June 24


How To Share Sustainability With Family And Friends

By Rhys Herbert

June 24, 2019

home, tips

Want to share the facts — and urgency — of our climate emergency? Here are a few tips and tricks.

If you’re an environmentalist — like we are — you’ve probably come across this problem before. How do you encourage your loved ones to care about sustainability?

sustainability friends and family body image 1 - telephones on the wall

The climate crisis is too complex to fight as individuals. If you’re the only one in your social circle who cares about the environment, it can grind you down.

We all need to share our problems, and this is the biggest problem of all. 

So today, we’re going to share our best advice on creating sustainability allies. From gathering the right information to effect ways of communication, these five tips will help you spread the word.

1. Get the facts right

Sharing bad science is the best way to discredit the movement. There’s no need to make up or exaggerate the facts — things are extreme enough in reality.

When you’re looking for data, use scientific peer-reviewed journals. Websites such as Nature provide huge numbers of papers on climate change, and the review process means that you can be confident that the facts are solid.

sustainability friends and family body image 2 - plants in jars

Other organisations — such as NASA and IPCC — are highly stringent about what they publish, so you can trust their data. 

Wherever you get your information, make sure you look into the processes each paper has undergone. If it’s not been peer-reviewed (i.e. checked by other experts in the field) then it’s not been scrutinised as thoroughly as it should be.

The next challenge for you and I is communicating those facts. This brings us to our next step.

2. Don’t preach!

It’s a cliche we loathe, but some environmentalists have been accused of ‘preaching’ the facts.

Regardless of whether that’s true, it’s important to consider the implications. Preaching shows a lack of self-awareness and humility — and is rarely the best way to change someone’s mind.

sustainability friends and family body image 3 - theatre with people asking questions

When you’re talking with friends and family about the climate crisis, watch your tone. Are you speaking at them or with them?

Spread information as if you’ve just discovered something amazing and want to share it. This technique will also add enthusiasm to your voice that’ll make you more engaging.

3. Undercover sustainability

For most people, the climate crisis isn’t a daily concern. Money, health and other domestic affairs take centre stage.

So if your family and friends are way out of the loop, you’ll have to be more considered in your approach.

Luckily, sustainability usually feeds into these other concerns.

sustainability friends and family body image 4 - cows in a field at sunset

For example, reducing meat and dairy intake is not only vital for the climate, but would also improve the health of people on a Western diet.

It’s also been found that removing meat from your diet plan can save you money.

This technique works with plenty of issues — from travel methods to buying clothes — so you don’t always have to talk about the climate to encourage sustainable changes.

4. The drip-feed approach

Human beings can only take so much information at a time. Sharing the facts gradually is better than unloading a truckload of statistics at once.

It’s also natural that we resist being bombarded with data that we’re not familiar with. It can feel like a personal attack on our intelligence.

So when you’re talking about the environment, take it slow. Drop in a fact or two here, then maybe bring it up again a week later. 

Before you know it, you’ll have shared loads of important points that can encourage sustainable action.

5. The intervention

Now we come to the most daunting of all techniques: the intervention.

When you’ve been inside the world of sustainability for a while, you might want to unload all your facts and opinions at once. But as we’ve touched on, that might not be the best technique.

sustainability friends and family body image 5 - two people talking in a cinema with a beach scene on the screen

Our working memory — how we hold on to information in the short-term — can only hold so much. When we dump a load of new data into it, it’s impossible for everything to stick.

So if you’re desperate for your family and friends to know about the severity of our climate crisis, you might have to be patient.

We’d recommend a more conversational approach, where it doesn’t seem like you’re preaching or talking down to them. Speak to them how you always speak to them — if you trust one another you can be sure they’ll listen carefully.

It might not spark an overnight change, but everyone works on a different timescale. Once they realise the severity of the problem — and how much it means to you — it’s likely that they’ll at least give it some consideration.

Communicating is such an important part of the environmental movement. Once you’ve encouraged family and friends to get involved, the change is exponential. 

Don’t doubt the ability of one person to change the world.

About the Author

Rhys is Conscious Creatives' resident writer and photographer. His work has been published in various online publications, and he was recently chosen to update a bestselling book on SEO. He continues to seek new and interesting angles for his photography work, shooting his local streets on 35mm film.

Rhys Herbert

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