How to encourage others to be Eco Warriors without being a bit… well..annoying!

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re a bit of (or a lot of) an Eco Warrior. I use the term ‘Eco Warrior’ pretty freely. I think Eco Warriors come in all sorts of forms; from the ceramic keep cup devotee to the op shop queen, from the sourdough starter experimenter to the vegan yogi. From a child who joins the school Kaitiaki Team and uses their reusable straw, to a grandmother who teachers her grandchildren how to mend.

There are those who shout their plastic-free exploits from the rooftops (raising my hand for that one ️) and those who quietly read labels to check for palm oil.

But no matter how loosely I use the term ‘Eco Warrior’, there are many who are just… well… not. And I know first hand that muscle clenching, teeth grinding feeling of pulling the apple core or disposable cup out of the recycling bin for what feels like the 2020th time. Yup, living with someone who didn’t get the recycling memo, or is adverse to turning out lights when they leave a room, can be enough to give even the most zen of Eco-warrior’s a plastic-filled nightmare.

So how can we encourage our friends and family to join us on our eco-journey without just being plain annoying? I’ve talked to lots of Eco Warriors, and lots of family and friends of Eco Warriors, and here’s what I’ve learnt:

NAG-FREE-ZONE

The thing that came up over and over again, is how important it is not to be pushy, judgey or naggy. If you do, you’re a dead-cert to put them off any kind of eco forever, and possibly put them off you too! No one likes to be bossed around or made to feel stupid or bad. Our home is somewhere we should be able to relax and feel like we are not being judged and monitored. Oh, and that includes no passive-aggressive sighs or tuts as you turn out a left-on light (I’ve been guilty of that before!) So, first thing first, take a step back, take a deep breath, and be kind.

STEP-BY-STEP

Rather than trying to turn your own, and others’ lives upside down overnight, try encouraging one baby step at a time. This will mean that you have to temporarily turn a blind eye to the disposable takeaway containers while you encourage a reusable coffee cup, or bite your tongue about the excessively long showers while you introduce them to solid shampoo and conditioner bars. It’s about progress, not perfection. And remember that you too probably once had long showers, or were oblivious to disposable takeaway containers. I saw a great idea from Kate Hall (aka Ethically Kate), she has a folder of photos in her phone of her pre-eco existence, like a pic of her sipping through not one but TWO plastic straws, and another with a disposable coffee cup in hand. It’s a great reminder that we are human, all still learning, all ignorant in some ways.

EASY AND ACCESSIBLE

For a lot of people, living sustainably seems like a lot of hard work. You are, after all, taking away disposable items, which were all created for convenience in the first place. That’s why you have to make it as easy as possible for people. That may mean that you have to do the hard work for them until they realise all the benefits themselves. If you want everyone in your household to reduce food waste, you could take responsibility for the compost / worm-farm / bokashi. Make a clearly labelled container for food scraps, and let them know that all they need to do is put it in there, you’ll look after the rest.

Perhaps you could help get them started with a homemade or bought gift. I make beeswax wraps for my mum and sister because I know it saves them the hassle / cost of making or buying their own, and I made my husband 3 funky jar/rubberband reusable coffee cups because that way he can have one at home, one in his car, and one at work (and because if I bought him a fancy one he’d probably just lose it!)

Oh Natural has an awesome Waste-free Starter Kit which makes an amazing gift or an excellent way to start your own waste free journey. It’s super great value, you get $90 worth of waste free goodies for $65! It includes Ethique’s solid shampoo & conditioner Sampler Pack, a Caliwoods To Go Reusable Drinking Straw, Rethink Multi Pack of 3 Produce Bags, A Spruce Dish Cloth from The Green Collective, a Florence dish brush, Fair + Square dish & cleaning soap and more.

Here are a few more great gift ideas. These are products that I personally use and love, and have helped me with my own eco-journey:

The Eco Brush, their travel case, as well as the Eco Floss. All plastic-free and the travel case is so handy.

Caliwoods ‘to-go’ stainless steel straw and cleaner sets – so great to have in your handbag to avoid those nasty plastic straws.

Good Change eco cloths and reusable eco wipes

Frankie Apothecary natural sunscreen, I wear this under my makeup and it’s great for kids as well. It doubles as an insect repellent too!

Ethique Flash laundry bar and stain remover – I find this especially handy when travelling

Or, if they’re tech-savvy, why not introduce them to one or more of the awesome apps that have been created to help people live more sustainably, here are a few to check out:

  • Good on You: This app brings together everything you need to know about ethical and sustainable fashion, including fashion brand ratings, with expert analysis to give each brand an easy-to-understand score.
  • ShareWaste: ShareWaste connects people to recycle their organic waste, make soil and grow their own produce. Whether you have kitchen scraps but nowhere to compost them, or whether you have excess capacity in your compost, worm-farm or chickens, Sharewaste brings together hosts (who receive organic waste) with donors (who donate their organic waste) to process kitchen scraps to make new soil.
  • Oroeco: Automatically track your climate impacts with the carbon footprint calculator. See how every part of your life connects to global warming, from driving and flying to your eating, shopping, and home energy efficiency choices.
  • Olio: Connecting neighbours with each other and Food Waste Hero volunteers with local businesses, to share food (and other things) rather than chuck them away.

