I have written before about the problems of forcing people to “go green” beyond their comfort level, but today I want to talk about those of you in the movement who look down on people who cannot live your exact lifestyle in an effort to save the planet. I get emails all the time from readers who complain about how some environmentalists try to make them feel guilty for not giving up TV, for not installing $20K worth of solar panels on their house, or for not trading in their perfectly fine Honda Civic for a 1965 Mercedes running on biodiesel. There is such a thing as pushing your agenda too far, and nothing turns people off faster than making them feel as though they are inadequate. Want to move people away from being concerned about the environment? Make them feel guilty for not doing enough – it’s a sure-fire way to chase them away.
We will not get more people on board with the environmental movement by making them feel guilty. I too have gone overboard in the past when talking with people, and it is something I am trying to change within myself. There is no use getting mad at someone for not doing what *YOU* think is right – the best thing to do is to show why your way is just as easy/inexpensive but much better for the environment. Think about the last time someone made you feel guilty for something you did; were you more apt to change your behavior or more inclined to do it again just to spite the person? Thought so.
There are environmentalists out there who are very militant about their beliefs; they never buy new clothes, drive only cars powered by alternative fuels, live and work by candlelight, grow all their own food, and avoid media influence. And that is fine and good for all of them, but not everyone can live like that. Heck, I don’t even live like that and this is my job! We do what we can – we own one car, we buy organic foods, we use reusable bags at the store, we recycle everything, we watch our power and water use, and we avoid buying things we don’t need. But do I live in a cave with only tattered clothes? Nope. And neither do most people, and militant environmentalists need to keep this in mind. You cannot change opinions and behaviors by making people feel bad. You have to educate, encourage, and discuss the issues important to you and hope that people will listen. But I can guarantee they won’t listen if you come off as self-important.
So let’s start encouraging people to be more conscious of the environment rather than getting mad at them for their choices. Let’s start talking with those who would never consider using their own bags at the store, and see if we can get them to just use at least one. Let’s see if we can steer a fellow citizen in the right direction at the store away from the plastic doodads from China and towards the sustainably made wood version of the same product. Let’s see what we can do with some education and encouragement rather than badgering and fear-mongering. It’s something I am working to do better myself and you know what? It works – Give it a shot.