How to make a difference

Young women laughing arm-in-arm

Human beings don’t live in economies. We live in families, neighbourhoods and communities. (Photo: Priscilla Du Preez via Unsplash)

Worrying about the planet can feel overwhelming.

Yet the more we repress information — oceans full of whale-killing plastic, toxic consumer products, dying bees, extreme weather, etc. — the worse it feels. Ignoring or holding back these feelings leads to despair, burnout, blaming, alienation and a sense of powerlessness.

Some people walk around feeling bad about their contribution to the problem, isolate themselves as protection and then judge everyone else, assuming others don’t care.

What’s needed is a focus on people and relationships. We all know difficult things are happening in our world (some pay attention more than others) because we all live here together. Most people are doing their best and actually value the same things.

The solution: Empower people to connect and build community!

Human beings don’t live in economies. We live in families, neighbourhoods and communities. (You probably already know that a few, simple, selfless acts — like picking up litter or organizing a block party — could make your street a better place to live.)

The benefits of building community relationships:

  • Social support — sharing concerns, fears and dreams
  • A sense of belonging
  • Accountability and validation
  • It’s fun!

There’s no “one path.” Everyone doesn’t have to do exactly the same thing. It’s actually better if you add your own personal flare to the actions and changes needed in the world.

Can you be a leader in your community?

It takes courage to make change and guide others toward change. But when you lead — share your knowledge, experience and presence — you’re making the choice not to shrink from responsibility. This gives you the power to inspire. And it’s addictive.

How you can lead

01

Stop and listen

Instead of arguing or persuading

02

Surround yourself with others who care

03

Recognize that everyone has a unique role to play

Build on those strengths

04

Give others space to experience and share what they’re feeling

05

Don’t judge

People like you are already taking initiative to make a difference in their local communities — where real change happens. Meeting your neighbours and producing results at the block level creates meaning, belonging and builds social capital. And it gives you all a network of support when times get tough.

Building community encourages people to be part of something much bigger than themselves.

How to "green" your family

Are you the eco-friendliest person in your home? Family members can be the hardest to “green.”

When the living planet needs us to recycle less, use hankies, cloth diapers and non-toxic deodorant and reconnect with nature, how do you get your loved ones to buy in?

  1. Appreciate that most people are doing their best and value the same things you do!
  2. Host a family meeting to create new house rules.

Establish “green” house rules

  • To avoid eye rolling and the “groan zone” — where people get irritated and bring low energy — provide food and drink.
  • Hold space. Listen more, talk less and ask questions. Trust that you know enough to lead!
  • Ask each family member to contribute at least one new house rule. No rule is too small or too big. (The solutions already in them will surprise you.)
  • Write the rules down and post for all to see. Use sticky notes on a dedicated wall or bulletin board.
  • Set dates for new house rule implementation (consider offering a prize or incentive).
  • If competition suits your family, make it a challenge. Who can save the most water? Whose house rule most reduced the power bill?
  • Challenge your relatives to do the same or invite the neighbours to play along.
  • Be open to the idea that things will turn out better than planned!

The best part about going “green” as a family? Being on a team can make many of us more effective. And collaborative solutions are more likely to work than trying to go it alone.