Green social media

Why the green sector needs to get better at Social Media and web — part one

Environmental professionals, especially in the public sector, need to get better at utilizing social media as part of their work. The following post explains why, and gives you a few ready-to-use pointers to take you that extra mile.

The green field is missing out and falling behind

I keep coming back to this subject, simply because it’s important.

As someone who lives on the internet, it pains me to time and time again see amazing products and organizations miss their audience because they don’t know how to navigate social media and behavioral change strategies.

It’s the reason I switched from working as an environmental planner to working as a copywriter. There are so many passionate professionals out there who get up every day and work themselves to the bones to make the world a better place.

But I saw them struggling with reaching their goals and falling behind in terms of communication. Often the “script” of a communication campaign would follow the same script as the ones I remember from my childhood.

Use less energy, save water and do it for future generations.

These campaigns are heavy on facts and appeal to the better nature in. They ask us to make better choices, and basically be better humans. The problem is, they don’t work.

I came across these campaigns all the time and was frustrated out of my skull. Why? Because I knew that only a few tips and tricks could help them make an enormous difference.

I wanted to give professionals in the green industry the tools they needed to make those changes happen. After a few years of frustration, I switched carrier path. I now work full-time writing copy for websites, newsletters, and social media. I also teach these techniques to my clients, so they don’t have to depend on me.

Social media is no longer an online identity – it is part of your identity.

If you’re not online, you don’t exist.

 

The green industry is no different.

 

You don’t have to beat your green competitors!

The beauty of the environmental sector is, you don’t with other green organizations or products. If done right, information campaigns promoting behavioral change, do not compete with other behavioral change campaigns. You are not a soft drink, trying to outmaneuver other soft drinks.

We need all hands on deck to make the world a more sustainable place. Luckily, the communication strategies that work for pro-environmental behavior are so good you don’t have to fight other companies in a green arena. Your success does not mean another green organization has to fail.

But you still need to work hard and stay visible, so you don’t lose ground to non-sustainable solutions.

Bringing the green sector into the age of the internet — and social media

 

Being a kid in the 80’s and 90’s I remember the marketing slogan: Sex sells.

Selling climate change prevention and mitigation as sexy is hard, and a rather inept thing to do. You would never promote 3rd world aid as sexy, it’s insensitive and very inappropriate. Good news! Sex isn’t the only sales tool anymore.

For the last decade describing an ad as sexy has referred less to the physical cleavages and abs of the 80’s and 90’s and more to a sense of ‘Shiny’.

So does the environmental sector need to get shiny?

Yes and no. The world is a very different place than it was just ten years ago. In the world of marketing, this manifests itself in the way that authenticity sells more than sparkles.

 

I repeat: Authenticity sells

 

WOOP WOOP! This is great news for the environmental sector as it is if full of passionate and inspiring, authentic individuals. The bad news is these individuals usually don’t feel comfortable navigating the social media jungle. Often, they even to downplay their media presence on purpose.

 

The WHY, the passion, and the story

Authenticity is scary and daunting, and if you —like me— remember a time before the internet you probably don’t have an urge to create a youtube channel, or write about your innermost secret online.

But this is what vast parts of the internet is now. Liza Koshy, an internet celebrity with over 40 million online followers, announced her breakup with fellow youtube celebrity David Dobrik via a youtube video. I dare you to watch and not get something in your eye.

You might be thinking, yeah well, all of these people are going to regret plastering the internet like this. But this is the equivalent of my older generations telling my peers and me, that we would regret spending so much time playing video games. We didn’t. In fact, we all have great memories of those games and it shaped who we became as individuals, and as a culture. To spell it out:

 

Being vulnerable and authentic online isn’t something we’re going to regret. It’s the new normal.

 

Is scary, it’s new, and it feels like it goes against everything you know. But you need to show more of yourself and your values if you want to create trust.

Your audience what to know ‘Why’ you are doing what you are doing. Why are you selling biodegradable cutlery, why are you working to prevent deforestation, and in my case why are you writing about behavioral change online instead of having a normal 9-5? That also why the ‘About’ page on your website is crucial to your business.

 

So does this mean that you should get rid of your filter and just show the gritty you? No. Youtube videos are edited, Instagram pictures are selected from a batch of 10 different shots and have filters.

And the mother of social media, Facebook, is always showing you the brightest moments of the day — Not the moment where you realize you’ve had something green stuck in your teeth for the entire team meeting.

 

Social Media is more like a first date. It’s an honest representation of you, but you make an effort to look nice. You pick out a nice outfit, you groom yourself, and you show an interest in the other person. It’s still you, but it’s a very presentable side of you.

If you, on the other hand, show up to a first date in your Sunday jammies you’re placing yourself in the back of the field.

It’s the same thing with social media. You show off your best features while remaining honest. Hopefully, this (virtual) date, will lead to a lasting connection between you, and your audience.

But I’m too busy making the world better – I don’t have time for updates

This is the pitfall for most people in the green sector. They work tirelessly to improve the state of the world. Taking time to post about in on Facebook, or take a picture for Instagram, seems like time wasted.

I get it, I’m the same.

You would rather be doing your job than tweeting about your job.

But the world has changed a lot, and social media is a crucial element for success. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling eco-friendly swimwear or building drought protection in Africa, get online!

One solution is to hire someone to do it for you. If this is not an option for you right now, keep reading to get hands-on advice. Don’t worry, I’m right here with you, and we’ll take it slow.

Going back to the dating analogy, you might feel nervous about putting yourself out there. You want everything to be perfect before you start. Forget about it.

Like I said authenticity sells. There is no such thing as the perfect social media campaign or perfect strategy. But there are a few rules of thumbs.

