Okay, people don’t “hate” environmentalists… you help the planet and save endangered species! But that message gets lost between greenwashing and over-zealous activists, leading many to conclude that environmentalists are self-righteous hippies with money to burn (deep breath.) We know that isn’t true— but what can be done to counter this stereotype?
Are you the dreaded “angry environmentalist?” If you are, then it’s especially tempting to say, “Bugger off if you don’t like me,” but saving the environment is a group effort. Spreading the word effectively makes the world a greener place, and that’s peace of mind. And although you will not win every argument or convince every person, your friendship alone can influence how they vote, what they drive, and whether they insult protesters.
So which behaviors scare people off, and what can you do about it?
Image accredited to Josh Janssen.
1. Lead by Example
Environmentalists have an “angry” reputation. And there is plenty to be angry about— animal extinction, global warming, deforestation… your friend’s new gas-guzzling SUV. But being angry doesn’t encourage people to take up a cause.
So don’t get mad— get creative. Invite friends to bike and run with you instead of driving, introduce tasty organic meals at your company’s next potluck, and introduce eco-friendly family traditions (like thrifting together over the holidays and volunteering every Earth Day.)
Be someone people admire and want to spend time with, not someone people feel intimidated by.
2. Stop Sacrificing
Environmentalists are seen as people who “sacrifice” for their cause. Urgh, sacrifice, doesn’t that word fill you with warm fuzzy feelings? No one wants to “sacrifice!” Thankfully, going green is not a sacrifice. Environmentalists gain knowledge, a healthier lifestyle, and exposure to foods and cultures most people will never experience. I never would have tried curry if I’d spent the rest of my life dining at McDonald’s!
Don’t just let people know what you “gave up,” but what you gained in the process. If that new vegan diet made you lose weight, let people know! If eco-friendly cosmetics give you that enviable summer glow, spread the word. Indulge yourself every now and then, and let others see that being an environmentalist does not mean looking (or feeling) like a scruffy martyr-vist.
3. Teach, Don’t Preach
Although non-environmentalists preach quite a bit, ranting environmentalists take more heat. Although sharing views is can raise awareness, there is a fine line between “sharing” and “bombarding.”
Resist the urge to get personal. Criticize actions, not people— say “Buying beef contributes to global warming,” not “You are causing global warming.” Avoid discussing graphic details while people are eating, or chastising people for their food choices— this only alienates them.
Keep a cool head, and resist the urge win arguments with unproven facts or data— and never yell or scream at people for disagreeing with you. Calm people seem more rational and trust-worthy than those who make a scene— and you cannot force people to listen to you.
When asked why do what you do, calmly and succinctly tell people why. Keep it short and sweet, and people will remember it.
Now put on your vintage shoes, and get out to do some good!