In our efforts to inspire change, it is important that we do so without judging those around us. Encourage them, educate them, celebrate their successes and let them know how proud you are of their efforts, but please don’t shame or ridicule someone because they drank from a single use plastic straw. We are at a tipping point in awareness of packaging, plastics and resource waste and the long term environmental, social and economic impact of such waste. It takes some people longer to transition and fully understand the need to avoid the unnecessary, especially when they have had generations of marketers telling them to consume more.
Attaching a negative stigma to an action often back fires. Look at how many youth have purposefully taken up habits like smoking specifically because of the unhealthy, dangerous and socially unacceptable images associated with the habit.
Not too long ago I was at an event about the issues with single use plastic straws entering the marine environment. There was discussion and comments from the audience. One person stood up and claimed that when the rest of us see someone walking down the street drinking out of a disposable cup or sipping on a plastic straw that we should point at them, call them out, shame them and ridicule them. I completely disagree with this behaviour. While I understand his intent was that using single use disposables should be made to be socially unacceptable, the way this person recommended going about it, by belittling someone and making them feel ashamed of themselves or their ignorance, is called bullying and is never the right course of action. There are better, more effective ways to inspire change.
Victoria is a caffeine driven, food loving city. As a result people will wander into our shop carrying their single use coffee cup or plastic bubble tea cup. We don’t even acknowledge it. Instead we make a point of explaining what we do in our shop and why we are doing it. We take the opportunity to educate without pointing fingers. Often that customer will listen to us and then say “I guess I shouldn’t be using this cup” and we reply “You’ll do better next time!” then we offer then solutions and resources to help them make the change away from single use disposables.
When someone does walk in carrying a reusable coffee cup we celebrate them, we make a big deal about how great it is that they have one and that they make the effort to use it. We always comment on people’s reusable shopping bags and market baskets (and some of them are beautiful!) because positive feed back has been shown in study after study after study to reinforce behaviour much better than shaming, punishing or ridiculing ever will.
I like to follow the two age old principles:
“Treat others the way you wish to be treated” and “Lead by example.”
*image credit The Power of Positivity
West Coast Refill