How to influence sustainable change – lessons I’ve learned

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two women sitting on dock in front of lake
Photo by Savannah Clancy

Practicing a zero waste or minimally wasteful lifestyle can be frustrating in this outwardly single-use world. Yesterday, I went to the grocery store and found it remarkably difficult to watch consumers put things like bananas or avocados into plastic produce bags – foods with natural protective barriers! HOW can some of us remain so apathetic in a time with loads of information on how we are negatively affecting our planet?! Why is convenience our instinct rather than conservation?

It’s easy to get caught up in the irritation or the ego that comes along with the perspective of being a socially conscious person. But, in these times of bitterness, I try to remember a quote that really resonates with me:

“If you think you are superior because you are awakened, you are still asleep.”

Environmental awareness isn’t something that can be forced. In fact, it’s seemingly taboo in our society due to the way the media portrays climate change, how our economy is prioritized over the ecosystem, etc. Because of this, those of us who are aiming to influence change need to be incredibly sensitive and careful in the way we portray our message.

Kindness and compassion is the most effective way to convey ANY message, including but not limited to sustainable action.

Sometimes for me, this can be difficult to digest because I recognize that action needs to take place, and it needs to take place now before it’s too late.

Photo by Tobin Voggesser at Borderland Music Festival

I’ve had years of experience in trying to convince friends and family to start implementing composting systems at home, using reusables including water bottles, bags, silverware, etc., shopping in bulk, and supporting environmental causes & socially conscious businesses. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why I had difficulties getting the message across to people. If they care about me and their environment, and sustainability is something I’m passionate about, why aren’t they following suit?

It wasn’t their fault, it was mine. The aggressive approach I used for a long time was NOT productive, nor was it advantageous to my relationships or my message.

I’ve since found that the best way to convey the impact we have as individuals is to provide both data and easily accessible replacements for the single-use items that are so convenient to the lifestyle that many of us live.

Once I started showing my loved ones HOW to implement these changes rather than telling them that changes needed to be made, I had a much higher success rate.

reusable vs. single-use packaging

In addition to focusing on the way I convey my message, it’s been important for me to recognize that we as individuals are at different points on our journey. Though we do all hold social and environmental responsibility to the planet we reside on, many of us are already doing what we can to make a difference – and that’s something that should be powerfully encouraged in all people.

We can all do better, and we should motivate and uplift one another in positive ways to bring forth this change that is desired by so many of us. And if some people aren’t receptive, it’s still valuable to plant the idea of sustainability within their minds.

You cannot force someone to comprehend a message they are not ready to receive. Still, you must never underestimate the power of planting a seed.

We cannot influence positive change without the support of one another, and we absolutely cannot transform the single-use lifestyle without a proper approach. If we stand together, we can make individual changes that will eventually influence action on a larger scale. We hold great power as consumers, and with a strong message, people will begin to listen.

Written by Becca Lerman

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