A few posts ago, I wrote about how I sometimes felt like a whore because of my work, but it seems only fair to share the good stories as well.
Today my body shivered with excitement, my mind raced, and my heart was pounding. I was getting that feeling that you get when you do something worth wild. That feeling that makes you want to scream, yes!
What caused this excitement? Hearing people talk about the plastic wrapping on a cucumber. Now, I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no, you dirty minded person, you.
The background story – why plastic wrapping on a cucumber is very exciting
I work with waste management, and it’s my job to get about 90.000 people to recycle their waste. Talk about pressure. As part of this job, my team and I have just done a test with 250 households, to try out the new recycling scheme we’re implementing for those 90.000 people in the time span of the next two years.
We did this to make the transition for the entire municipality as smooth as possible for everyone involved. It’s a big process and a lot of things can go wrong, so we wanted to prepare as much as possible before the actual BIG implementation of the new scheme.
Now the six-month-long test has been completed, and the past two nights have been spent on meetings with the involved citizens, gathering the final information, and talking about what will be happening over the next few years.
So imagine this: 250 households have been sorting their waste in a matter very different from what they are used to, and from what the rest of the municipality is doing. They’ve been doing this for six months, with only a handful of people in the municipality, to guide them through it.
Most of them have had to deal with the inconveniences of getting new waste bins, both inside and outside their house, as they had to sort glass, metal, paper, bio/green, and other. Metal and Bio are two completely new fractions of waste, and the citizens in the test have never done this before.
Hence these meetings, held in the late hours of busy people, where not only a place for feedback and questions about recycling but also served as a place to vent emotions. And there was a lot of venting. But there was also something profoundly beautiful.
No, recycling won’t save the planet, but it will get you thinking about it
The people at the meeting have now been sorting their waste for half a year. They have done a decent job a recycling, the short timespan taken into account. But the actual change is not in their litter bins – it’s in their minds.
At both meetings I overheard people debating, how much packaging came with their groceries, how much waste they produced in their everyday life, and how many recourses they used.
“Why is there even plastic wrapping around a cucumber? I mean, do we really need all that plastic?”
This is what makes me tick. It’s not about the recycling, it’s not about turning off the tab, or switching off the light bulb, cause in the big picture, that’s really not a lot of change. But if you do it right, these non-essential, non-effectful environmental actions open the door for a change in mindset.
If you do it with intent, you can start a much more important change, than just a change in their trash bin.
You can make the change from unaware to aware, and ready to take action.
Plant the seed and be ready to water it
If you plan for this you can have an alternative action ready at the right moment.
In the case of the added awareness about packaging and unnecessary waste, be ready to offer kind and helpful advice on how to cut down on packaging in general for instance by shopping at farmers markets and using reusable grocery bags. Or ask the person more about how much of their waste they think is possible to eliminate and how, as this will get them thinking about alternative actions within their own frame of reference and comfort.
If you plan for these moments of added awareness, you can have valuable tools ready for your audience, and help them make that change they so deeply want to make, but don’t yet know how to.
You don’t need to force your way through mindsets, you can start with, well… Just the tip.