UNDERSTANDING THE WHY

Ultimately, to be an Eco Warrior, you need to understand the point behind it all. Now I’m not saying it is your job to be a one-on-one teacher/lecturer (please don’t!), but there are some easy, gentle ways of helping your loved ones to understand the why. Watch a film with them: you could delve into the perils of the fast fashion industry with ‘The True Cost’, be awestruck by the magnificence of our planet with David Attenborough’s ‘Planet Earth’ or get your head around the meat and dairy debate with ‘Cowspiracy’ (all available on Netflix). Films and documentaries are also a nice way to show that you are not the only one campaigning for the planet. Or you could lend them a book (ok, they might not read it, but… they might). Even just sharing a small piece of information that you’ve learned, and letting them mull it over in their own time. Today I told my husband that I was shocked to learn that chewing gum had plastic in it. He might not give up chewing gum today, but he definitely took note.

TAKE A LEAF OUT OF ELSA’S BOOK

If you sense that your attempts aren’t being received well, or are risking your relationships with people you care about, maybe it’s time to ‘let it go’. I’m not saying to completely give up, because you will still be doing the most powerful thing of all…

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

While sometimes it may feel like your efforts have fallen on completely deaf ears, they truly haven’t. That information is in there, somewhere, and perhaps, one day, it will surface into action. In the meantime, every single time you pick up a piece of rubbish, use your reusable produce bags or pack your waste-free lunch, people notice, and I’m not just talking about people in your household. Whatever type of Eco Warrior you may be, whatever your shade of green, sometimes it is the silent actions that have the most impact (and are the least annoying!).

I love that, as part of my job, I get to share about incredible, sustainable NZ businesses. This post is written in collaboration with Oh Natural. I only work with businesses that I use, trust and love. The words and opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Juliet – The Great Eco Journey

HERE ARE SOME OF JULIET’S SUSTAINABLE FAVOURITES…

WIN WITH GOOD CHANGE

We’ve got 2 x Good Change prize packs to give away! Each pack includes 1 x pack of Good Change Medium Eco Cloths & 1 x pack of Good Change Reusable Bamboo Eco Wipes. To be in the draw to WIN, simply comment below with a sustainable living tip of your own. Good Luck!

*Enter as many times as you like but each entry must be a different comment. Entries close midnight Monday 27 July. Prizes are not exchangeable for cash. Winner will be notified by email.

59 thoughts on “How to encourage others to be Eco Warriors without being a bit… well..annoying!

  1. Grace says:

    Trying to process or freeze seasonal produce whilst its in abundance to use waste free throughout the year

  2. Megan B says:

    I’ve slowly been implementing eco-friendly systems in our flat kitchen by providing Spruce cloths for the dishes, and refilling our dishwashing liquid at Bin Inn instead of purchasing a new bottle full! I’ve just discovered I can refill our dishwasher powder in this way too so I’ll be doing that from now on.

  3. Shawnie Dalton says:

    I’m newly obsessed with fruit and vege reusable bags to put produce in at the supermarket. I always loved using reusable bags for groceries but hated using plastic/or using nothing, so these are my new favourite 💚

  4. Vicki Olsen says:

    I grow as much of my own produce as I can, dry my own herbs for herbal teas and keep a few hens for fresh eggs.

  5. Vicki Olsen says:

    I use a coco fibre dish scrub pad, instead of cheap artificial scrub pads that shed synthetic fibres.

  6. MARIANNE PETTIGREW says:

    My latest love is Stainless Steel Clothes Pegs!!!!! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE – Well worth the investment – no more plastic clothes pegs getting broken and in the tip – We live in Wellington – so yes, I can confirm that the Stainless Steel Pegs will keep the clothes on the line during 120 kph winds!!!

  7. Brittany says:

    I really needed to red this as someone who gets.. a little too passionate (*cough pushy cough*) from time to time. One of the things I’m making an effort with this year onwards is to always dine in and not take out!

  8. felicity smith says:

    I tend to complement those making great choices like saying “wow, what a great idea for old tea towels” “brilliant bringing your own cup”, “love your honeywraps” so others can hear and get the vibe without saying “look at me!”

  9. Fleur Hope says:

    White vinegar water and essential oils( especially citrus) for the best all purpose chemical free cleaner and baking soda as a whitener and toothpaste. Smoothest cleanest teeth ever.

  10. Katy Jordan says:

    Getting secondhand clothing, and mending clothes instead of chucking them out at the first sign of wear! This saves you money and prevents a huge amount of textile waste.

  11. Sarah Blair says:

    We have purchased bento style lunchboxes for our kids so that we don’t have to use yucky cling wrap or other packaging. This also allows us to buy larger packet of snack foods so that we are not getting as muck packaging from the shop.

