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How can we encourage people to produce less waste?
And should you even try?
Living with people who have wasteful habits and a completely different lifestyle than you can be challenging.
It can be so demotivating, stressful, and annoying. Unfortunately, this is a very common situation, so believe me – you are not alone.
Luckily, there are various ways to encourage other people to be more mindful of waste.
In this article, I will share with you 14 tips, ideas, and ways to convince people to reduce their waste without being too pushy.
How can we encourage people to produce less waste: 14 tips and ideas
1. Lead by example.
No one likes to be told what to do. Many times, if you try to change someone, they won’t be happy about it and it can make the situation worse.
Instead of telling what someone should do, lead by example.
Don’t tell, but show your friends and family members how easy it is to:
- Bring your bag, and not use a plastic one.
- Pick loose veggies and not the ones wrapped in plastic.
- Not waste food.
- Shop second hand.
- Compost your food scraps.
- Separate your trash.
By living up to your values, you can influence your friends and family, or at least spark some interest.
This way can work so much better than judging others or telling them what to do.
2. Explain the benefits.
There are a lot of benefits when you live zero waste.
For example, many zero waste habits can save money.
When you stop meaningless shopping, invest in long-lasting products, don’t waste food, and DIY a couple of things, you can save a LOT of money. Around $5,337 a year!
Related post: How To Save $5,337 A Year By Going Zero Waste
My point is if you want to convince someone to try lowering their waste, do it smartly.
Tell them that going zero waste is often cheaper, and it can save money.
Explain that zero waste saves money by:
- Ditching all cleaning supplies for a multipurpose DIY one
- Getting rid of wet wipes and paper towels for reusable cloth towels
- Switching from plastic ватер bottles to a reusable one
- Buying second-hand clothes or electronics, instead of new ones
- Ditching single-use items like razors, or menstrual products, for reusable safety razors, and menstrual cups/cloth pads, etc.
Often, if someones see the financial benefits of something, they are more open to trying it.
Even if plastic bags, plastic water bottles, or single-use paper towels are super cheap, try to calculate how much someone can save by ditching them for a year or two.
Then share your calculations and findings with the people you want to encourage to produce less waste.
3. Make it easy & Help.
If I’m going on a trip with friends, I always try to bring extra reusables. For example, I bring jars if we want to drink coffee to go, cloth towels for cleaning, reusable food containers, etc.
Or if I am going out for a coffee to go with my boyfriend, I am bringing one extra reusable cup.
This will help the person to get used to the idea of bringing reusables, and lately, when we go out to eat or drink something, my boyfriend is asking if I got the reusables with me.
He also remembered to get them by himself a few times.
My point is – try to encourage and help the person /or people/.
Don’t expect them to change immediately. Instead, take extra things when necessary, remind them to get reusable bags when going to the shop, etc.
Slowly but surely, this person (or people) will start changing their habits and learn how to produce less waste.
While it can be a little annoying to carry a bunch of stuff, it is a small sacrifice to pay (in my opinion).
4. Take the initiative.
If you want your family or roommates to separate the trash, then add recycling bins.
Or, if you want your partner to stop buying veggies wrapped in plastic, go to the shop (or farmers market) together.
Show them from where you can buy various goods, plastic-free or package-free.
This is a great way to show them how simple it is to change a few habits.
After a while, if you are lucky, they will start doing certain things without your help.
5. Start a discussion about it.
If you want to encourage your partner or family member, the best thing is to talk with them.
You can’t expect others to know what you want without asking.
Sit down and have a conversation with this person.
Clearly explain how important it is for you if they are more mindful about waste and treat the environment better.
Of course, don’t be pushy, and don’t make it an ultimatum, but more like a request.
Offer your help, and discuss compromises if necessary.
6. Explain that everyone has an impact.
People often think they are too small to make a difference.
This can happen very often, but it’s further from the truth. Anyone can have a positive or negative impact.
Try to be prepared and provide various examples.
For instance, statistical data found that the average American produces over 4.4 pounds of garbage per day.
Let’s assume 10 000 people will read this blog.