One of them is simply knowing how your target audience act on the internet, and what the trends are.

 

Memes, emojis, and fads – know your audience

The first time I used Snap(chat) as a verb, I got mad street cred from my stepdaughter while her dad stared blankly from the other side of the table and asked: ‘what’?

If you have kids, you’ll know that they are on top of fashion and trends in a way that’s hard for you to comprehend. If you are trying to change the behavior of teenagers, you need a campaign that targets — and a lot of patience.

 

If this picture makes no sense to you, you really need to read the rest of this post.

 

But even if you are targeting adults, you need to be aware of the unique language that makes up the internet.

The web is built on jokes and references that people know and cherish. Some are obvious, and some are not. Having success on social media requires you to understand what memes, and emojis your audience likes. Just like you need to know how your audience acts on the internet.

How the internet works — Lessons from Tesla

Regardless of what you think of Tesla, they know how the internet works.
In 2014, which is almost generations ago in internet time, Tesla released all their patents in the hope of pushing the global EV production further.

It was, as the CEO Elon Musk put it, in the spirit of the open source movement, which was sweeping the internet at the time. But more importantly, the news took the internet with storm when Tesla paired it with the words:

All Our Patent Are Belong To You

If you were not a citizen of the internet at the time, this looked like an awkward spelling error. Embarrassing, right?  Nope. It was, in fact, a stroke of genius.

It references the meme All Your Base Are Belong to Us, which is a classical internet meme.

By choosing this headline, anyone who was in on the joke was likely to share the news, and help give it a viral life on the web, instead of “just” a news story about a car manufacturer who for some reason was giving away all their secrets.

In fact, Musk has a long history of working the internet to mainstream knowledge about new technologies, like appearing on the Wait but why blog, and latest introducing flamethrowers and cyborg dragons.

 

Why it worked — Building trust

Using memes and internet slang that your audience uses, is equivalent to showing them, that you speak the same language as them – You are on their team. It feeds into a culture and therefore a sense of belonging. It very simply builds trust and rapport.

I’ve heard green professionals protest to this approach with the question: But isn’t that manipulation?

You can answer that better than me: Are you manipulating people when you are having a conversation with them, in their native language?

Striped of body language and why to use emojis — Get social

Speaking in a mutual language shows the person you’re talking to, that you understand them, and share their values. The same rule applies on the web.

It’s something most of us do per default when meeting new people. We tend to find subjects we have in common, and even start to copy each others body language. This is a natural part of human communications. The reason it feels weird on social media is because it’s happening on a new platform.

The internet still feels like something different from “normal” human behavior. But, understand that the line between “normal human behavior” and internet behavior, are getting blurrier by the day.

Showing someone that you are part of their culture is called mirroring. Well known in social psychology, mirroring is the act of copying each others body language, either consciously or subconsciously.

If you want to see this effect in full action, find a couple who is on their first date. Watch how they tend to sip their water at the same time, straighten their back in the same way, and so on.

On the internet, you don’t have the luxury of using body language to communicate. This is part of the reason why emojis and memes should be a natural part of your online presence.

 

There are many numbers floating around referring to how much of our communication is verbal, and how much is non-verbal.  One of them is the 55-38-7 rule, also known as Albert Mehrabian’s rule. This is the belief is that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual spoken or written words. This rule has been much debated and to a high degree debunked, because of the uncertainty about the percentile.

To put it in another way, we know body language and tone of voice are dominant in communication, we just don’t know how much.

 

A world without Verbal communication

Verbal and Non-verbal communication complement each other and brings the message home faster. We can all relate to being a kid and hearing our mother say ‘come here.’

Happy mom — something green

You know from the tone in her voice and the look in her eyes if you’re about to get a snuggle or a talking to.

But imagine if you only had the words to work with. You would have to go to your mom and ask follow-up questions to figure out what she wanted.

Without emojis and other communications tools (like brakes, quotation marks, exclamation marks, cursive and so on), the internet is an eternal struggle for our brain to figure out what the person on the other end is saying, and how their feeling.

 

Ever had an e-mail from a coworker where you’re not sure if they approve of your work, or hate it? If you’re like me, you’ll spend a fair amount of time thinking about what they mean, and how to reply. If it had been a face-to-face conversation, instead of e-mail, you would know for sure.

Unfortunately, the busier we are, the more inclined we are to leave out the little ‘good job’ or happy emoji at the end of the e-mail, because we default to writing the way we speak, not remembering that we also speak with our body’s.

Wow, that was a lot of information. Well, I’m sorry to break it to you, but we’re still not done.

The internet is possibly the most powerful weapon in the history of mankind. Without going further into the negative sides like election manipulation, the spreading of fake news, and polarisation, the internet can be a tool for positive change.

 

In the next post, I break down how you can use the force of the web, to change the world.

Want more advice on pro-environmental behavior? Add me on LinkedIn or hit the subscribe button below, to get your dose.

Sustainable Christmas communication

Have a cradle-to-cradle Christmas — Have a cradle-to-cradle Christmas — Use the holidays to promote sustainability and build trust

In this post, I’ll tell you exactly how I used Christmas to communicate sustainability, why it worked, and how you can use it to build trust with your customers and stand out from your competition.

The best part? Your business becomes even greener while being cost-competitive, scouts’ honor. (7 min.)

TOO SOON!

I know, I know… It’s too early to start with Jingle Bells.

Except, it’s not. You’re running a company that’s making the world better while turning a profit. Utilize the holiday season to promote sustainability.

I know you are busy creating an impact on the world, so here’s a 7 min read on using Christmas to grow the trust of your customers and thereby spread the sustainable spirit. 

