Live Green and Earn Points


5 Ways to Win a Green Argument

By Joe Laur |
Here’s a 5 step process for staying cool and advocating your own position effectively while hearing and understanding where the other person is coming from.
green arguement

We all have at least one in our family or circle of friends: that person who believes that nothing we do to the earth, or take from her makes a difference. You’ve heard all the arguments: “We’ve always have environmental crises, and the earth bounces back just fine”, “Technology will figure out a solution”, “The climate has always warmed and cooled- this is just a natural cycle”, “You environmental wackos are killing jobs to save tree frogs!”

Here’s a 5 step process for staying cool and advocating your own position effectively while hearing and understanding where the other person is coming from.

Let’s assume that you and Bob are having a disagreement about recycling. You think it’s critically important that we recycle everything we can; Bob says that there are plenty of resources still in the ground, and recycling is a waste of time. You could just yell at each other like a Saturday Night Live skit- “Jane, you ignorant slut!” Or you could work at having a genuine conversation. Here’s how.

Step One: State your position and how you arrived at it
“Y’know Bob, I think that recycling is critical to our economy and our kid’s future. I read on Greenopolis that waste is a resource out of place, and that all waste can be used for good purpose- like making a carpet out of soda bottles. There’s data to show that recycling saves energy, keeps trash and pollution out of our oceans, air and soils, and conserves natural resources. Nature reuses everything- why can’t we?”

Step two: Make sure you understand Uncle Bob’s position and how he arrived at it
“Bob, I hear you saying that we have plenty of space to landfill trash, and that it’s cheaper to make stuff from new resources than from recycled materials. How did you come to that conclusion? What sources did you get your information from?

Step three: Explore, listen and offer your own views in an open way
“Bob, have you seen the new report from the Beverage Recycling Institute on energy saved from recycling? Have you considered that if we recycle stuff, we don’t have to go back to the mine, oil well or forest for more resources?”

Step four: Listen for larger meaning and new insights that may come out of honest, open listening and sharing of alternative points of view
"Y’know, Bob, I get what you are saying about how Great-Grandpa used to throw stuff in the woods back on the farm and it just went back to the earth. I guess if most of our materials were still made from leather, wood, clay, cloth and natural materials that might be the case today. . It sure would be easier than all the rinsing and sorting I do.”

Step five: Raise any concerns and state what is leading you to have them
“Bob, I get where you are coming from. I still have a hard time seeing how plastics will just go away- they persist for lifetimes in the environment. I read about these ocean gyres in the Pacific and Atlantic , as big as Texas where plastics get trapped in currents and just swirl around for decades, even centuries. It’s hurting the fish, turtles and making the ocean less productive. How do you think we might address that problem?”

Now you are listening to each other, asking questions as well as making statements, and trying to uncover the data, assumptions, interpretations and feelings that inform our opinions. You might not change old Bob’s mind, but you can have a better grasp of why he believes what he does. You both might have an “aha” moment. And you’ll likely discover more common ground that just arguing with each other. Leave that to the talking heads on cable.

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Mia K. 5 years ago
    Can you guys quit forcing your views on people? Just leave the non-greenies alone.
  • Barbara A. 5 years ago
    I really enjoyed reading this article and it was helpful Thank you.
  • opal w. 5 years ago
    live green
  • megan h. 5 years ago
  • Anna S. 5 years ago
    It is very hard indeed to convince people in goodness of recycling. The big problem in the argument is that I do not know too much about recycling process. Some people believe that recycle bin content at the end goes to the landfill. If recyclebank website give us (perhaps send us) more info on how our green bin collection get processed I could have more powerful argument with my family and friends
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