Green My Guy: A Semester in Review
I know, the sentence startled you too, didn’t it? It seems just yesterday it was August and the blog was nothing but a faint idea. Now, four months and 26 posts later, the semester is ending and its time to wrap up my writing for the year.
Will I continue my blogging in 2010? Most likely. I have so thoroughly enjoyed sharing my experiences with “greening” Austin and I would love to keep doing so. To all my readers, supporters, and fellow bloggers, especially Granola Tendencies, I would like to say a very warm thank you. It is your encouragement, your comments, and your “Janie, I recycled today!” text messages that have made this blog such a fulfilling and fun experience.
I would also like to say a very special thank you to Chris Scafe, of Sunflower Curbside Recycling, Kathy Richardson, operation supervisor of the Waste Reduction and Recycling Division for the City of Lawrence, Nancy O’Conner, Director of Education & Outreach at the Community Mercantile, and of course, Simran Sethi, my mentor and professor, for taking the time out to share your thoughts, knowledge, and guidance.
And as this time of year is one for reflection, here’s a look back on what I learned and some tips I have for those trying to turn a friend into a green guy or gal:
No, you don’t have to be 6 ft. 4 and ridiculously skinny to be a model. Modeling, or acting out certain behaviors, is an effective way to encourage others to act the same way. When I started recycling at my house, Austin observed these behaviors and saw how easy it can be. In turn, he set up a recycling system at his house so that he can recycle as well. Now, even his two roommates recycle.
2. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu
When Austin and I started talking about sustainable eating, I thought that assaulting him with pictures, facts, and stories of industrial food production, CAFOs, and pollution would surely change his mind. It’s no surprise that it didn’t. After speaking with Nancy O’Conner of the Community Mercantile about sustainable eating on a budget, I realized that implementing sustainable eating habits is most effective one step at a time. With what psychologists call “The Foot-in-the-Door Technique,” people are most inclined to commit to something bigger if they first commit to something small. First, Austin committed to buying his granola at the Merc. Now, he’s also agreed to buy bread from the local bakery. Slow and steady wins the race.
Sometimes it is the way we perceive something that keeps us from changing. From experiences, memories, and beliefs we accumulate in our lives, each person has a different associative network in their minds. This means that while Austin and I are looking at the same situation, we may see it in completely different ways. For example, whereas he used to see his extensive collection of clothing as an indicator of financial security and social status, I saw it as a display of uncontrolled consumerism. Having him count his clothes helped him see his habits in a different light and realize its environmental impacts. Now, he thinks more before he buys.
Like I said before, telling Austin about all the negative aspects of our food system didn’t encourage him to change his behavior. In a way, I would “punish” his unsustainable eating habits by trying to make him feel guilty for eating a hamburger or fast food. It wasn’t until he suddenly bought a ton of farmer-produced dried nuts and fruit at the suggestion of a close friend, that I realized how important positive reinforcement was or how influential our social circle can be. Encouraging sustainable activity through praise and support is much more effective than using scare tactics or criticisms.
5. Have Fun!
Though “greening” Austin may have been frustrating at times, we’ve tried to have fun through the whole experience. Being willing to compromise, listen, and understand are all important to encouraging others to be more sustainable without damaging your relationship.
Good luck to you in “greening” your guy or gal and thanks again for joining Austin and I on our little eco-journey!
What has been your favorite “Green Girl Meets All-American Boy” post?