In bullets:

  • I made a to-and-from card for Christmas, which had information about recycling on it
  • It solved a problem (always lacking to-and-from notes to put on presents) and gave a non-invasive hint about recycling
  • The cards were made of 100% biodegradable paper and are clean enough to eat
  • This cradle-to-cradle paper builds trust with your audience/clients because it shows that you take your role as a green professional seriously
  • Building trust with audience and clients, makes them talk about your service/product or cause because they can relate – Therefor, as a green professional you win market shares by making small sustainable choices
  • If you want cradle-to-cradle Christmas product to build trust between you and your audience and get a leg up on your competition, now is the time to start planning (more tips at the bottom of this post)


The story – Using the holidays to promote sustainability

I was recently cleaning out my drawers and found this card. I made it two years ago, and it’s been sitting in my drawer as a memorabilia since. It was one of those gut-feeling ideas that I knew I had to run with.

Sustainable Christmas communication

I don’t know about you, but I’m always missing the little to-and-from cards you stick on presents at Christmas, meaning I have to resort to, um, alternative ways of writing people’s names on gifts. It’s fun if you do it once, awkward if you do it twice, and it turns out grandmothers remember that kind of thing.

But what if the to-and-from cards had a little something extra on them?

 

I called our designer and had the layout made faster than you can spell ‘Christmas cards’ backward. Then I got them printed as business cards because it’s an easy standard to work with, and it’s fairly cheap.

I left little piles of cards in public places where a steady stream of people would pass by, throughout city hall (my workplace), as well as in cultural hubs and libraries.

Here’s the backside.

Sustainable Christmas communication

Your Danish might be rusty, so allow me to translate.

 

Remember, there’s a new recycling scheme in 2017

For more information see Skidtergodt.dk

 

The cards were a big success and even the chief executive, who is famous for being sparse with his compliments, said they were a great idea — I lived off that shoulder pat for weeks.

Why it worked

It turns out other people are like me and know there’s likely a gift for aunt Ida they forgot all about, and will be hitting the shops last-minute — and forgetting to pick up cards.

As a result people took the to-and-from cards. They were a tangible aid for a recurring problem.

The message on the back was non-intrusive and kind. I was not pushing a sale, or giving a speech about why to recycle. Instead, I was merely reminding them, ‘Hey, there’s a new thing coming up, and this is where you find more information.’

Take a closer look — green to the bone

I forgot to mention something about the cards. They’re made out of 100% sustainably produced, cradle-to-cradle certified paper.

 

In short, this means there is no soil depletion, the production is CO2 neutral and contains only safe chemicals (and as few as possible). This paper is so environmentally friendly you can eat it! I know, I tried*.

 

I learned about this product at a sustainability event where I was giving a talk about behavioral change and recycling. A representative from a company that makes the paper, was giving a talk about cradle-to-cradle products. The concept of toxin-free paper blew my mind, and I’ve been a fangirl ever since.

The name of the company? KLS PurePrint.

The second time I met Kasper, the aforementioned representative, he scolded me because the so-called green municipality I was working at didn’t have chargers for electric vehicles. Yep, PurePrint is a company that is green to the bone while delivering great products. Every. Single. Time.

They are Scandinavia’s only cradle-to-cradle certified printing company, and are one of only three companies IN THE WORLD with the certification.

They also serve as a personal inspiration on how to use sustainability to survive and thrive in changing markets. In PurePrint’s case, they used their green products to stay afloat in a diminishing market.

100 years ago, there were 2000 printing companies in Denmark. Now there are 80. PurePrint is one of them.

See, I told you I was a fangirl, and with good reason.

The best part? They are cost-competitive because they know the only way to stay in the game.

 

Building trust means loyal customers

Why am I raving about this? Because it’s products like these, that give us hope and builds trust.

Having Christmas cards or business cards made entirely of cradle-to-cradle material is a great conversation starter, and I for one have used it countless times.

“Here’s my card. Oh, by the way, this card is so cool, it’s made out of 100% compostable materials, and it’s so clean you can eat it!”

It’s also a way for you to send a powerful message to your audience:

 

You’re not just thinking of sustainability in your given service or product, you are practicing what you preach. You went that step further to make sure you leave nothing but your legacy behind.

 

Why are your customers buying products from you? Because they care about the environment, and they know we collectively have a responsibility to do better.

Imagine your customer opening a package from you and finding cradle-to-cradle certified paper or compostable packaging. No chemicals, no heavy metals, no microplastics.

 

Imagine what that experience feels like for your customer, when he is already purchasing from you, a green company?

 

What is your customer going to think about you? How likely are they to buy more products from you and spread the word about your brand?

 

These products are cost-competitive, but you win customer loyalty, and thereby market shares. You can even use these products to document your work with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

 

It’s a triple win. Your customers are happy, you expand your customer base and sales, and most importantly, you ease the pressure on natural resources.

 

Stand out from the competition

I know you are busy tending to your primary product or service, as you should be, but bear in mind that you amplify your brand and the trust between you and your customer when you go the extra mile.

 

 

Think about it, your customer has a business card or greeting card from you — that they can eat!

 

Then they meet your competitor, who hands them a shiny business card that’s clearly not sustainable.

 

What’s happening in the mind of your customer at that moment? I’ll tell you what’s happening: They’re looking at the shiny card, thinking;


‘Well, it’s pretty, but I’m sure it’s full of chemicals — I definitely shouldn’t eat it.’

 

BOOM!

There’s your leg up. Now regardless of what your competition says, that card is going to be a reminder that you share the values of your clients. Your competitor doesn’t.