Out of this number, let’s say 50% (which is 5000 people) decide to reduce their waste by JUST 25% (which is very, very doable, and simple):
- 5000 people x 1.1 pounds reduced (25%) x 365 days = 2 007 500 pounds of trash.
This is just a quick example showing that you don’t have to go crazy about reducing your waste.
We can collectively make a pretty big difference, even if you reduce 25-50% of your trash.
Additionally, one single person can do a lot by simply spreading the message.
When I started my low waste journey, many friends and family members didn’t think too much about their waste.
But my choices, and actions started to impact others positively.
I influenced many family members and friends. Then, they also influenced their friends and other family members, and the chain reaction continued.
And it all started with one single person.
So, when you think you can’t have an impact, think again.
7. Provide facts.
Some facts can encourage someone to think more about their waste.
That’s why it is a good idea to research and use various facts in discussions, like:
- Plastic production increased from 1.7 million tons to nearly 300 million tons per year. (1)
- A massive amount of plastic waste (~40%) is single-use packaging.
- Plastic products take up to 500 years to break down.
- Only 9% of plastic ever produced has been recycled. Without action, by 2050, there will be 12 billion tonnes of plastic in landfills and the environment. (1)
- Most plastics can only be recycled between 1-3 times before their quality decreases to the point where they can no longer be used. (1)
- Humans consume anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles a year. Eating seafood contaminated with microplastics could damage the immune system and upset a gut’s balance. (1)
This information can be thought-provoking.
It can hopefully encourage and make someone think twice before using various single-use plastics daily.
8. Give it time.
Building new habits take time.
Even at the beginning of my journey, I needed time to get used to many things and to change old habits for new ones.
Now, imagine someone who doesn’t give a second thought about trash. They might need even more time to get used to new things.
Be patient, and remember that everyone’s journey is different.
9. Encourage easy changes.
Even in my journey, I wanted to be as zero waste as possible but wasn’t sure how.
That’s why I started with easy changes. Most people who want to produce less waste will be interested in small eco-friendly actions.
Once they start, they will see that it’s easy and will feel good when they produce less trash.
After that, they will probably be interested in making more of these small changes.
10. Find like-minded people.
Sharing your struggles with others who are going through similar things can be very reassuring and motivating.
You will see that you are not alone, and a lot of people have similar struggles.
You can try to help by sharing your experience or getting some great advice and new ideas to try out.
Look in your local community for groups or meet-ups where you can find like-minded people or check for an online community. For example, I’m mainly on Reddit and Facebook groups.
If there is nothing in your region, you can start one.
Now, let’s take a look at what NOT to do if you want to encourage people to produce less waste:
11. Don’t try to compensate.
Trying to compensate for someone’s wasteful behavior can only make your life more stressful.
Don’t take problems that are not yours, your responsibility.
That rarely goes well, and if the other person doesn’t care – you will make your life much harder.
12. Don’t be pushy. Never force.
Pressuring someone to change and forcing a different lifestyle onto anyone may result in resistance and negative experiences.
It can even make the person you are trying to change hate the zero waste movement and waste even more.
Instead, try to show that the zero-waste lifestyle is achievable and fulfilling.
You can show that it is much easier, and the point isn’t to be perfect.
13. Do not tell them what to do – tell a story.
Dry information and stats won’t always inspire someone to change.
While I like to use it sometimes, it is not always applicable.
By telling a story, you can become relatable, and honest, and you won’t simply tell them what to do.
Listen to the person, and share how you approached a similar situation or problem.
14. Don’t waste your energy on people who are negative and close-minded.
While rare, you can (and probably will) end up “losing” one of these “fights.”
Some people will refuse to change and won’t accept even the slightest effort.
And that’s okay, too. You can’t influence and encourage everyone. Just accept that, and move forward.
It can be a big challenge to encourage people to produce less waste.
With some people, it will go smooth, and they will be open to trying to be more eco-friendly.
With others – not so much.
You have to read the situation and decide how to approach this person, and if it makes any sense even to try.
Nevertheless, know that you are doing enough just by living that way, and you are making a difference.
Let me know in the comments below how do you deal with resisting or unsupportive friends and family members?