Living in Portland, Oregon, I’m surrounded by eco-friendly people. Everyone recycles, everyone thrifts and the thought of not having a low-flush toilet is a little blasphemous. However, I often move overseas for 12-month stretches and I know I’m a little green spoiled in this part of the US. What happens when no one else around you is green?
Get used to feeling pangs of guilt when you watch people put water bottles in the trash or litter without a second thought. You can’t save the world, or even make it totally green. What you can do is use your knowledge and skills to lead by example. If someone asks, share what you know, but avoid preaching.
Set an Example
If no one knows you’re sorting your recycling or driving around in an electric car, you won’t make any impact. Set an example and be open about your green efforts. Be open to conversations, answering questions and, depending on the situation, even offering to go green for someone.
For example, in many countries recycling isn’t picked up and you have to drive a few miles to get to a center. Since you’ll be going there anyway, you can organize a neighborhood recycling system and volunteer to take everyone’s items. Not only will you be improving the eco-friendliness of your neighborhood, you’ll also be raising awareness.
Remember That It is Weird
|Photo isn't mine|
It’s important to keep an eye out on what people do naturally that’s eco-friendly and you can learn from. For example, Costa Rica might not have the best recycling programs, but they’re great at completely natural pest control. There are no chemicals used and it’s a very cost-effective system. That’s something you can bring back and practice in your own garden.
Start the Conversation
Every great change starts with great conversations. Don’t be shy about discussing eco-friendly options even with people who aren’t on the same page as you. Most importantly, listen during these talks, both to what they’re saying and not saying. That’s how you learn different perspectives, and you might uncover reasons you don’t know about why a particular community isn’t as green-friendly as they can be.
As Americans, we’re notorious for wanting to change things when we’re overseas. Maybe you don’t want to rock the boat and you just want to blend in. That’s fine, but don’t give up your own green efforts just because you’re doing it solo. Every little piece does matter.