For me, the tipping point was learning that 1/3 of fast food wrapping in the EU contains dangerously high levels of fluorinated substances, which has been linked to all kinds of immune system issues, like cancer.

They don’t break down over time, meaning they just accumulate in you.

These were even found in muffin forms. I made muffins for an 8-year-old’s birthday party, so learning about this research changed my shopping habits DRASTICALLY.

 

If you can honestly tell your customers that your packaging is 100% free of fluorinated substances, that awesome. But compare it with the fact that your competitors offer a 1 in 3 chance of dangerously high levels of it fluorinated substances, where will your customers go?

This doesn’t have to be just paper or packaging. Look at your products, your uniforms, your electricity  — if you dedicate yourself to making small, but sustainable changes in your company, you can set yourself apart from the rest of those in your field. And let’s not forget all the sweet karma points you score for simply making the world a little bit better.

Cradle-to-cradle Christmas _ Something Green

My prediction is, that we’re going to see a lot of this in the coming years, especially since companies like Coca-cola and Nike, have started flashing a greener agenda.

Now is the time when genuinely green professionals can make themselves stand out, by being firstmovers.

 

Get on board, and make Christmas greener

If you want to get on the cradle-to-cradle train and showcase your commitment as a sustainable professional, read on.

SomethingGreen works with content and copy from a sustainable behavioral change angle. This means we write anything promoting green actions.

 

From web pages, and newsletters, to company greeting cards, we’ve got your back. We also do graphic design and project management.

And of course, we use only cradle-to-cradle certified paper for our printed materials.

Here are some things we’ve worked on:

  • Business cards
  • Gift cards and greeting cards
  • Annual reports and strategies
  • Booklets on recycling
  • Letters
  • Stickers for recycling bins (not cradle-to-cradle, sadly)

 

So get in touch and let’s make you stand out from your competitors while making the world just a bit better.

There is no unreachable audience! Making recycling sexy – and fun

This post looks at how the so-called hard-to-reach audiences can be addressed in a creative, and somewhat surprising way. Environmental communication at its best.

Warning: This post contains crude language.

 

When working in the environmental sector, you’ll come across a target audience that’s considered hard to reach.

I’ve talked about the importance of knowing your audience before, but in the field of sustainability one segment stands out as the infamous impossible-audience.

These are the ‘I don’t care’ people.

I don’t want to get slapped with the prejudice hammer, but this audience also often consists of males working in construction, carpentry, and similar jobs.

Environmental Communication Recycling

 

The following is a great example of why you should never give up when you encounter a hard audience or experience a push back.

 

Boys will be..?

My brother works as the department manager in a company that produces industrial size printers.

 

It is a very male-dominated workplace, and the tone is often crude and with sexual tones. We all know workplaces like that.

 

That last time I saw my brother, he told me about his latest team meeting.

 

He runs a team of 14 men. Once a week they have a team meeting to address work-related matters.

At the last meeting, my brother had made and brought with him a little game (this is where it gets crude).

 

The Game

He pulled to pieces of paper out and said:

I brought a game with me. I want you to solve this puzzle. What do the signs say?’

 

He held up the first sign: ‘Puh

Then, he dramatically said the word and got his team to join in, in a collective ‘Puuh!

 

He held up the second sign: ‘Say

Again, with a dramatical flair, he got his whole team on board: ‘Say!’

What do the signs spell out?

Puhhh-saaaay’, ‘Puh-say’, ‘Pu**y!’.

(Yes, I’m bleeping the above. Hopefully, you get it. If not, ask a friend. Not a coworker, not a family member, but a friend)

 

My brother got a big laugh from around the table, and a couple of groin-related jokes.

 

I have one more’ he said, and pulled out two additional pieces of paper. The second round was about to start.

 

Onl’. He looked in anticipation and got the table to join in. ‘Ooonl’.

Paapr’. The crowd joined in. ‘Paapr!

 

My bother continued ‘Onl –paapr’ ‘Only-paapr’ ‘ONLY-PAPER!

 

He pointed to the recycling bin in the corner of the room.

That bin is only for paper’, he said to the perplexed crowd.

 

Yesterday I saw someone had put a banana peel in it. If we throw biodegradable in the paper bin, and that goes to the treatment facility, we might end up contaminating a ton of paper because it rots and spreads bacteria. Then the paper can’t be recycled and has to be burned. Waste of money, waste of resources. So can we now agree that Onl Paapr goes in the bin?

 

He had everyone’s attention. They nodded and verbally confirmed. The bin was for paper only.

 

 

Just to recap, that’s 14 men, who just laughed at a pu**y joke, now agreeing that it’s important to recycle. When was the last time you heard about something like that?

Recycle paper

 

Why it worked — Environmental Communication at its best

 

My brother’s a smart cookie and there’s a reason why he’s head of his department at such a young age. He’s also been forced to listen to my ramblings about recycling and psychology for, well, a long time.

He knows that telling his men off, and mentally hitting them in the head with something as uninteresting to them as recycling, isn’t going to work.

Furthermore, he knows he needs their attention, and that laughter is a much better tool than fear, and being told off.

 

He broke their mental barrier to recycling by inserting it right after a locker-room joke.

 

The first joke was a setup, introducing them to a game where the reward would be a dirty word. By doing that, he had them all on the edge of their seats, trying to spot the dirty word in the second round. What would it be this time? Even dirtier?

 

They were open to taking in new information. They were engaged, trying to be the first to figure out the next word.

And bam! Information about recycling.

 

You might be wondering why it’s even a big deal getting this segment onboard the recycling train. Because daily environmental actions, like recycling, open up a door for a deeper conversation about sustainability. It’s your entry point to substantial change.

 

The takeaway — you can make it sexy!

