Persuading People to Go Green

Today’s post was inspired by the post ‘You Can’t Scare People Into Going Green’ from Erin at Inspired Earth Connection:

I used to think that people would adopt a greener lifestyle if they truly knew the staggering and heart-breaking damage caused to our beautiful planet and the well being of the human race by many of our modern habits.  Perhaps, they would even persuade politicians and corporations to follow suite.  I used to feel that people were just unaware of the effects of their day to day habits (after all, we aren’t taught these things in school or via popular media) and if they were aware, they would change.

While I do think awareness is part of the key (it certainly changed me), I sure as heck know that the energy of fear, anger, begging, pleading and the doom and gloom scenarios of the climate change (and other environmental disaster) is not the answer to inspire most people into effective action.

A few days ago, I came across an article that shone to me like a beacon of light. It was like a missing ingredient in a grander dish where all the other flavors can finally begin to pull together into a successful, positive creation.   In this article, the author articulates the need to educate and inspire people, while giving them manageable, life-enhancing and personally rewarding actions that create positive change.  Please enjoy Creating A Culture Of Hope–Not Fear–Around Sustainability.

In closing, here’s a little food for thought.  Sometimes, when we are confronted with the potential of creating deep and meaningful change,  our own fears, frustrations and self perceived limitations can surface.  I truly believe that these larger issues that face us, like climate change, are an opportunity for us to both personally and collectively heal our perceived helplessness, complacency and self-imposed limitations to creating the peaceful and sustainable world we truly want.

When I read this post, it made me think about how I feel knowing that the majority of people in the world have little or no concern for the environment, including many people that I know. As Erin’s title suggests, you cannot scare people into going green. Sometimes I am so absorbed in the thought that I want to make my own life as green as possible that I forget that the people around me are oblivious to everything I am working towards. They might be avid consumers, not think about where their waste ends up or not make decisions based on ethical or environmental concerns.

I used to not think about the environment much beyond recycling and turning off lights. Now I’ve started this blog and done a lot of exploration, I’ve realised that these two things, whilst easy to do and a great first step on the way, are only the tip of the iceberg. But what do you do when no one around you seems to care, even if you talk about it?

I’m as guilty as any number of people for trying to ‘up-sell’ going green and also being critical of other people who aren’t at the same stage as me. When you are so passionate about doing something (and so frustrated that not everyone has realised what needs to be done to reduce climate change), it can be incredibly hard not to try and persuade people to do what you’re doing.

But, as Erin says, you can’t scare people into going green. As I am realising, everyone is at their own stage and trying to persuade someone to do what they’re not comfortable doing will just make them more determined to stick with the way they are. Some people need educating about climate change, some people need help making the first step, others are doing their best to make a difference and others still are right at the other end of the scale, aiming for zero waste and sustainable lifestyles.

By starting up this blog I hoped to show my readers that going green isn’t overwhelming if you take it one simple step at a time. I think that by quietly doing what you can, rather than shouting about it, you will be able to show other people – without necessarily trying to actively persuade them – that a green lifestyle is one that’s both possible and enjoyable.

I have been told that when I talk about going green it is clear that I am passionate about it and I think this is something that does help people to become more engaged in the cause. If you love what you’re doing then it will seem more attractive to others!

Going green is always a work in progress and you might not feel like you’re doing very much, but by not scaring or persuading people into it, you could still be helping to shift someone’s opinion by being an example of the change you want to see in people. I think education and research are both vitally important in the drive towards sustainability but at the same time it is important not to go too far and alienate people.

How do you feel about this? Do you feel frustrated that not everyone understands the need for sustainability? Or perhaps you’re at the other end and are overwhelmed by reports on climate change and calls to do something about it?

P.S. I’m a guest blogger this week! If you want to check my first ever guest and non-environmental blog post, pop over to my friend Ellana’s blog!

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19 thoughts on “Persuading People to Go Green

  1. My parents were born just before The Great Depression, so I grew up recycling, reusing, and being aware of my environment from a thrifty point of view. They led be example…we knew what was important, and it was simply the way we lived. The world has changed since I was a kid in the 50s and 60s, and so many people have traded quality of life for speed. But I am teaching my granddaughters the importance of small choices that add up to big changes. We have a compost pile where most of our kitchen waste ends up. We grow some of our own veggies. We talk about packaging, and how we should choose products with as little packaging as possible. “Green” education is easiest with children who easily accept changes and suggestions. It is more difficult with adults, but can be done with plenty of examples and a minimum of shaming or shouting. – Fawn

    • That’s exactly the attitude we need, the way that you were brought up. I think it’s great that you’re teaching your granddaughters in that way and are incorporating green ideas into their upbringing. I agree that’s it’s so much more difficult with adults, especially since many people are stuck in their ways. Thank you for commenting, it always gives me that much more hope when I hear from someone who is aware of their impact on the environment 🙂

  2. I do get frustrated that most people will opt for convenience over the environment where I live. I don’t mind that decisions are hard and sometimes we have to opt for the less green approach but most people do not want to be bothered to think about it. I agree that scaring people to go green doesn’t really work and I think more people are willing to change when they see people they respect leading the way. For example, many people are starting to investigate solar energy in my town. A few years ago no one had solar but now you can find a couple of solar homes in every neighborhood 🙂

    Congrats on your guest post!

