How to Influence Your Family To Live More Sustainably
Inspire others to live a more sustainable lifestyle | Sustainable family living
It can be difficult to live with people who are not as inspired as you are to live in a more eco friendly way. Trying to talk to others – your parents, partner, or kids for example – and trying to get them to do the right thing - can sometimes feel like trying to herd cats, or scrape jelly up a wall.
Whether it is 'green fatigue', resistance to change, or simply ingrained habits, there are plenty of people out there who are not doing all they can. So how can someone living a net zero, zero waste lifestyle influence others in their household to do the same?
Listen – Don't Preach
First of all - listen. Even if you don't agree with someone, it is important to listen to what they say. A conversation is two-way. Make sure you don't fall into preaching when trying to talk about the things that really matter to you.
Keep Conversations Going – But Know Your 'Audience'
Think about who you are talking to - their likes, dislikes and interests. Consider how you can find common ground to build on. Bring in topics that are of interest to those whose behaviours we would like to change.
For example, if someone is really, really into fashion, perhaps you could talk about some cool new sustainable designer you've discovered. If someone loves their cars, ask them what they think lies ahead for the car industry... find an 'in' and you can often have far more constructive conversations.
Think about the media or activities that might be most effective in 'getting through'. Some people may be 'converted' by a good book on sustainability left lying around. Others may be inspired by a film or television programme you watch together. Other people may find it easier to engage when they actually get out and do something – a beach clean, bioblitz or conservation project, for example, could be a fun day out for your family.
Don't Exaggerate or Get Overly Emotional
When you do give someone some information, make sure it is centred around clear, science-based facts and statistics. It is normal to have a strong emotional response to the problems we face. But strong emotion is rarely a good driver for change. (Try to converse without any hyperbole, or too many statements designed to elicit an emotional response.)
Come at Things From a Different Angle
Let conversations flow - and don't bring everything back to sustainability or the environment. Sometimes, combatting green fatigue means coming at things from a different angle. For example, you might mention to someone reluctant to change how certain steps could save them money, or make them healthier, rather than just focussing on the 'green' agenda.
Emphasizing how steps are not limiting freedoms, but actually helping individuals take back control can help encourage people to make the necessary changes. As can including everyone in the process – with a collaborative rather than dictatorial approach. Be sure to include everyone, incorporate other people's ideas as well as just your own.
Practice What You Preach
When trying to teach people about sustainability, 'show, don't tell' is often an important principle. Leading by example can be a lot more powerful. It can show others what is possible without really labouring the point, and over time, the practices you employ – using reusable bags, switching out harmful products, gardening, growing your own or learning other new skills for example, can slowly become the 'new normal'.
Others may adopt the same approaches without even thinking about it at all. Especially if you simply invite them along with you for fun activities and do not force people into things they really don't want to do.
Making something the new normal also means introducing reluctant family members to others who are making (or trying to make) the same changes as you. Gather a community of like minded people around you, either online or in your local area, and you won't feel so alone or isolated as you work towards your eco goals.
People don't change overnight. And people will always disagree. But by keeping the conversation going, and creating a new paradigm through practicing what we preach, we can change minds, and change behaviors, one small step at a time.