I borrowed Greta Thunberg’s new book from the library recently and wrote a couple of reviews, but there’s one key message that’s stayed with me, which I’ve not written about… until now.
You may think that whatever you do to be ‘green’ is futile, because one person’s efforts to reduce their consumption can never be enough to change the trajectory of the disaster into which we’re headed. I’ll admit, my own efforts feel futile. But I keep trying. However, it must be easy to slip into the mindset of not bothering, because it makes no difference.
One chapter in Greta’s new book argues that your efforts *do* matter. Here’s why…
People copy people
People copy people. It’s how we’ve evolved. Remember when you were at school and trying to fit in? I remember in primary school in the 1980s, the cool kids were all wearing berets. I desperately wanted a beret, so I could fit in, but by the time I got one (which might’ve been a year later, after begging mum for ages), berets were out of fashion and snoods were ‘in’. Literally one fashion got replaced by the other the same week I got my beret.
The kids ripped the piss out of me for donning ‘last years’ fashions, and I gave up. I didn’t even ask for a snood. I was very young and felt utterly powerless to change my appalling social status as #1 victim of the school bullies. Not helped by being ‘goodie two shoes’, out of touch, unfashionable, and uncool.
So there’s school, where everyone wants to be accepted, and sometimes that means copying each other. That’s a bad example really, because that’s the kind of copying that drives excessive consumerism. But the point remains, people copy people.
Looking at what other people are doing, and wanting to be like them is part of human nature. So let’s be brave and make our lifestyle a positive example for the environment.
Next stage of life
So you’ve done the kid thing. The peer pressure. Then you grow up, look at what friends and family are doing. Perhaps they’ve got solar panels on the roof, or an electric car. Nice.
It’s been shown that if one person gets solar panels on their roof, typically, another house in the area will get solar panels, because the fact that your neighbours are doing it, makes people think about doing it themselves. It’s aspirational.
So, do something good for the environment — you might inspire others, and before you know it, you’ve started a positive trend in living more green!
Of course, not everyone can afford these luxuries (and upgrading the car isn’t necessarily that ‘green’ anyway) but you can demonstrate greener living in modest ways too. People like to save money. People like to be ‘green’ if it suits their purse, and actually, the best way to live a greener life is simply to consume less. A lot less.
Talking about change
If you’re vocal about your endeavours to reduce your consumption, it can make people think, and inspire them to do the same. It will inevitably save money for you and anyone inspired to do the same thing.
People complaining about their fuel bills might be inspired to know that you’ve kept yours low by taking a different approach to staying warm. I’ve been using a furry throw to stay cosy once the heating clicks off (we only have it on for half an hour to take the chill off the lounge).
Alternative lifestyles won’t suit everyone, but by being a pioneer in a good idea, we can inspire other people behave in a more environmentally-friendly way.
In parts of Europe, some people reduced their flying habits because ‘flight shaming’ became a thing. If you decide to take action to stop flying and tell people about your great domestic holidays instead, it might inspire them to explore their home country. It’s probably kinder than shaming them, too.
I’ve met a couple of people who moved abroad and later commented, “I wish I’d seen more of the UK before I left!” There’s more to your country than your home town. Take your holidays exploring it.
Sowing seeds of change
Whether your efforts to be more green are big or small, telling others about what you’re doing, can be a seed for greater change. Yes, it seems small, and it might seem futile. But cultures grow and develop from people copying one another. It’s how kids learn, how adults adapt to new environments, and it’s often how successful marketing works.
Be the change that you want to see, and maybe, other people will follow suit. And if they don’t, well at least you know you’ve done your best. Small things can inspire others and make a bigger difference than you think.
That was the key message from one chapter in Greta’s book. I don’t remember which chapter, and I’ve since returned the book to the library, but I hope I’ve clearly explained how the action of one can inspire the action of others. No man is an island — we’re all interdependent and inspire each other to do better.
© Susie Kearley 2023. All Rights Reserved.