In case you missed it, reducing the negative impacts of our modern human life on the environment is important to me. I think climate change is kind of a big deal. In fact, it’s probably the biggest deal. I also think that we could all be doing more to reduce our impact and to call for greater action on Australia’s contribution to climate change. It’s a big job, which means we have to pull our socks up and get moving. Most things I read on social media focus on our choices as individual consumers. I think that approach is problematic for lots of reasons, partly because I think we’re often told it’s ok to keep buying things so long as we choose the green alternative. But also, I know that some people really struggle to take those steps in their personal lives and feel like they’re not making enough of an impact.
One way I’ve found to increase my influence is to extend my focus past my personal life. Each of us is part of several communities, through our social groups, workplace, sporting groups, friendship groups, whatever it is. These communities present a whole bunch of new opportunities to influence people and create positive change. It sounds like a pretty obvious statement, but do me a favour and think for a second. Are you doing all you can to be a leader in these spaces?
For me, I realised recently that the relationship between my work and my lifestyle doesn’t have to be a one way thing. I have been stressing about the impact working full time could have on my lifestyle – but maybe they haven’t been stressing enough about what hiring a full time tree lover means for them!
Here are three recent examples of how I’ve widened my area of effect from individual to community and organisational change.
- Write better policy.After seeing lots of opportunities to reduce waste at my previous workplace, I suggested we write a sustainability policy to include environmental considerations in our plans, projects, events and workplace habits. Then I volunteered to help write it. I found examples of other workplace policies and met with some great local organisations to learn how they made it work. Now there are concrete examples and guidelines for people to work with.
Paperwork is painful but it can give you a good support system to lean on when you’re pushing for change.
- Make a submission.Last year I volunteered with my local food hub to write a submission to council on their sustainability plan for our area. Sadly, I can’t be available to support the hub each week by packing their veggie boxes. So, when the local plan was being released without any real consideration of our food systems, I saw an opportunity to advocate. The food hub crew are always flat out and by taking on the task I got to contribute in a way that suited us both. We suggested practical ways that council could make long term change and better support healthy food systems. Feedback is important and sometimes we must be willing to engage with a system to change it.
- Be an environmental champion.Just this week, I was asked to be a First Aid Officer at my new work. We’re setting up a new team within a new office and logistics are a big part of the work. I agreed, and then on a whim I asked if I they also needed an Environmental officer. No such position existed until 3pm today, until I put the idea out there. Suddenly, sustainability is on the agenda for our staff induction day and I have a platform to advocate for setting up our new office in an environmentally conscious way. I won’t kid myself and think that this means everyone will be instantly on board (compost toilets in an office environment aren’t unheard of but we might still have away to go there). It won’t be perfect, but at least we can start encouraging people to reduce waste at work, learn more about sustainability and engage with the issue. Booyah!
People will be far more open to making better choices if it’s made easy for them. So be the one to make it easier.
These may sound like impossible tasks for you, but that’s because these examples are based on my skill set. This is the sort of work I have experience and knowledge in doing, so it’s what I’ve chosen to do. These are my current areas of influence.
Your skill set will look entirely different from mine and your opportunities for influence will be different too. Maybe your skill is telling stories. Or talking to people. Or organising events. Or helping to file documents while hiding in the back room and not making eye contact with anyone. Or maybe it’s reading. Or sewing. Or eating. It doesn’t matter! Everyone has their own strengths. If you haven’t found yours yet, dig deeper. Find what your thing is and there will be a way you can use it to make positive change. Our environmental problems aren’t going away. There’s a long way to go to make things better, but there’s only one way to get there.
Start pulling those socks, peeps.