February 5, 2011

How do you talk about people’s (not so) green habits?

PlasticPhoto by Acesee via Flickr

Today I found myself feeling embarrassed that I reacted to a stranger’s not-eco-friendly act with something that, although gentle, ultimately got me nowhere because it got her back up. Despite my best attempts to be casual and compromise a little, I still made her feel like she’d done something wrong. It’s possible she didn’t know any better, or, I conceded to her, that she may not have the resources in her community. But I think I would have been better off asking, “You don’t have any recycling or donation facilities nearby, or none of your stuff was salvageable that way? That’s too bad!” Maybe it still would have come off as a criticism but at least it may have been more directed at her town instead of at her. Nobody likes to be questioned that way, and I always feel terrible if I think I’ve hurt someone else’s feelings.

It’s a sticky thing, having conversations that essentially challenge the way others live, whether it’s your own sister (I’ve failed pretty miserably at that), a friend, or a complete stranger. I’ve felt bad after casually saying, “No fat yogurt? That’s no fun!” to a friend, and it’s really hard to approach people about their synthetic fragrances because they’ll take that very personally.

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June 25, 2010

Walk the Talk, Green Your City

I realised when I left Pecha Kucha (at the gorgeously renovated Queen Elizabeth Theatre), in a hurry to catch my 10:20 bus, that I don’t have enough conversations with people about sustainability. I attend events where the hundreds or thousands of people in the room/theatre all have a common interest, yet I go there to absorb information, chat with friends and promptly leave. I can’t blame all of that on living in the suburbs with a typically once-per-half-hour bus. But ultimately the result is that the information I gleaned and my opinions remain for the most part locked in my head and I lose the opportunity to learn from others in my community. (And Vancouver being a small city nurses an intimate though often disconnected one.)

Dialogue takes place frequently online, but in my experience it tends to be short and superficial and, while offering participation theoretically to anyone, the reality is that many voices are left out even within our own city. That’s where dialogue in person can facilitate those deeper connections that might not otherwise be made. It also lets us communicate visually. (And with that, check out RangiChangi Roots.) An event like Pecha Kucha is available to anyone with $10 and a couple hours to spare. It won’t reach everyone, but advertising in offline and particularly free media such as the Georgia Straight (I’m not sure whether it made it to street poles) pushes its reach outside of the—to some degree—exclusive online world. Over 2000 people attended Wednesday’s event, a specially-themed “Walk the Talk, Green Your City”, which is terrifically encouraging.

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