Talking about being more eco-friendly can be a hard and rather scary conversation to have with your friends. There is always that fear that they won’t listen, care, or understand where you are coming from. However, given that the environment is rapidly changing due to rising CO2 levels and drastic temperature changes, it’s important to know how to talk to your friends on the things they can do in order to make a difference, even if it may seem small in the beginning. Here are a few easy tips you can use when beginning to have this hard conversation with your friends.
Set an Example
Whenever you start to implement more eco-friendly practices into your everyday life, people are curious as to what you are doing and why you are doing it. For example, I get asked why I use metal straws so much or why I bring a reusable cup to work. These questions can then lead to a conversation about being eco-friendly without having to address all the controversy that may arise during an upfront confrontation about somebody’s actions.
Whenever these conservations start, it’s also important to be prepared for whatever questions they may have about your chosen habits. Pertaining to metal straws, I normally talk about how plastic straws impact the environment and why it’s important to try and eliminate the use of them altogether. Once you have set an example, your friends will be more willing to make the effort to learn more and be more eco-friendly.
Understand Your Feelings
When trying to talk to your friends, it’s important to know where you stand on the subject. There is a lot of misinformation out there about climate change and according to Jacquelyn Gill, an ecologist at the University of Maine, trying to combat misinformation with facts doesn’t always work. Although facts are important, sometimes people are more willing to learn when you get personal with them. Find out what they know and elaborate on how they feel about different aspects of the subject.
People are more willing to listen when they know why the subject matters to you. Once you understand how you feel, you will also better understand others and their concerns. Being grounded in your motivation leads to more empathy that ultimately allows for more effective communication. People want to relate to one another and expressing why you feel so strongly about being eco-friendly is an effective means to prompt reflection in others.
Since sustainability is a very large subject, it can be challenging to figure out exactly where to start. Introduce them to your favorite documentaries, websites, books, and attend local events together so you both can hear how others are approaching sustainability. Some of my favorite websites to use for learning everything about sustainability are Brightly and Going Zero Waste. Having your friends learn from others can help broaden their views and will give you both a chance to continue the conversation on ways to help the environment.
If you already incorporate eco-friendly habits into your life, bring your friends along! Bring them to your favorite bulk stores, take them thrifting, or show them some of your favorite resources on where to get eco-friendly products if they are not easily accessible. Show them how you live more eco-friendly and teach them how you go about the process. Learning with someone else can make the process less scary and intimidating and can relieve some pressure that you and your friends have placed on yourselves, as well as each other.
Be Patient and Understanding
Make sure that your friends know that they don’t need to make huge lifestyle changes immediately. Remind them that knocking out old habits and replacing old items can take some time. Understand their concerns and help them figure out what they could do to make changes. Sometimes baby steps are needed so keep in mind the dangers of overstepping and becoming frustrated with yourself and your friends. Continue to be a positive example in their sustainability journey and show that the smallest changes have a big impact.