 

No target group is impossible to reach. I repeat:

No target group is impossible to reach!

 

You just have to know who you’re dealing with, and be willing to work on their terms, be it technical reports and pu**y jokes.

 

Set up a situation where your audience is open to taking in new information.

 

In conclusion:

Recycling, high-five bro

Want more dirty, I mean fun advice on pro-environmental behavior? Add me on LinkedIn or go to Somethinggreen.org to get your smile on.

 

Wanna see my spaceship? How to communicate with climate change deniers

Ever wondered how to communicate with climate change deniers. In the previous post, I explained WHY there are still climate change deniers out there. Now I’m giving you hands-on advice, on how to break the neurological stubbornness — and yes, there’s a spaceship.

 

If you work in the environmental field, you will encounter several different personas.

One of them is the denier. He denies the logic of whatever argument you make.

 

I have worked with recycling for some years now, and the denier personae has some telling characteristics.

I’m gonna break down what that denial looks like, shed light on the actual meaning behind his words, and give you the communication tools to get your message out there. Most importantly, you won’t come off as a personal threat.

A conversation with the denier might go something like the following. For the sake of the example, I’m going to give my denier a name.

Meet Dave! He’s attending a talk I’m giving, about the importance of recycling.

 

Communicate with climate change deniers_ Dave

Our “Dave”

Me: Sorting your waste is really good for the environment.

Dave: Hah! Once the garbage trucks pick up the waste, they’re just going to put it all in the same container anyway.

Me: No, the garbage trucks don’t mix the waste. It is kept separated and brought to a processing plant.

Dave: I don’t believe you. They’re just going to mix it.

 

 

Understanding the underlying emotions

Timeout. Let’s look at the interaction. I’m giving Dave some information, and he’s refuting it.

At first glans it may look like Dave just has the wrong information, or that he’s an arrogant twat. He’s basically saying that he knows more about the waste industry than I do. I am the person working with waste after all, and Dave thinks he knows better than me.

If I didn’t know why Dave is acting like this, it might be a frustrating situation, where I leave the room feeling like I’m wasting my time on stubborn, old Dave.

But if we dissect the situation, and look at the emotional conversation of what Dave “hears”, and “says”,  here’s the actual interaction:

 

Me: You need to sort your waste because otherwise, you’re being a bad person by not caring about the environment.

Dave: I don’t want to recycle, cause I’m afraid it’s gonna take a lot of effort on my behalf and I might not be able to get it right. If I can’t sort my waste correctly, it will hurt my ego.  I like to think that I am good at most things, so sorting my recycling wrong will make me feel inadequate.

Therefore I‘m gonna use this old rumor I heard about the garbage trucks mixing the waste, to prove to myself, and to you, that the whole thing is a waste of time and energy. Then I won’t have to change my mind or my actions. More importantly, I won’t have to risk the ego punch of not knowing how to recycle.

 

 

Remember my post about some convictions being tied to a sense of self. Well, this is one of them. On a subconscious level I am a threat to Dave, because I am “telling him,” that he’s a bad person by not recycling, and that there’s something he’s not good at.

 

There’s a chance you’re reading this right now and thinking:

‘No. Come on, Mona, people are better than that. No one feels emotionally threatened by waste.’

 

Are you sure? Having a strong sense of identity is normal and sometimes that identity is tied up on being good at something specific.

Other times, it’s tied up on being good at everything. Or maybe even being bad at everything.

 

Try taking just a few minutes to, mentally, go through your friends and family members. Do you know people who don’t like being wrong? Do you have relatives who take criticism very personally?

Did you ever go to school with someone who only saw their mistakes and weaknesses, and disregarded every good grade they got?

Humans are not rational beings, and climate change is really scary and complex. Humans aren’t good with complex issues — we like simple solutions and quick-fixes.

 

 

Get on their team — how to not be a threat

Okay, not that we’ve learned to listen to the emotional conversation, it’s time to do better.

With more than 5 years as a professional trash-talker, I’ve met a lot of “Daves”.

When I do, and am greeted with the counter-argument that they just mix the waste, I say the following, magical words:

This is the van. Pretty neat, eh?

I used to think that too!

Yes, I remember the story of when it happened in [insert whatever city you feel like], but then I went to see the trucks in action, and they have made these really cool technological advances on the trucks.

Now, the trucks have separate compartments for the different kinds of trash. It’s really cool!

 

 

All of the above is true, I had heard the rumors of the mixing and had, at one point, believed them. By telling Dave this, I put myself in the same boat as my audience, before giving him more information.

 

To recap:

I, via my choice of words, tell Dave that he and I are the same. I understand him, I am like him. I also (subconsciously) used the excuse of the truck.

If I get the feeling that it’s the fear of not messing up the recycling that’s standing in the way, I say this:

‘Dude, I’ve always been into the environment but I was so confused when I first started recycling. Like, is this plastic or glass, right? Luckily, someone showed me this trick to tell it apart. The rest was just a matter of practice. It didn’t take that long, and now I can help my grandmother recycle.’

 

You need to put yourself on the same team as your audience.
Understand them. Respect them. When you do that, you are no longer a threat.

I do the same when I speak in front of larger audiences.

The following is a little trick I use. Feel free to steal it and use for your own line of environmental work.

When talking to a larger crow of people, with many different backgrounds where I haven’t the slight clue if they are “Daves”, I say hello, I introduce myself, and then I say:

“Would you like see my spaceship? I swear, it’s not a pickup line.”

 

Then I show them this photo.

 


“This is my spaceship, the big round one. I live on it with 6 billion of my closest friends.

On a spaceship, you have to bring all your resources. Food, water, tools, a guitar, and so on.

