Monday, October 25, 2010

I'll Reduce, Reuse & Recycle but Let me Have my Candy

In preparation for my favorite day of the year – discounting religious holidays, large sporting events, family gatherings, and the season premier of 30 Rock - (Halloween), I’ve spent the past few days perusing articles coaching consumers how to "Go Green" with their Halloween festivities this upcoming weekend. Nothing has surprised me too much as the majority of the tips are straightforward and common sense (i.e. use reusable bags, bake a pumpkin pie from the insides of that ghoulish jack-o-lantern you plan to carve, encourage kids not to litter, make home-made costumes, etc.). Despite the simplicity of the message, what struck me as a bit over-the-top for a celebration focused primarily on allowing children the indulgence of a guilty pleasure (candy) for one day a year was arrogance and confrontational tones taken in some of the articles.

Although these are certainly not representative of the entire Green Community, when reading a handful of articles, the authors’ voices transformed these simple tips from fun suggestions to obligatory commandments. I read, “…bake homemade, organic treats that trick-or-treaters can eat while at your house. This will promote local farmers, reduce trash, and cut down on all the wasted plastic used to wrap those individual fun sized candies distributed by large candy corporations.” But what I really felt when I read it was “if you eat a Snickers, you may as well be directly polluting the local ecosystem.”

This example represents a growing trend and potential problem for businesses and advocacy groups with sustainability at their core: the progress achieved by the hard work of many is being undone by those who promote the “Green Movement” wielding as weapons criticism, arrogance, and disdain for those that may not share their exact beliefs.

Why is this? Big shocker! People in general (our customers, friends & family, or neighbors) do not respond well to overt criticism especially when it is directed at their values, ways of life, and habits. Even though we try to be logical and rational in our decision-making, often it is our emotions that are the impetuses that drive our choices in life. Criticism only serves to bring out the negative emotions in people, which, in this case, can become irreparably tied to all things green having the reverse effect to promoting sustainability.

Going forth, I urge you, if you have something to share, promote or suggest to a person who may not share your exact beliefs, do so with grace, patience, and with respect. If in the end, they agree and you successfully elicit positive change, kudos. If not, respect their rights and freedom of expression because that is the foundation of our society and what makes us great. Be tolerant and respectful of others and who knows, perhaps they will treat you and your ideas the same.

We want your feedback. What are some of the changes you've been able to bring about among your circles of influence that have had a positive impact upon the environment? What strategies have you found successful? Unsuccessful?

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