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Tips on conversations about zero waste

You’ve learned about reducing your waste, you’ve made changes, and now you want to be an advocate. It can be hard to have conversations about habits; they are very personal! Whether someone is curious about what they see you doing or you want to approach a person who does not agree with you, here are a few tips for keeping things constructive.

Keep it light and casual 

No one wants to listen to a long lecture or hear stats and figures about waste without their consent. Remember that topics such as climate change and plastic pollution can bring up feelings of guilt and anxiety. You could still reference a news article or a story you saw lately on social media. Just try to avoid an angle of doom and gloom.

Speak from your own experience

It’s best to share your thoughts and experiences clearly without judging anyone else’s actions. Try not to say things such as “I don’t get why people don’t…” or “What’s so hard about…” Speak from your personal experience and about what you have noticed, what you have done, what works, and what motivates you.  No one wants to feel shamed or judged.

Don’t aim to change someone’s mind 

Changing behaviors and especially opinions takes time. It likely won’t happen over the course of your conversation. If someone knows you’re aiming to change their mind, they will probably be defensive and less willing to listen to your point of view. Think about how you can inform or provide support and techniques instead.

Be specific and be helpful

If you do want to see someone change their behavior, try to think ahead and have a specific request. For example, if you’re going to a family get-together and don’t want to create a lot of waste, you could tackle one piece of the waste stream together. You might suggest, “I would feel better if we used reusable plates and cups at this event. Do you mind if I take care of that for you?” Maybe the host had already considered that action but the party planning was too overwhelming to add, “doing dishes later” to their list.

Next time you want to have a conversation about reducing waste, remember to keep things light, focus on your own experience, and offer to help make a change you want to see happen. Everyone is at a different place with their zero waste journey and a positive interaction with you may help them kick things off.