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How to Inspire Family and Friends to Embrace Sustainability Together

by Aleesya Karim

Starting a journey toward sustainability can be a game-changer for you and our planet. Yet, it’s common to feel overwhelmed when you’re the lone eco-warrior among your friends and family. The good news? You don’t have to fly solo on this journey.

In my own experience, I initially found it challenging to get my friends and family on board. Living in a developing country, many of us are trapped in unsustainable systems, and sometimes, most people view that being sustainable can seem costly and challenging. Nevertheless, believe me, there are a few tried-and-true methods to persuade your loved ones to come on board. If they worked for me, there’s a good chance they’ll work for you too!

So, here are 5 tricks to invite your family and friends:

1. Lead by Example

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The most impactful way to inspire your family and friends to join you on your sustainability journey is to be a role model. Demonstrate that sustainability isn’t just a lofty idea but a down-to-earth and rewarding lifestyle. Here’s a glimpse of a few things that I have done and shown my family:

  1. I created a Compost Bin: I transformed our food scraps into valuable compost for my mom’s garden. It’s not only great for her plants but also reduces kitchen waste.
  2. Changed to Reusable Shopping Bags: I’ve been using reusable bags instead of paying for plastic bags at the store.
  3. I Built a Simple Rainwater Collection: Rainwater is free!! I set up a simple system to collect rainwater, which we now use for watering plants and washing our cars.
  4. Donating or Selling Clothes: When I no longer need clothing, I donate it to charities or thrift stores, helping them to get extra money and create jobs! Also, I buy second-hand clothing whenever possible.

These seemingly easy-to-implement small steps have made a noticeable difference, and my family has taken notice. Now, they ask me for advice when they want to make similar life changes. It’s all about showing them that sustainability is practical, accessible, and beneficial for everyone.

2. Share Knowledge with Family & Friends

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Knowledge is a powerful tool when it comes to sparking change. But here’s the thing: you don’t always need to share lengthy articles, documentaries, or books about sustainability. You can make it fun and straightforward using shorter and more accessible formats like tweets, Instagram reels, or TikTok videos. Just be sure to fact-check the information before sharing it. You can of course share Green Cloud Nine’s Instagram posts with your family or friends, (I assure you that they are all accurate and fun to look at ;).

Sometimes, people need information in a more straightforward and relatable manner, especially if they’re not well-versed in environmental matters. Take my parents, for example. They used to be quite conservative and sceptical about climate change, thinking it was just b*llshit. However, they started to pay attention when they began witnessing the increasing number of natural disasters and changes happening around them. I also patiently explained how these events occur and how we, as individuals, contribute to them directly or indirectly.

I made sure to communicate the urgency of the situation in a way that resonated with them at a personal level. I emphasised that these disasters could affect our current lives and the lives of their children and their grandchildren if we don’t take action. It’s crucial to speak their language and easily help them see the connection between these events and their daily lives so that they grasp the importance and urgency of the matter.

In essence, it’s about finding common ground and presenting the information in a way that helps them understand the situation and appeals to their interests and concerns. Whether through bite-sized online content or relatable real-life examples, the key is to make sustainability accessible and relatable to everyone.

3. Engage with Family & Friends for Fun Sustainability Activities

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Transforming sustainability into an enjoyable and relatable experience for your family and friends can be one of the best ways to start changing. Instead of organising beach cleanups, tree planting, or community garden projects (though those are lovely options too), simply spending time in nature can be enough. Plan outings to farmers’ markets, nature preserves, or eco-friendly events, and let the beauty of nature work its magic.

During these outings, I usually take a moment to casually emphasise the importance of preserving our natural world. You can remind your loved ones to be mindful and respectful of the environment they’re enjoying and even infuse a bit of local myths. For example, using some Malasyan stories and legends, I tell them that neglecting Mother Nature might lead to haunting from the mountain, forest or beach spirits, like Puteri Gunung Ledang (Ledang Mountain princess) or even from God. And trust me, it helps them remember the message!

Spirited Away Movie

When it comes to the little ones, like my nieces, we need to adapt the language and of course also the medium, so I often introduce them to movies that inspire a love for nature. Their absolute favourites are the Ghibli classics, “Spirited Away”, and “Princess Mononoke”. These films not only entertain but also instil valuable lessons about caring for our environment. If you don’t know them, go check them out!

4. Make Sustainable Choices Convenient

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The idea here is to make sustainable choices as effortless as possible. When sustainability is accessible to your family and friends, it becomes more likely that they will readily adopt these practices. A great way to start is with little actions like setting up recycling and compost bins in your home.

Furthermore, you can encourage them to embrace sustainability in their daily lives by offering easy suggestions like selling their used cooking oil for recycling (I mean, who doesn’t like money, right?) or pointing out eco-friendly alternatives when you shop together. Making these choices simple and practical paves the way for a greener lifestyle everyone can quickly embrace.

5. Be Patient and Supportive

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It’s important to acknowledge that not everyone will embrace sustainability at the same pace or with the same enthusiasm. Each of us has a unique journey and mindset, with different attitudes to change. It’s crucial not to always associate sustainability solely with the negative aspects of climate urgency, as this can overwhelm people.

Also, prepare yourself for critique and tease. I’ve often been playfully teased by friends and family when I make a mistake or something not so sustainable, with remarks like, “You’re not quite green, are you?” However, I take it in good humour and laugh along with them. It’s heartening to know that they recognise my efforts, and I’ve become known to them for my commitment to a more planet-friendly lifestyle, so they don’t feel awkward or lonely to start their own :).

What’s important to remember is that no one’s sustainability journey, including your own, needs to be perfect. Your effort truly matters because even one step toward sustainability is better than taking none at all.

In Summary

Encouraging your family and friends to join your sustainability journey is not just about saving the planet; it’s about building stronger bonds, creating lasting memories, and making a positive impact together. From my experience, I’ve learned that inspiring your loved ones to embrace sustainability is not only possible but incredibly fulfilling. So, all the best, and always remember that Green Cloud Nine always has your back!

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