We hear it almost every day, everywhere we go. Think green! Buy organic. Conserve. But as the famous Muppet Kermit the Frog once sang, it is not always easy being green. To be more specific, it is not so easy convincing people to really THINK green, and to turn those thoughts into actions. But it can be done.
The Problem Ask anyone on the street if they want to save the planet and they will say of course they do – who wouldn’t? No one wants to intentionally damage the ozone layer, pollute our air or deforest the Amazon. But most of us do… in small ways… every day.
Psychologists call this “cognitive dissonance,” a phenomena where how people think of something and how it really is are at odds. This means that a person can recycle every plastic bottle in their house, leaving themselves to feel as though they are tree hugging and green. But in reality, they have not changed their driving habits, their shopping habits or anything else. There actions, while certainly better than nothing, result in minimal change with little impact on the big picture. And in fact over time these actions are just as likely to become less green as they are to become more green.
Some Solutions The solution to this problem is to get people to reduce, reuse and recycle, yes. But we also need to get people to rethink. Our American society, in its ever longing quest to consume, is simply not accustomed to limiting its behavior or sacrificing a short term want for the long term good of the Earth. So, it’s not fixable, right? That’s it… the Earth is doomed, we will never learn, end of story. Hold on, not so fast. We CAN make changes. We can teach people to rethink. Following are a few ways, starting small and building large, that we can begin on the path to inculcating the conservation ethic into consumers, encouraging them to reduce, reuse, recycle AND rethink.
Start Small We know, we just said above that small things like recycling are not enough. And no, recycling water bottles alone is not enough – but you have to start somewhere. Just like starting a new exercise program or diet, if you restrict a person too much too fast they will rebel and fail. So we need to encourage people to start small, with easy things, like recycling water bottles or buying organic milk and eggs.
Build Gradually Once these simple green actions are entrenched in the community behavior, we can build up to something bigger. Much of this can come from governmental regulation, but also through self regulation in business. If consumers see business going green and making eco-friendly products available, they will be more likely to step their activities up and engage in more green.
Showcase Results Nothing stimulates further activity like seeing results! If businesses, journalists and websites start to show more statistics about how green products prevent pollution, reduce landfill waste and such, with quantifiable numbers. This will encourage people to further action. If you have a business green initiative then show off the results.
Celebrate Everyone loves to celebrate success. When we show off our results and brag about our successes we create an air of excitement and enthusiasm, which encourages further action.
Repeat If we all work together, we can encourage consumers, customers, friends and family to take small steps towards going green. Then, we can increase those actions, moving to larger and larger green initiatives. As these efforts build we need to showcase results and celebrate our success. If we continue through, repeating this cycle over and over, we will eventually turn these small changes into large, global impacts.