How to make your family sustainable feature image. Family members holding a plant with a city view and green bushes as backdrop.

How to make everyone in the family more sustainable?

Living a sustainable life by yourself may be possible. The real challenge is to live consciously as a family. Are you ready to take on this step together?

By Sanjoli Arora

They say every small step counts. And that is exactly what you have been doing- closing unused taps, switching off lights when leaving the room, segregating your waste so that it is recycled or reused. But what happens when your near and dear ones don’t understand? Or shrug off your small green acts. What happens when they refuse to jump on this sustainable bandwagon with you? How can you make your family sustainable?

If you find yourself in this position, then this article is for you. We asked a few conscious bloggers on how they are changing the habits of their family members to become a more sustainable unit. It is a long journey but a necessary one to take.

We breakdown the piece to focus on each family member and what approach you can use to make them more aware and conscious. Of course, this will always be an ongoing topic of debate. In case you have any thoughts or pointers on the same feel free to drop them in the comments below. It is all about keeping the conversation about conservation alive!

Talk to your Parents

“It is important to encourage rather than listing everything your parents are doing that may not be eco-friendly. This can be overwhelming. Calling parents out only makes them defensive. But calling them into the conversation can encourage them to get involved.” says Tanha Patel – one half of the Instagram account called Two Girls Gone Green.

Nupur Sheth, the other girl, gone green, has some points to add. She says, “When it comes to encouraging parents, I always ground my thoughts and try to understand that they have a different lifestyle and mindset. I watch lots of documentaries with them. I take them to the farmer’s markets and talk about blog posts. I make efforts to educate and inform them. I also try not to be defensive but explain to them how choosing a more sustainable option will be better in the long run. I give examples of what I’m doing in my lifestyle to inspire them and also provide them with the same resources instead of just calling them out. Patience and consistency are key with trying to change mindsets!”

Make it #Trending with your Siblings

“As an individual, I may understand the impact of our actions on the environment. But to convince others, we need to start talking in their language and use examples which they understand,” says Khushi. She started her sustainable journey in 2019 and now documents the same on her Instagram page called Living Khushily.

She elaborates, “When it comes to younger people like your siblings or cousins, try to make it look cool or trendy. They will eventually pick a few things that they enjoy doing. One thing that I do is to share my sustainable swaps with them. I don’t tell them that we should start doing it. Over time, they may find something interesting and will start practising it too.”

“Another way is to keep sharing news or facts that you come across on social media. Social media is where they spend most of their time, and if a post you share resonates with them, they may follow the page. They can then begin their journey into sustainability. It is all about spreading the word and letting people find their way.” adds Khushi.

Reconnect your Grandparents

When it comes to the elders of the house, Khushi suggests you reconnect them with their sustainable roots. “They already know how to repurpose, recycle or compost. So it is always a better idea to make them connect with things that they already used to do. See if I tell you to do something completely different for you, you will be reluctant right? But if we ask them how people lived back then, sustainable practices that were relevant in their times and then encouraged them to bring back those. You can try to do them together.”

She adds, “Second, don’t make them uncomfortable. Like I said, start with something that they are familiar with and respect their time. We don’t need to be pushy. We need to cooperate. Learn a few things from them and teach a few things in return.”

Walk the Talk with your Aunts, Uncles and everyone else

Indian households are known for their immense joint family structures. So if you find yourself living with a variety of people with varying views, customise the conversation to the individual.

As Madhur Dutta points out, “One way of being mindful of varying pace is to figure out the tracks (areas) that give motion to our sustainability practice. For some, this might be fashion. For others, it might be their diet. Part of being mindful of varying pace is to figure out the tracks that work best for you and others. The idea is to recognise and accept differences is situations, ability, means, and intent.”

“I think the best way to make anyone more eco-conscious is to talk to them in their language. For instance, if you tell someone, you need to change the way they have always brushed their teeth without telling them why they will most likely ignore you off and not pay heed to your suggestion. So, always try to reason with your folks. Also, the chances of people taking you seriously are higher when you embody the things that you preach. You cannot expect people to lead a mindful lifestyle if you don’t do so yourself. So, always try to lead the way in whatever way you can.” says Divya. She shares her ups and downs through a sustainable lifestyle on her Instagram account called Sustainability Struggles.

Make a more sustainable family

The first step always seems the most difficult one to take but once you have started the journey, you will find others joining you as well. Nihal Jain Shrimal an eco-travel blogger, understands that when it comes to family, sustainability is a process. He says, “One of the biggest things I’ve noticed is that while there is no lack of awareness on the subject, there is an inertia to make actionable changes.”

His four-step guide perfectly sums up how you can initiate and continue on this green path with your family members.

  1. First, be patient.
    Understand that they are coming from years of conditioning, and it takes time to break old systems. There is a lot of inertia. 
  2. Lead by example.
    I didn’t just go around preaching, but I lived what I spoke. My family saw my actions every day, and slowly, it started to impact them. 
  3. Create avenues for discussion.
    Many times, I’d bring up topics to talk about like where our trash goes, why plastic isn’t truly recyclable, how can we make a more sustainable home. These are excellent dinner table conversations, and it gets the entire family interested. 
  4. Gamify the change.
    I introduced a trash audit system at home where we all calculate who generates the most trash in the family. After the first round, each time we tried to reduce that individually and the one who does the most, wins a prize. It’s a fun way to create change.

Sustainable living is not about taking a big step one day; it is about making small changes together each day.

Sanjoli is currently working as a Content Strategist and has a Master’s degree in Fashion Journalism. She has contributed to publications like MensXPMindless Mag and Sustain: The Mag in the past. Conscious Charcha is her way of learning more about sustainability and spreading the word about a sustainable lifestyle.

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