You know when you buy a product that you really love and you end up raving about it to anyone who will listen? That’s kind of how going green feels. Once you do all the work it takes to minimize your carbon footprint, you find yourself eager to help others do the same. Unfortunately, it can be hard to push people toward eco-friendly living without coming across as preachy.
If you’re looking for a few simple, nonconfrontational ways to encourage friends, family and neighbors to join the earth-friendly movement, consider the following avenues.
Your Local School
If you have children, set aside some time to work with their schools. (Even if you don’t have kids, you can still volunteer in a nearby school to start an eco-friendly program.) You might begin by offering to help out with events and joining the PTA. Then, get a group of like-minded parents and teachers together and start putting forward some green activities and initiatives. You can engage the whole school community by:
- Coordinating an International Walk to School Day. Walking to school not only promotes a healthy lifestyle, it helps reduce air pollution!
- Encouraging the school to go digital where possible. Newsletters, field trip information, PTA meeting updates, volunteer requests, etc., can be sent home via email rather than being printed out and copied for each student.
- Establishing a recycling club. Place recycling bins in classrooms, offices, the gym, music room, art room, cafeteria and copy room. Have student members of the recycling club collect and empty the bins during lunch and recess or after school.
- Starting a compost pile. Kids will learn how food waste can be recycled into nutrient-rich fertilizer for their gardens.
Kids love to learn, and you’ll find so much joy in helping them look at the world in a new way. After all, the earlier we start educating children about how our lifestyles affect the environment, the easier it is for them to adapt to healthier ways of living on our planet.
Does life in the office make you feel like you’re taking two steps back? There’s paper everywhere, recyclable items going in the trash, and enough waste to drive a person crazy. It’s time to step up and institute a change!
Effecting change from the bottom up is often easier than heading directly to the CEO. Mobilize fellow eco-warrior team members and managers to help set in motion the following changes:
- Standby power is a huge energy expense. Set computers to energy-saving settings and shut them down at the end of the day
- Use natural light wherever possible.
- Use compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) in fixtures. They cost 75 percent less to operate and last 10 times longer.
- Turn off lights in spaces that are unoccupied.
- Arrange an office carpool or encourage use of a car-sharing service like Flexcar or Zipcar.
- Extol the virtues of working from home — and see if you can’t convince your higher-ups to let you do it more often. Not only are employees just as productive when working from home, the environmental effects of commuting are reduced.
- Start an office recycling program. Cut back on the number of trash cans around the office while simultaneously adding more recycling bins.
- Since paper use can’t be entirely avoided, ask your company to invest in recycled paper and envelopes that have been processed and colored using eco-friendly methods.
While these measures may not seem like much, each small step adds up to big energy and resource savings. Your co-workers are bound to feel good about doing their part to help the environment, and management is likely to see overhead costs go down dramatically. That’s a win-win!
Inspiring a change in your community takes a bit of legwork, but it’s well worth it. Start by establishing yourself as an engaged member of the community. Chat with your neighbors and get an idea of what’s going on around you, as well as what’s missing. Then, take your place as an eco-leader by organizing community lectures, roundtable discussions and book clubs related to green initiatives.
Coordinate environmental cleanups at neighborhood parks, rivers and beaches. Take part in the community garden — and if you don’t have one, get one going! Start a “buy local” initiative. Shopping locally conserves energy, reduces greenhouse gases emitted during transportation and keeps resources circulating in the community. And last but not least, organize an Earth Day celebration and plant some trees!
It’s also important to talk to your local government officials. Ask whether they have environmental efforts in place, and offer to volunteer your time to ensure change is actually taking place.
The time and effort you put into effecting green change is not only vital for the health of your community, it’s also incredibly valuable. If environmental conservation is your passion, consider making it a career path. The nonprofit sector is awash with employment opportunities, having grown 25 percent in just 10 years and currently employing 10 percent of the U.S. workforce. By working for a nonprofit, you can impact policy and procedures more significantly than you may have ever imagined.
Eco-friendly living at home is just the first step to a more eco-conscious world. To really move forward, we need to take it upon ourselves to get involved in our communities and be a force for change. So get out there and get moving — the environment needs your voice!
Ready to take your eco-friendly living up a notch? Get inspiration from the amazing women we featured in “Sustainable Living: 6 People Proving Plastic-Free Possible.”