We are all inhabitants of the beautiful planet Earth. Unfortunately, many different problems in society and in the environment are threatening it. Here, I explain in which areas of life you can improve your behaviour to help the environment. This involves things you really should stop doing and things you should do.
Agriculture is essential to provide food for us. But it is also responsible for many greenhouse gas emissions, especially methane and nitrous oxide. Animal-based food is in general worse in terms of emissions. Furthermore, pesticides and artificial fertilizers accumulate in the environment and harm organisms. Many resources are used, forests are burnt, and habitats destroyed.
If you consume a lot of meat and dairy products, you are part of the problem and contribute to the climate catastrophe and the destruction of nature. You should stop eating meat and dairy products!
Environmentally friendly food is especially plant-based food. Vegetables, cereals, lentils, beans, fruits, and other plants are tasty and have on average a much better ecobilance than animal-based food. Another advantage of a balanced diet including a lot of vegan dishes is that it is good for your health.
Much of the CO2 in our ecological footprint is produced because of our mobility. Especially flying and driving cars are responsible for a lot of CO2.
Still doing a vacation in Thailand nowadays is really unnecessary. Don’t you think about the poor people in Africa who have to suffer the consequences of climate change like droughts or floodings? So stop flying – and stop using your car!
For short distances, cycling can be the perfect solution: It is healthier, cheaper, and often faster than using the car. Also, public transport has advantages as you are less stuck in traffic. For long distances, trains or busses are good alternatives. No matter where you live – I’m sure that beautiful travel and vacation destinations are within reach! 🙂
In our households, we use energy that is produced with the emission of greenhouse gases. Heating, cooking, laundry, entertainment – everything needs energy, which could be reduced.
TV and streaming services as Netflix are really unnecessary – it is bad for the climate so the best is to stop getting entertained in such an environmentally-unfriendly way. You should also stop being so lazy and leave devices in standby when you don’t need them. Turn them off completely!
Using the stove or eat cold food instead of using the oven is one way of saving energy – and money of course! Otherwise, showering a bit shorter or using the heating and air conditioning less are easy ways to save energy and money. And why not trade the movie night with a board game night? You can have a great time with your nearby friends and family!
Consumption in general
One thing you should keep in mind: Every single object you buy was produced somehow, which caused greenhouse gas emission and made a bad impact on the environment (unless maybe you buy an ecologically grown plant). Electronic devices, batteries, cars, bikes, furniture, clothes – everything has an ecological footprint.
What you should do is stop buying stuff – It is just bad for the environment and your karma. Also, don’t throw away stuff that isn’t broken!
When you need something, you have several nice options. A simple one is to buy second hand products. Exchanging clothes is also nice. The great thing about second hand shopping: It saves money as well! In addition, just buying less things, only necessary items, is a good and sustainable way of life. Many people are happier in life with less possessions!
Getting the message across
Okay, I guess you realised I was playing with positive and exaggerated negative advise and messages here. Which ones did you like more? 😉
This brings me to the most important point of this article: Every person or institution communicating with people about how to behave more environmentally friendly, needs to be thoughtful. The right attitude and the use of the right words are crucial.
The following part is for everyone who is concerned about the environment and wants to raise awareness. And it is for everyone who likes to reflect about communication in general.
- It doesn’t matter who is guilty
In my opinion, it shouldn’t be the priority to analyze the past on a personal level in order to blame all polluters. Every human being has a carbon or environmental footprint, especially in the developed world. We should find a way to work together to create something new – a new and sustainable way of living where humans and the environment are partners. Therefore, when you talk to people, I advise not to accuse them of their bad behavior and make them feel guilty. They will more likely respond in a defensive and not in an understanding way.
- Admit that you are not perfect
Nobody is perfect – also in terms of the environmental footprint. Some people, companies, or institutions who stand for the protection of the environment praise themselves and present themselves in a perfect light. This can appear very unpleasant and hypocritical. Certainly, every person, every government, NGO, or company has room for improvement. So why not say “I contribute to the protection of our planet. I know I’m not perfect but I do my best to improve!”?
- Focus on the benefits of a change in behaviour
To tell people the bad consequences of their behaviour is often not successful. Instead, you should point out the advantages that a change can have! Especially regarding food, mobility, and energy, many environmentally friendly measures like vegan dishes and cycling are good for people’s health and are saving money.
- Give alternatives – if possible
It is easy to say: “Stop using your car”, or “don’t eat meat any more”. It is important to give a good alternative. While some things are easy to replace, like replacing meat with plant-based alternatives, some things are hard to change. E.g. people in rural areas depend on their car – so you can’t just tell them to stop using it. There aren’t always good alternatives, which we need to accept as well.
- There are options between all or nothing
What people should avoid is to tell people to stop things completely. Vegan people have partly a bad image because some of them (not all of course) demand that people stop eating animal products all together. But not everyone needs to stop with all bad things, that’s not realistic anyways. Just reducing things is great. If everyone would eat a little less meat, it would already help a lot.
- Be understanding and friendly
People have different backgrounds and reasons for their behaviour. They might not have the knowledge, the money, or available alternatives to change towards a more environmentally friendly behaviour. Sometimes, they are just used to their behaviour since their childhood and never questioned it. When people have a lack of knowledge, aim to give them information in a friendly way. And ask first, if they want to learn more. No one likes to get an unwanted lecture. And just stay friendly – would you listen to someone who insults you?
More impact with the right communication
Communication nowadays involves a lot of accusations and shaming, prohibitions, and it is supposed to cause fear and panic. For me, this is one important reason why many people don’t respond well to some climate activists who just blame people and don’t give good alternatives, although they have the right goals.
Of course, the advice I give here is not valid for everyone. Some people change their behaviour when you just tell them they are wrong and they should stop doing something. And many are too stubborn to change even when you are very friendly and understanding and point out many advantages a change in behaviour would have. But on average, certainly more people will respond positively when you are understanding and positive.
What way of communication do you prefer? Feel free to comment if you agree or disagree with me!