media or activities might best get the message through. With a movie, rather than an article, perhaps. Or by taking part in a beach clean or litter pick themselves rather than learning about the problem in theoretical terms.

Come At Things From a Different Angle

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. But don't harp on in the same vein or people may turn off entirely. If people are reluctant even to think about sustainability, then you might consider coming at things from a different angle. Rather than talking about the benefits for the environment and humanity, for example, you might explain, for example, why a certain simple step towards sustainability can make things more convenient, save them money, or give them more personal freedom in their lives.

Help Everyone Feel Involved

It is important for people in your household not to feel that the sustainable changes you are making are something you are forcing onto them. Try to include everyone in decision-making if possible, and try to find ways to make sure everyone feels that they have agency in the changes happening around them.

Rather than just buying in new household items that make it easier to live in a more sustainable way, for example, perhaps you could present a few different options, for everyone in your family to choose between. That way, they won't feel you are taking over, and will feel involved in the process. Which could make it easier for them to embrace sustainable change.

If you bear the tips above in mind, you should find it a lot easier to encourage others to embrace sustainability. It might not happen all at once or right away, but one day, after a while, you might once more look back and see how much they, as well as you, have come.