When you’ve used your resources, that’s it. You don’t have anymore, it’s gone. So you need to manage your resources and not overspend.

The same thing goes for our globe. We only have a finite amount of resources, and if we use them all, that’s it, it’s gone. This is why we need to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible.”

 

Yes, the above will get different reactions depending on your audience. Some will find it childish, and even patronizing. Never the less it still breaks down a barrier between me and the receiver and creates a common frame of reference, giving me a solid based to start from.

 

I repeat:

Starting a talk by establishing a collective understanding of the subject (creating a common frame of reference) means, I build trust with my audience, and get in the same boat as them.

Throughout the talk, I’ll now be able to refer back to the spaceship, and why it’s important that we manage our resources.

 

 

Summing up — how to deal with deniers

1. You’re not perfect either. First of all remember, that you too have been a stubborn mule at some point. I sure know I have (Sorry Jens, you were right about the equator thing).

Remembering that we’re all humans and that we all have areas where we’ve stubborn or feel vulnerable, will make it much easier talking to people, who are currently neurologically tied to their conviction.

2. Don’t be the Hulk. Remember, that when you are in a debate with a denier, you are emotionally threatening the receiver. You look like the Hulk, ready the smash them with your beliefs. To put it in another way; your facts and evidence, are emotionally hurtful.

It’s important for me to stress that this doesn’t mean you should discard evidence and facts, for the sake of making the other person feel emotionally at ease. But if you are an emotional threat, your listener will treat you like that and will either fight or flight. I’m sure you’re experienced both before.

3. Use your common denominator. Find common ground, something you can agree on, and use that as an entrance to start a respectful conversation about the subject. When you peel away all the convictions, the cultural differences, and our social bubbles, we all really want the same thing — to be happy. Does the change you want to make tie into the other person’s idea of happiness? Why, why not?

You don’t have to be preaching to the choir to find common ground with your audience — just respect them, and be curious.

 

I know the above is hard work, and the world we live in is making it harder. The social media bubbles only allow us to see what people with similar opinions think. At the same time the fast pace of the internet is deteriorating our ability to learn complicated subjects and keep a healthy critical mind. (If you want to know more about this subject, I highly recommend reading The Shallows.)

 

Okay, that’s it for now. Now go and test it out in your field. I would LOVE to hear how you’ve used it, and if it helped! So leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail.

If you need help communicating your green message to your audience, get in touch! We do web copy, e-mails, social media campaigns, and much more.

 

 

Communicate with climate change deniers_ wired for stubborness

Communicating with climate change deniers — how to change minds when change is hard

Communicating with climate change deniers is not a walk in the park. Beliefs are tied to the neurological sense of self, and when you challenge that belief with facts, you challenge that sense of self.

Therefore, you need to understand the denier in front of you, and tailor your communication to circumvent neurological stubbornness. This post gives you concrete steps to do that.

 

Back in March 2017, I was asked to give a presentation about behavioral change, and why we have such a hard time changing our mind. This post is the laydown of that talk.


Why are there still climate deniers?

With the dire news of yet again surpassing a threshold of CO2 we’re pumping into the atmosphere, I want to talk a little bit about why there are still climate deniers out there, and how you should approach them.

With all the evidence of anthropogenic climate change, it seems mindboggling that anyone would refuse to believe in it. Some of those people are your neighbors, some are your family members, and some are presidents. You might find yourself thinking, why are people so stupid, the evidence is right there?

Turns to we’re not stupid, just human, and there are different reasons why some people don’t seem to get down with climate facts.

Let’s dig in.

Social bubbles and no-fact land

Two of the causes are social bubbles and the post-factual world.

I won’tCommunicate with climate change deniers - Somethinggreen.org go deep into this, but in short; you howl with the wolfs in your pack.

The same thing goes for posting on the internet. You only see posts from people, who are posting the same general themes and content as you.

 

Why? Because Facebook and other social platforms make a profit by keeping you online longer, and you will keep scrolling if the updates in your feed if it excites you. Hence, your feed has been tailored by algorithms to show you only things you will like, keeping you scrolling for hours on end.

This also means that you don’t see posts from people you disagree with. Your view of the world isn’t challenged on a regular basis. Instead, you are daily getting confirmation, in the form of likes and comments, that you are right, smart, funny and generally awesome. This has an effect on your sense of ‘being right’, as well as your ego.

The more posts you see from people who are similar to you, the more you feel like your worldview is the one true view.

If you have many climate deniers in your social circle, you will see a lot of climate denial posts. Even if you start out with a little skepticism in regards to climate science, the more climate skeptic links you click on, the more climate change denial you will see in your feed.

 

From equations to crystal healing in a week

You can test this out for yourself by only clinking on certain themes of links for about a week.

 

I accidently proved this point recently, and it took me down the peculiar algorithm rabbit hole of Facebook.

A friend had lost a bet and, as his punishment, had to attend an event about the remote healing of horses — meaning how a stranger can make your sick horse feel better, from miles away, using the power of thought… Right.

 

I found it hilarious that he had lost the bet, and clicked on the event to see just how outrageous it was. Schadenfroh much?

A week later, my Facebook feed informed me that the same friend was attending an event about angels, because he had lost another bet – and again, I clicked on the event to see what he had to endure this time.

Then, social media karma kicked in…

I  started getting adds for crystal healing, angel events, aura readings and so on. I am now struggling with getting rid of these ads in my feed, as I really don’t have a need for chakra healing in my life. I’m pretty sure my solar plexus just need more coffee.

 

So yeah, You reap what you click, and this is the price I pay for succumbing to clicking on punishment-events on Facebook, instead of doing something productive.

