Sick of being the only one of your friends or family or workplace that gives two hoots about the environment? Maria Hannaford from The Society Co. knows how it feels. Here she shares her best tips for getting others to give a crap.

Attention all environmental advocates – you, like me, are probably the only greenie in the village. Right? That ‘hippy’ of the family that throws around terms like ‘organic’ and ‘free range’ and, heaven forbid, ‘ethical’? That lone ranger who gets the butt of hairy underarm jokes at family dinners? For the record, I totally shave my underarms.

You just don’t get why nobody else cares.

A few nights ago I had the pleasure of participating in a Q&A panel at the latest Suburban Sandcastles film night (if you’re in the Bayside Melbourne area do check it out, very interesting films on show monthly). Bridget, the brains behind the initiative, asked me how we can inspire the people around us to care too.

Having worked in behaviour change in previous careers, I know the theoretical ins and outs of ‘encouraging’ people to adopt new behaviours. The theory says you’ll be encouraged to change your behaviour when you realise there is conflict between your values and your actions. In practice, of course, theory mostly goes to shit. It is true that dissonance fuels change, however in reality changing people’s behaviour long-term takes time, an epiphany/major event and/or time.

What I can confidently assert are useful tricks to employ for optimal chance of changing behaviour are these here three things:

1. Everyone has a different set of values. Find that individual’s sweet spot and work it. Baby.

Your sister might not care about soil health and fertiliser run-off, but she probably wants to avoid feeding her kids toxins. Your dad might not give a hoot about the mental welfare of pigs, but he loves a good Sunday pork roast and must agree that the pastured ones taste a hell of a lot better. Your mum might think ‘organic’ is just another word for ‘overpriced’ but she likely wants to avoid skin products that’ll pump toxins into her body and increase her risk of breast cancer. I started on this journey from a personal health perspective. Everyone cares about something. Find out what it is.

2. Lead by example.

Practise what you preach, put your money where your mouth is, etc etc. All that jazz. For your pal to change their behaviour, they need to feel that the environment around them is supporting them to do so. You need to provide that environment.

3. Be patient.

Coz did I mention it takes time?

This post was originally published on The Society Co. Read more of The Society Co’s posts here.