    • Yes, I completely agree. I think that hard decisions can be part of the challenge and I know that even if we don’t go for the best option we are still doing our best, although other people aren’t. I love the image of solar homes popping up in your town. It just goes to show the power of a good example. 🙂

  3. Funnily enough I was thinking about how people’s behaviour has changed when I was shopping today. I noticed someone with a large collection of plastic carrier bags from the local supermarket but also someone else with a canvas bag. It’s fairly normal now to walk through towns and see people carrying cloth bags and – although I agree you can’t scare people into becoming green – I wonder what impact the charge on plastic bags will have in England.

    • Do you know, I’ve noticed a similar thing! There are still so many people who go for the convenience of plastic bags but like you I have seen a lot of people with cloth bags. I’m not sure about the plastic bag charge – because it’s not going to be implemented in every shop I’m wondering whether it will have much of an effect.

      • Here in Norway we have had a charge on the plastic bags for years, not as a incentive to reduce plastic to save the environment, but as a way for the shops to make more money 😦 it still doesn’t stop people from just buying them though….

        I long time ago (before i started to be moderately plastic aware….) I bought a couple of big sturdy (yes unfortunately made of some sort of plastic material 😦 ) bags at IKEA for a dollar a piece, and I have used these as my shopping bags ever since. It have saved me tons of charged plastic bags, resulting in less plastic into my house and less money spent. Now I just need to find a neat way to pack my fruits/veggies so I can save even more plastic from leaving the stores…

      • Well, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing if shops use the plastic bag charge to earn more money, as long as the charge is enough to help deter people from buying them! How much is the charge in Norway?

        Sometimes the things you did before becoming plastic aware can be really helpful…those plastic bags were obviously a good buy!

        Have you tried string produce bags for your fruit and veg? I think they’re really good because the shop staff can still see what’s in them, but you can avoid the plastic bags and reuse them again 🙂

      • The charge in Norway is NOK 1 = about 10 pence…

        Yeah, the IKEA bags are great, they are so sturdy you can pack a “house” in them. And I use them for all sorts of carrying.

        I’ve been thinking about and casually looking for some string produce bags, but haven’t found any yet… (Not really that common here) Guess I’ll have to start look in earnest now that I’m upping the amount of greens and berries in my diet. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

      • Ah, so it really needs to be higher to have any effect! And that’s about the price I think is planned for the UK, so it’s unlikely to be effective either…

        I think you can make string produce bags – so maybe you could try that if you can’t find any and are feeing creative? 🙂 People seem to make them out of everything from cotton to old t shirts!

  4. Hi Joanna, thank you for sharing this! I read this the day you published it, so if I don’t refer to something with “freshly” read eyes, please pardon me 😉

    As you mentioned, being passionate and joyful about something (i.e. being green) can inspire others. I once living with a roommate with conventional habits both with food and every thing else. The only thing I requested of her was to recycle and use green cleaning products (so my cats and I wouldn’t have to breathe in chemicals). I didn’t ask of anything beyond that and just let her live her life. At the end of our living together, she started getting interested in health food (probably, just got inspired by being around me) and started turning her mom onto green cleaning products. A few years later, when we had chatted, she thanked me for changing her life. I only wish this happened more often 😉

    On the opposite end, I think I pushed my ex boyfriend too much and he rebelled. There were certain things he refused to adopt and he just never seemed to get into plastic-freeness. If I had of been more gentle and accepting, I think I would have inspired him more.

    I, honestly, don’t think everyone needs to change for a major impact to happen. Sometimes, I feel like I am preaching to the choir, but I realize that the choir is our greatest resource in some ways and we need to teach and inspire each other (including those who are just starting to open their eyes in that direction.) We are the ones who will inspire corporations and political leaders to do the right thing. . . . Wow, this feels like a blog post waiting to happen 😉

    • That’s really interesting to read about the difference in attitudes towards your friend and ex-boyfriend. I’m really trying for the accepting and gentle approach – as you’ve proved, it is definitely more likely to succeed 🙂

      To be honest, I feel that whilst everyone doesn’t need to change, a significant change in upbringing and attitudes needs to come about before leaders realise that they should do the right thing. I know what you mean about preaching to the choir though, and inspiring each other is definitely the way forward! By all means turn this into a blog post, would be interesting to read 😉

      Thanks for commenting and for letting me use your post! 🙂

      • Joanna, you definitely have a valid point. Upbringing and teaching kids when they are young is really essential ans those children will change policy, etc.. For me, I used to feel frustrated by people’s ignorance and preaching to the choir, so, for me, it’s comforting that not everyone needs to change to make a larger change happen. Or maybe I just have to accept this is the state of the Earth (climate change, etc.) and do the best I can and have some detachment with the results. That’s what I keep telling myself 😉

      • Yes, I completely see what you mean. Not everyone is going to change so we do just have to do our best 🙂 I suppose that we need the change in the right people (politicians!) in order to make a larger change happen. But of course we can keep going too 😉

  5. Hi Joanna, I know how you feel (I think) about the frustration of how ungreen people are – even the ones close to you. That’s why it is so reassuring to check in to other greenie blogs – like yours. My goal is to inspire, but sometimes it’s hard not to overdo it at home with those less passionate. People see us out there doing what we can – and gradually it will make it easier for others. Regarding the fruit and veg bags – as a temporary measure – try reusing the plastic vege bags from the supermarket – just take em back with you in your cloth bag and use them again and again.

    • Hi Anne, thank you for commenting! Yes, I agree, reading other greenie blogs is definitely reassuring! Thanks for the tip, I do reuse plastic veg bags whenever they are unavoidable 🙂

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