 

If you want to dig deeper, here’s more on the subject of social bubbles.

Why fact when I can feel?

In recent years, there’s been a rise in the notion, that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.

I honestly think that’s a good thing, but…

Unfortunately, this sorta merged into: Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and that opinion matters as much as facts. We see this in political debates where a scientist will comment on a situation, and an opposing argument will be laid out, by someone who just feels differently.
This is where I get frustrated because it does not.

 

“But Mona, sometimes it turns out that the science was wrong, so obviously the facts can’t be trusted”.

 

It’s a compelling argument, but it also amplifies the social bubble effect, where everything tends to be binary. Either you’re right and I’m wrong, or vice versa. The world becomes black and white where we move further and further away from having an adult debate …and then we default to our opinions.

It’s true that every now and then, facts are disputed because we learne more about the world — like the fact that led paint isn’t good for you — but doesn’t mean feelings and opinions have the same legitimacy as our current knowledge base.

Bringing emotions to a scientific debate is like bringing a rubber chicken to a gunfight — everybody ends up looking silly.

 

The world we live in now is very different from the world we knew just a few years back. The Post-factual world, as it has been named, allows opinions and emotions to have the same argumentative weight in public discussions.

This link touches on the post-factual world, where opinions get as much (or more) airtime than facts, because it sells.

 

So what happens when we get new information, telling us that we’re wrong?

If it turns out the facts are not in our favor, we say:
‘Oh, we learned a new thing. Let’s see how this changes our worldview’.

…Except we don’t. Because we are humans, and our complex neurological brain soup hasn’t caught up with our current social structures and clickbait laded lives.

And on top of all of this, climate change is a complex problem, without any quick-fix solutions. And this makes it even harder for deniers to trust in science.

 

At the root for both of these causes lie a bigger reason as to why there are still so many climate deniers out there.


Why you can’t change your mind: I am my opinion.

We’ve all had debates with people who where non-movable, and it makes Thanksgiving a night of hell. No matter how much evidence you present them with, they just become more and more stubborn. Why is that?

It’s long been recognized in the fields of sociology and psychology, that the more you identify with your opinion, or stance — meaning the more you feel it’s a part of your personality — the harder it is for you to change your mind about it.

This is especially true if it also relates to your social/family life, like a spiritual community for instance (think Scientology or other cults).

It turns out the reason for this isn’t just psychological, it’s biological.

 

These days there is a lot of brain research happening and it’s connections to our emotions, mood, mental disorders, and decision-making processes. And the results will blow your mind.

 

One study conducted by Jonas T. Kaplan, Sarah I. Gimbel & Sam Harris, is especially interesting for anyone working with behavioral change.

The team put people inside fMRI scanners and gave the participants information about different topics. Some of the information was designed to go against the current belief systems of the participant.

 

”In this study, we performed functional MRI to measure the brain activity of 40 individuals with strong political views as they encountered arguments against their beliefs … Inside the fMRI scanner, participants saw a series of statements they previously indicated strongly believing, followed by several challenging counterarguments.

After participants read all five counterarguments, the original statement was shown again and they reported their post-challenge belief strength. The difference between pre-scan and post-challenge ratings was used as a measure of belief change.”

 

So in short, they measured how the brain reacted to new information, that contradicted the existing worldview.

And the results are in: BRAAAAINS…

I’ll get into what this means below the picture,  but enjoy the pretty brains.

 

Figure 1: Brain activation during challenges to political vs. non-political beliefs. From: Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence.

 

As you see there are two different color schemes on this image.

(If you can’t see that you’re probably colorblind, and should buy a pair of the new, ultra cool EnChroma color blindness glasses)

The colors are not for aesthetics. The blue and green’ish colors are the areas in the brain that light up when the participants are given the non-political information. The red and yellow’ish colors are the areas with the political information.

 

These two types of information make the Christmas lights in the brain illuminate different areas. Why??

The non-political info lights up the frontal lobe. That’s the part of the brain responsible for making rational choices.

The political information, on the other hand, light up in the areas of the brain associated with deep emotions and the sense of self.

 

Let’s recap: Your political convictions is, on a neurological level, associated with deep emotions and the sense of self.

 

This is really important because it means that there is a deep biological, neural link between you and your political opinion. You can’t talk reason to this part of the brain, meaning…

 

Your audience is emotional and neurologically attached to their belifssystem. When you tell them they are wrong, you are challenging the very foundation of their existence.

 

If you are working with climate communication, I would suggest that you get the above tattooed on your wrist, because it makes a world of a difference in your work.

No matter how many facts you pour onto someone, you will not change their mind – in fact, as a self-preservation method they might refute your facts and become even more stubborn in their belief. This is the backfire effect.

There is, sort to speak, a neurological stubbornness in all of us, which can make mind-changing a daunting task.

 

A shortcut to mind-changing

 

Changing your mind is hard.

Does this mean that your effort is in vain, or that it will only pay off in the far future? Luckily, no. The before mentioned study found that:

 

Post-challenge belief strength was reduced for both political and non-political statements, indicating that the counterevidence did, at least temporarily, affect reported belief strength.

However, the change was significantly greater for non-political beliefs. Follow-up questionnaires completed weeks later showed that reduced belief strength persisted for the non-political beliefs.

 

What this little gem also say is, your effort is not in vain. There is some change, even if temporary, and even if your receiver won’t admit to it — I have a coworker like that.

We see the gradual change all around us. Whether it’s the global community slowly accepting anthropogenic climate change, or your spouse admitting, after 5 freaking years, that you were right about ‘that thing’.

 

More importantly:
It’s easier to change your beliefs about non-political issues than political ones, as these are not as strongly tied up to your sense of self. This also means…

 

 You can and should use non-political issues as an entrance to mind changing.

