Being An Effective Advocate
I remember when I first started studying Environmental Science and I couldn’t stop talking about sustainability. I wanted to tell everyone about how the planet was dying and give the side-eye to anyone who didn’t recycle their Starbucks cups properly. I was an intense hippie (which sounds like an oxymoron), but I know plenty of people in the sustainability space that might fall into that category.
It’s okay to be excited about your sustainability journey. You should be! You’re doing a great thing to minimize your environmental footprint and that’s honorable. However, if you want to encourage your friends and family to start their own journey, there are ways to help inspire them without forcing anything.
There’s a fine line between education and proselytizing, so here are tips I’ve learned along the way to introduce the people in my inner circle to sustainability.
You don’t have to guilt or scare people when you talk to them about sustainability. Over the years, I’ve realized that it’s more effective to lead by example and with compassion.
Compassion doesn’t mean you have to tone down your ideologies, but it means you can meet people where they’re at without judgment. Starting any conversation by talking down to someone else is a no-no for nurturing a relationship. The same goes with starting the dialogue around green-living.
Talk about it casually and regularly
One of my good friends talks about wrestling a lot, and I have a mental note that “Okay, Kim is my friend who likes wrestling,” and I’m super supportive of her quirky hobby. If she ever asked me to watch WWE, I’d tag along even though it’s out of my realm of interests.
If you talk about sustainability in passing conversations regularly, your friends and family will also take note and know that it matters to you. Once they know it’s one of your passions, they’ll expect conversations about it and not be taken aback or feel like you’re suddenly preaching the green gospel. They may also be more inclined to self-discover and check it out by themselves.
Realize the barriers
Sustainable fashion and many other product alternatives often come at a higher price-point. It’s important to realize the barriers that make sustainable lifestyle choices vary in accessibility.
For example, some neighborhoods are in food deserts, which means residents don’t have as much access to sustainably-grown foods. There are various factors that determine the time, energy, and resources someone can devote to sustainability.
When talking with friends and family, be sensitive of this and try inviting them to try little things that don’t necessarily translate into racking up a large bill.
Broaden your definition of sustainability
Know that your definition of sustainability might be different than someone else's. Some people stress the importance of being zero-waste, while others might adopt a plant-based diet or advocate for marginalized communities to have access to resources.
Know sustainability isn’t an all-or-nothing game and that the different paths towards sustainable living might actually make it feel less limiting or intimidating for your friends and family. Try mentioning different sustainability topics, from electric cars to green beauty, to meet them where they’re at and encourage their exploration of the subject.
Make sure to celebrate the little sustainability victories when you notice them in your close relationships. If a friend uses a reusable shopping bag or recycles, give them a compliment to encourage them.
How do you advocate for a more sustainable future with your friends and family? Share in the comments below!