  12. Talitha Moore says:

    We use everything reuseable, no throw away plastic at our place and I make all my own cleaning products so we have glass containers for those.

  13. Amy says:

    Be a role model! Lead by example, actions speak louder than words. eg BYO bags, water bottles, cutlery and containers at work, reuse glass and plastic where safe to do so.

  14. Karen says:

    We always say no to plastic bags, we constantly re-use containers & if we have leftovers they don’t go to waste. We always make something else out of them: e.g make a pie out of the leftovers

  15. Kelly S says:

    I take a reusable glass container to the fish monger when buying fresh fish for tea. Works at the butcher too, and some supermarkets!

  16. Dianne says:

    To save power and water have a shower head on half strength. Cuts down on power bills and reduces water use.

  17. sue says:

    I use old flannels and towels for cleaning rags. Like the idea of making a roll out of cloths. Looks really tidy.

  18. Jessica says:

    My biggest tip to friends is always start small – trying to change everything at once is really overwhelming (and expensive!). Start making swaps when your current product runs out – e.g when you finish your bottle of shampoo, buy a shampoo bar. When it’s time to get a new toothbrush, go for a bamboo one etc. When you’re buying your groceries next, look into refill stores or markets. Then you’re making lots of small swaps and eventually you’re overhauling your whole lifestyle for good! 🙂

  19. Abby Fisher says:

    Look up online if there’s any bring your own container grocery shops locally. They’re becoming more and more common and quite often are small locally owned businesses which is even better!

  20. Abby Fisher says:

    Always carry a light weight keep cup for take away drinks from cafes.
    Or, make time to drink in!

  21. Nikki says:

    We use our reusable bags, purchase products in glass over plastic and use our egg shells in the garden to keep away the snails.

  22. Krissy says:

    Switching my shampoo, conditioner, body wash and hand soap to bars instead of bottles! It means no plastic waste from these products and they tend to last longer so I’m saving money, win win!

  23. Stephanie says:

    Great feeling re using containers. I enjoy knowing I’m not contributing to more hard plastic being purchased.

  24. Rebekah says:

    I make sourdough bread for hubby and fermented buckwheat bread for myself. I actually really enjoy the process.

  25. Sharon says:

    I collect the coffee grounds and used tea bags from my work, and take them home to compost. Slowly, more staff are thinking to put tea bags into the compost container, rather than in the rubbish!

  26. Sonia says:

    I use Cloth to wipe dishes and no glad wrap in my house as I use plates of different sizes to cover food.

  27. Britt says:

    We all like to have new clothes and are guilty of getting bored of our own stuff, right? Guilty as charged. One thing I stick to is in order to buy one thing, I have to sell one thing from my wardrobe. 1 in and 1 out rule. Plus I tend to buy second hand as well, so it is a win win for planet Earth! Reducing waste, as one mans trash is another’s treasure. Plus recycling of garments!

  28. Donna says:

    I have multiple foldable reusable bags, in my handbag, my work bag, my car, my partners car etc. So wherever we are and whatever we’re doing, we always have a bag and no need to be given a shop one. I also like to gift family and friends eco-friendly items, like beeswax wraps, reusable bags, reusable cups etc. Or gift them experiences, such as a massage, or meal out, rather than buying too much stuff.

  29. Ashleigh says:

    We got chickens when we bought our own house. No need to throw away any food scraps now. Rescued an old garden shed being thrown away by friends to convert into our chicken coop too. Straw from their nesting boxes gets reused in the mulch for the garden.

  30. Rachel says:

    Buying from local bulk bin store, reusing containers, jars and homemade bags to shop with zero waste. At the time I’m able to buy local organic produce and support a business in my community!

  31. Sophia says:

    I always try to buy second hand clothes/furniture etc first. Then if that’s not available I go for the sustainable new version. But I’m trying to buy less new things in general – even if they are sustainable!

  32. Stephanie Kennedy says:

    I like achieving goals, or put another way challenging myself. For me, a true eco warrior cannot waste products that are either not environmental either. Everything should be finished. Why waste what you have bought already? So I am absolutely delighted when yet another product is GONE! I then enjoy the thrill of finding its replacement. Usually, either superior in its construction and standards or price. It’s the best feeling for me.

  33. Lesley McIntosh says:

    I have been growing all our vegetables and making compost with food scraps , paper , seaweed etc so they are all feed with organic matter

  34. Stacey Scott says:

    Minimalism.
    Consciously thinking about the items you purchase, I think about each personal item and if I specifically need it, if it brings value to my life, if it is ethically made, or is there an eco friendly alternative

  35. zoedekker says:

    I always choose sauces, yogurt, groceries that are packaged in glass jars if I can.. Then I can wash and reuse them and fill them up at the bulk waste free grocer with pantry items, or store other bits and pieces in them.

  36. Kathy Ferguson Clark says:

    using a phone strap and attach it to a dummy so that u will never loose one put the loop around your arm

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