One of the things that I have learned over the years is the importance of planting a seed, and presenting alternatives that are kinder to the environment to people. Even if they are not ready to understand it and act on it, it brings a new perspective and awareness.
What if we could bring an idea to a business or even a government? Any positive change at that level is massive and exciting, because it is going to have a far greater impact.
It turns out we can all do that, and in this era of technology, it is actually easier than ever. In today’s post, I would like to explore this topic and hopefully show how something as simple as writing an email, can be quite powerful.
I am using the word “bother” in this subtitle, because I acknowledge that writing emails can be tedious for many people, we are all busy and even if we are not, there are so many other interesting things we would rather be doing than sending emails – don’t even get me started on an actual physical letter.
However, when we see something that could be done differently, when there are opportunities to reduce waste, to change rules that could benefit the environment, why not?
If you are reading this blog post, you’ve probably heard about the state of the environment and the countless issues our planet is facing, and I am sure you care. It is really up to us, people who are aware of this reality, to do something about it, to bring ideas, suggestions, to speak up. A quote that sums up this idea quite well comes from Hillel the Elder:
“If Not Me, Who? If Not Now, When?”
How to deliver the message
Below are some recommendations based on personal experience:
- Be as specific as possible (why you are making a suggestion, what’s the alternative and the potential benefits).
- Be kind and compassionate, people are doing the best they can with the knowledge they have. Most times they don’t even know, that they don’t know.
- Don’t tell them they are doing something wrong. Most of us struggle with criticism, and from that space people can get defensive, and they’ll just shut to whatever suggestion or idea you are presenting.
- Try to compliment something you like about the products or services they are offering.
- Offer suggestions and recommendations, instead of demanding change. Big difference there.
- Provide examples of other companies selling similar products/offering same services, which had already implemented the ideas you are suggesting. Once, I contacted a company that sells bread, and provided info about another local company that sells bars in certified home compostable packaging as an example. They seemed interested.
What not to do
Once, I remember I sent an email to a stationary company. I had been in one of their store trying to find a notebook, and I was looking for cardboard cover, recycled paper and minimum/no plastic packaging. I needed the item quickly, that’s why I ended up there. It was extremely hard to find what I wanted, there were zero products made from recycled paper, I asked employees about the materials – they didn’t know and the labels didn’t list them. I was frustrated.
With that frustration in mind and not in a great mood (other personal issues running through my mind too), I sat to write the email. Of course, there was a lot of criticisms in those lines, I even compared them with a competitor (as I knew they had products made from recycled materials), saying that even when had nicer looking products, they didn’t have options for people trying to buy more sustainable products. I gave them suggestions, but it didn’t start off on the right foot.
Even when the guy tried to keep it professional, I could sense his response was defensive, in a nutshell he implied that it wasn’t entirely true, that they used for instance, natural inks and some other positive things (which by the way didn’t even appear on their website). Long story short, I don’t know if they even considered my suggestions, but I learned my lesson: Don’t write these emails in a bad mood!
Find your style
I am an introvert, I find emails an easy way to contact people and share my ideas, because that’s my nature – that’s why I write this blog and I am not such a huge fan of social media (even when I use it!).
We are all so different. If you are a people person and you get energised talking, then give them a call or even make your suggestion in person, you could connect perhaps at a deeper level and convey the messages in a more impactful way.
Just find your style, there is not right or wrong, it is just a matter of preferences. We are all trying to achieve the same thing, to make a difference.
No answers/changes, no worries
So you wrote your lovely email/letter, and you never got a response. Or they did reply and you had an interesting conversation where they agreed with your ideas, but still after a while you haven’t seen any changes.
Don’t get discouraged. Even when we see no immediate results from our efforts, it doesn’t mean that they are not contributing to a change in the bigger picture. There is a quote that I truly like (I don’t know the author) and says:
“We cannot force someone to hear a message they are not ready to receive, but we must never underestimate the power of planting a seed.”
Perhaps people need more time to fully understand our suggestions and new ideas, and right now they are not ready to move forward. Perhaps they need more resources to implement some changes. Maybe they do like our suggestions, but it is not the best time for them as they are struggling with other pressing problems.
Also remember, that the message could be one of many emails sent by other people with similar suggestions or other green recommendations, so our email is only making these ideas stronger and it is sending the message: we are all in this, and companies also need to play their part.
For most of the emails I have sent over the years, I have received a response. Often people seem open, they are grateful for the email, and they say they’ll share it with the right team within the company for them to assess or something along those lines.
Sometimes they ask me further questions about the suggestions, which I try to expand as much as a I can hoping the information helps.
There have been cases when they have told me they would do the changes immediately, but I have never had the opportunity to go back to those places/seen those products to see if they really took action, but I choose to believe they did. One time however, I did had the opportunity to go back:
I went to a restaurant in a touristy little town, they had a water station with plastic cups and they served straws with every single drink. I sent them an email, suggested to replace the plastic cups for reusable ones and give straws only upon request. They replied and they said these were great ideas and they would implement them. I came back to this restaurant some months later, to find out that both suggestions had been actioned. They even put extra information to the signs to raise awareness about the harm of disposable plastic. Even when the changes were small, it was amazing to see.
I am sure there will be positive changes that I’ll never be able to see, confirm or quantify, however I know speaking up, offering ideas and suggestions, raising awareness about these issues is like a ripple effect, a small one, but it matters.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
That’s it for today, what do you think about this? Do you send emails/letters offering suggestions when you see something could be better? if not, will you be willing to try it? imagine the potential if many of use spent few minutes sending these emails.