Encouraging Sustainable Change

"Each small change paves the way for future efforts." - Christie Manning

On February 2, I was fortunate enough to assist in the facilitation of a community event here in Menomonie, WI hosted by Sustainable Dunn. Over 50 people came together from almost as many community groups, businesses, and government agencies throughout the Chippewa Valley to talk about bringing about sustainable change in the community.

The event kicked off with a very inspirational speech by Christie Manning, Assistant Professor of Environmental Psychology at the University of Minnesota. She used a series of slides, pictures, and stories to depict the magnitude of our societal habits on the environment and how we might encourage sustainable change in our communities by properly framing our ideas and passions for the general public. For instance, in the image below Chris Jordan depicts the 2.5 million plastic bottles we use in America each hour. If information like this isn't properly framed and presented depending on the audience in may be received in an unwanted or ineffective manner leading recipients to varying reactions of disbelief or being overwhelmed to the point of feeling too small to make a difference.

Chris Jordan's Depiction of the 2.5 Million plastic bottles Americans use each hour

Christie's presentation continued with a focus on providing positive feedback for those acting sustainably. (Giving thumbs up to the guy riding bike to work when it is below zero.) At the same time, she pointed out, that negative feedback is almost never helpful for those not acting sustainably. When a municipality recently placed frowny faces on the electricity bills of homes in a neighborhood using more energy than their neighbors the reaction was not what was intended - in some cases electricity use actually increased thereafter. In short, positive reinforcement and providing people with sustainable options first was generally the message.

Afterward discussions broke off into an open space meeting where local topics and issues were identified and then discussed. Topics such as transportation, waste reduction, water, supporting local, energy, food, using the internet to tell our story, and a community garden were all discussed and information and ideas exchanged. It is now a month later and many of these ideas continue to grow and take root. More exciting updates to come!

"Your efforts will inspire and empower those around you." - Christie Manning

"We must be the change we wish to see in the world." - Gandhi