Okay, guys. The holidays are here. I thought this deserved some sort of post, but didn’t want to harp on the ‘green your Christmas’ type of thing. I think you know by now to buy a potted tree and forgo the wrapping paper. If not, may I direct you to this article that covers all the bases of an eco-friendly holiday.
To me, being truly environmentally-minded isn’t just about making changes in my own life. It’s also about sharing these ideas and encouraging others to transform their lives. What good is being green if we aren’t supporting (read: NOT nagging) others to do so, as well?
The holidays are the perfect time to spark these conversations. People are gradually becoming more aware of the environmental and social effects of our daily decisions, and I’ve found many are open to the idea of making positive changes. The holidays aren’t, however, a good time to talk about super controversial issues that may divide your friends and family. Discussing environmental topics is somewhat of an art. There are plenty of things you should avoid doing:
Don’t be the know it all.
Don’t be the snob.
Don’t be the hopelessly depressed one.
Don’t be the over-analytical one.
Obviously, there are plenty of approaches that could easily peeve someone into blocking you out. But what works? Is there any one way to confront this situation? Not really. Everyone’s friends and families are unique. Follow your gut and do what you think works best for your crowd. Here are a few constants that have helped me share my passion of eco-friendly and ethical living in a positive way:
1. Wait for them to ask. They will. People notice when you decide to pass on the meat, show up with cloth-wrapped presents, or ask for a donation to your favorite charity instead of another unnecessary gift. Instead of going to the party on a ‘mission’ to share your new or continuing lifestyle, be genuine. Enjoy their company first and foremost. I find people are most receptive if the opportunity presents itself naturally, rather than forcefully and in and awkward way.
2. Show through actions, not just words. When you stand for a cause, every decision you make can impact the way others think of you and what you’re fighting for. Make decisions consciously. Carpool when you can. Refuse to waste food. Give ‘gifts’ that actually mean something and aren’t junk. People will always try to find your faults. Keep your cool and remember no one is perfect or ‘perfectly green.’
3. Stay positive. This can be difficult when living in a world that seems so hopeless sometimes. Try to focus on recent positive changes: the continual rise of B Corporations—companies striving to meet rigorous ethical and environmental standards; the decrease of meat consumption in the States; how younger people are opting for alternate means of transportation to reduce their eco-impact. There’s a lot of stuff to be happy about.
4. Talk about your experiences. You can quote disturbing and enlightening facts and statistics all day, but nothing resonates more than your story. How does biking to work make you feel? What’s your favorite vegan recipe? What kinds of yummy organic veggies are you looking forward to planting next spring? You don’t have to be a stuffy scientist, and you most certainly shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself!
5. Keep an open mind. Certain lifestyle changes, like walking or biking to work, are not possible for all. If someone voices a concern or hesitation about green living, hear them out. Encourage them by offering other options that will still lessen their impact.
6. Remember: You don’t know everything. I know it’s tough to hear, but you may be wrong. If someone calls you out, respond gracefully. Maybe something like: “You know, you might be right on that. I’ll have to take another look and make sure I have my facts straight. That’s what’s most important.”
Are you planning on carrying your passion for sustainability and low-impact living through to the holidays in some way? Is your family welcoming to your lifestyle? Please feel free to share your thoughts here. I’d love to hear you out!