Sustainability: Winning Over Those Reluctant to Change

The biggest challenge in sustainability is not finding alternative solutions. Many of those alternative solutions to our biggest environmental and social challenges already exist. The greatest issue is generating real behavioural change. Working out how to win over those who are reluctant to change is one of the most important problems of our age.

In my work as a designer and consultant, I most commonly work with those who are already ‘tuned in’ to sustainability and environmental issues. But every now and then, I can come up against those who do not share my goals and ideals. People who are adamant that they cannot (or will not) change their habits or behaviours.

Perhaps you have encountered those reluctant to change in your own life. So here are a few tips that may help in winning them over:

  • Lead by example, making sustainable activities, choices and practices the norm.
  • Make sure you point our that sustainable solutions are better for them, not just for people and planet in general. (Point out how much fun certain things can be, and point out time saving or fiscal advantages, for example.)
  • Know your audience – tailor conversations to their methods of learning and their interests, not your own.
  • Don’t preach, discuss. Be sure to take divergent opinions into account and give considered responses. Don’t pretend you have unique insight or know best.
  • Don’t be too single track. Know when to breach certain issues – pick your battles.

Keeping an open and optimistic outlook can help combat the apathy and disillusionment which lead to inaction. Showing what is possible can help challenge assumptions and find an outlet for dissociative guilt. Even the simplest, briefest conversation could ignite a spark that leads someone on to make small, necessary changes.

So even with those who seem intransigent, it never hurts to keep talking. Sometimes, we can win others over to our way of thinking and affect the behaviours of those around us. If we all convince one other person, this could have more impact than we think.

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