A tower of encrusted dishes stacked precariously in the sink. Five day-old wet clothes in the washing machine (adding mustiness to the lingering smell of last night’s curry). At least six recognizable different types of stains on the cooker. An inch-thick layer of bacon grease in the grill speckled with tiny bits of what I assume are burnt oven chips, an overflowing bin bag which has probably been pierced and oozing with rotten meat juices – and a floor so sticky that, were my kitchen turned round by 180 degrees, I would quite happily dangle from it for a week or two.
Now, if this were your kitchen and someone were to tell you that this kitchen is ruined, that the kitchen will never be the same again, that it is pointless to even try to restore the kitchen to its former glory, that it will only get worse and eventually get so bad that it will decompose into nothing, would you bother cleaning it? Or would you close the door and order a pizza…?
Ok, the world is a bit bigger than my kitchen, and there are a few more people making a mess and way too many people ordering pizza, but the point I am making (and there is one) is that if a cause is portrayed as lost then how is anyone supposed to find the motivation to fight for it?
Negative communications about sustainability are to an eco-warrior what kryptonite is to Superman. They weaken morale and make you feel useless and depressed for even bothering to recycle your cans and wearing your t-shirts three days in a row to save water (only if they still smell good).
More positive communications about the current environmental situation not only reassure environmental advocates that they are doing the right thing, but also encourage sceptics to change their behaviour. If they heard more about the benefits of car-pooling than about the horrors of melting ice caps, they may be more encouraged to join in.
The true value of positive communications about sustainability is the feeling of hope that you, the individual, can make a difference. If you, the individual, believe you can make a difference, then you will. And if seven billion individuals believe they can make a difference, then they will.
An hour later, and the kitchen’s back to normal. Imagine I had closed the door and ordered a pizza…
This blog by Rosanna Zywietz is the winning entry to the Green (Graduates) Futures contest. Rosanna grew up in the Scottish Highlands and moved to Dundee where she graduated with an Honours degree in Geography. After completing several placements in the environmental sector she decided to do an MSc in Environmental Management at Stirling University and graduated in November 2011. Since then, she has worked in the sustainable food sector and is currently travelling and doing voluntary work in the U.S.
Change Agents UK and Green Futures Magazine teamed up to offer graduates the chance to write a blog asking about the value of positive communications around sustainability, and why it is a more effective way of encouraging people to make sustainable choices.