We all know them - they are the environmentalists who make everyone feel inadequate. The ones who push the issues so hard it turns off everyone else, even other environmentalists. They are the die-hards who set the bar so high that people don't even bother listening to what they have to say anymore because they accept no compromise and make you feel inferior to boot.
So, how does an environmentalist get their message across and educate others while at the same time seeming reasonable and open-minded? Well, for starters, leading by example is the best approach. You can lecture people all you want about any given issue, but the end result is generally raising people's hackles. Nobody likes to be attacked or criticized for their choices.
As we head into the holidays, it is likely that we'll be interacting with a lot more friends, family and co-workers and the topics of saving money and the environment are sure to come up. When they do, use it as an opportunity to educate people with some easy to digest facts and offer up what you do to mitigate your impact.
Wait for their lead to offer more information. You will find that if you throw out a few ideas or facts about a topic, people are generally interested in learning more and they get excited if they feel like they are part of the process, rather than approaching it with a series of "you shoulds" or some long-winded response.
When I'm in a mixed group, I'm oftentimes reluctant to spew too much information for fear of overwhelming people. In addition, the possible result of coming off as too stern is offense at one end and boredom at the other.
Once someone realizes that you have information about something they've heard about they are oftentimes interested in learning more. The goal is to offer the information in a non-accusative way. I find that people know a lot more than I think they do (from the news or TV), but they just don't know what to do with the information or where to go next. I've had people corner me for hours, picking my brain about various environmentally related things. People who I wouldn't in a million years expect to be interested in it.
We have a great opportunity these days, now that the door to environmental acceptance is wedged open just a little bit. If we take these opportunities as a way to hook people's interest, educate and show them easy ways to achieve some goals, then you have moved a little bit towards getting people to accept these ideas even more. However, if you come across as an overzealous environmentalist, lecturing and accusing people, they not only shut down, but it will be really difficult to budge that door open again.
I know we are all very passionate about many things, whether it be issues with energy, pollution, plastic, climate change or animal rights and the best way to get people to listen to new ideas is with an easy-going, open-minded approach that takes into consideration their ideas and values without incrimination.
How do you go about educating people on environmental issues?