 

There are a number of small shortcuts you can use when conveying environmental information.

 

Okay, this post is already like 1 trillion words long, but don’t fret!

In the follow-up post, I’ll give you a hands-on example of how I personally circumvent the neurological resistance to information when I give talks. There will be spaceships!

—-

If you have an audience that needs a good brain-tickle, don’t be afraid to reach out! Something Green does content writing for web pages, newsletters, Social Media and more.

 

 

You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth! -Climate change denial, and how to overcome it

In this post, we’re gonna focus on overcoming climate change denial. This means we’re gonna talk about why addressing climate change feel overwhelming, and what you can do about it.

Now we’ve established I’m a +30 cinephile, let’s dig deeper into the truth about climate change, and why we would rather not know.

Before you read further, ask yourself this: Are you willing to give this post a fair change?

 

When the content gets hard to deal with, are you gonna close the tab and go back to puppies and facebook, or are you gonna keep reading?

 

You might as well be honest with yourself because I’m going to be honest with you. More than that, I’m going to shed light on that little voice inside us all, that starts crying when it all gets too real and too overwhelming. The voice that says ‘It can’t be this bad. I’m sure they’ve got it wrong. I’ll go back to reddit now, and look at people who dress like Disney characters’.

If you’re still here you’re already further than most

The truth is we have a dire situation on our hands. Newest data suggests, that we have now surpassed the safe level of atmospheric CO2, averaging at 397.7 ppm in 2014, with a peak 404 ppm in the spring of 2014. The agreed safe level is 400 ppm.

If no drastic measures are taken NOW, we are facing a temperature increase of about 4.5 Degrees Celsius.

This will make many nations look like Water World by the year 2100.

It will also likely result in a big decrease in fish population in the oceans. In combination with our current overfishing, this might result in the death of the ocean. Yes death, as in no more fish in the sea, and hence no more sushi for your chopsticks.

 

If the world does not act in regards to climate change, we are facing droughts, famines, the greatest migration problem ever seen, deforestation, desertification. All in all, a world that sucks.

Overcoming Climate change denial - we're gonna die

See, I told you I was a cinephile


Why isn’t anybody acting?

You already knew that the world is in a bad state. None of the above was news to you, right? So, is there nothing left to do? Should we just give up? No, there are plenty of ways to act.

If we’ve been hearing these warnings for many years now, why are we still on collision-course?

Why are there still heads of state skeptical of climate change? What’s don’t the majority of Americans worry about climate change? And why on earth is the government of my home nation systematically cutting and worsening our climate initiatives?

A part of the problem is, we’ve created this big a complex world, but our hardware, our brain, is monkey_Brain_MonaJensenstill set on ‘monkey’.

The psychical structure and functions of our brains haven’t changed for thousands of years.

As an unfortunate consequence of this, we relate to the world around us as if we still only had to attend to food, shelter, and coitus.

Thinking about what our actions today will bring us 50 years down the road, is just not a natural process for us. Which means..:

 We have to work for it.

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of our brains system 1 and 2. Or the reptile- and the cognitive parts of our brain. In short, we have a lazy brain that wants to conserve energy. It does this, by not working too hard, and converting as many actions as it can, into habits we don’t need to think about – like walking.

You’re pretty skilled at walking. You don’t need to think about that too much. The same with driving a car, brushing your teeth, and talking with your mother-in-law.

All these things we do out of habit. They required a lot of energy and focus from us the first times we did them, and then, with practice and repetition, they become mindless habits.

You gotta work (that lazy brain), bitch

Climate change is not something we can do on autopilot. Grasping the full scope, and furthermore, accepting that we haven’t gained knowledge of the full scope yet, is a job for the cognitive brain. We have to invest energy. This is why it feels so overwhelming.

“What? There’s more? I don’t think I can take it!”

Yes, there is haWork_bitchrd work ahead.

The world’s ecosystems are in a dire state. 2015 has so far had the biggest hurricane ever recorded, the worst droughts ever recorded, and the worst forest fires ever recorded. 50% of the cases of extreme weather of 2014 were attributed to climate change.

 

You wouldn’t be reading this post if you didn’t already know that something is wrong, and you want it to stop being wrong. It not impossible, but it will require work.

Are you still reading? Well done, not only are you among the top percentage of people determined not to stick their head in the sand, and you also building your skill of using your cognitive brain with more ease.

Face the state of your life with determination. You can’t change your situation before you accept it.

What was that thing about it-security?

I fall into the same trap of a lazy brain. I have some really smart people in my network, who know a lot about IT- and data security. They tell me about IT-dangers, and what to do about it.

Every time I feel I have almost gotten up to speed and have a basic level of security, a new threat comes along and I have to learn everything all over again.

Then I think to myself: ‘Oh come on!! Just tell me what to do, already!!security_and_environmental_science

I just want to know, what program I need to install in order to make sure I’m ok in terms of IT security.

But as anyone with the faintest knowledge about IT knows, it’s so much more complex than that.

Just like fighting climate change and working for environmental preservation, is so much more than turning the water off, or buying a Prius.

If you’re not an environmentalist, it’s an immensely complex situation, and the more you learn about it, the more complex it gets. Just like I find IT security a much bigger subject the more I learn about it.

 

Making the complex manageable

Finally gaining this insight was a blessing and a curse. It became obvious that my post needed to be centered on making sense of the immense, and turning the mass of numbers and facts into something you could actually do.

 

This is also the reason for my environmental planner‘s ABCs. Which takes us full circle back to what you can do when facing the truth about climate change. I will cover this in the next blog post.