• Gabrielle Stannus

Video did not kill this radio "star"!

No video did not kill this radio star, but nerves almost did. There's nothing quite like a late request for a radio interview to get the adrenaline pumping, especially when you are new to your position. And when the topic is "how do you make sustainability mainstream", you know you have your work cut out for you.


Having recently been appointed to coordinate Tamar NRM's inaugural Sustainable Living Expo, I was asked by ABC Northern Tasmania radio for an interview on Piia Wirsu's "Drive" program. "Would I be available at 4.10pm this afternoon"?, they asked. "Of course", I said, as I felt the butterflies fluttering in my stomach.


So just before the appointed time, I steadied my nerves with a warm cup of "Relax" tea and prepared to answer some tough questions. I did a little preparation trying to anticipate the key questions I may be asked, and thinking how I could get in a few key messages to promote the Tamar Sustainable Living Expo. After all, that is what I was there to do.


The seven minute interview flew by so quickly that I was left wanting an hour slot to continue the conversation. I hardly got a chance to talk about all the interesting topics that we hope to cover at the Expo, including sustainable design, plastic-free living, ethical investment and more.


So I went from "how can we just get this over and done with" to "I have a few more things I would like to say" but nobody to say them to.


So here are some of those "things" I have to say on the topic of making sustainability more mainstream. In no particular order ...


1. Understand that we all start from different spaces

Some of us may be further along the sustainability path and that is great. Well done! However, others may have had a different journey in life. If we really want to make a difference on this planet, we need to embrace everybody, regardless of where they are at. For some people, knowing where to start can be very confusing. There are so many messages out there: "do this", "do that" ... it is almost like a game of "Simon Says", with some people scared to participate in case they are caught responding incorrectly. So let's encourage everyone to make a start.

These messages are very important, however they can also be overwhelming for some people who are not sure where to start

2. Link it into people's experience

Don't get me wrong. The environment is important and we need to respect it. After all, there are no jobs (or food) on a dead planet. Once again, many people become overwhelmed if they are asked to understand issues on a global basis. To engage people, you need to be able to connect issues to their own experience. What is important to them about this issue? How does it connect to their day-to-day living? Look at the knowledge, attitude, behaviours and values of people to understand what motivates them. Then and only then can you start to understand how to work with them.


3. Speak people's language

No, I am not asking all of you to learn Mandarin or Zulu. What I am suggesting is that when discussing sustainability issues, you can phrase some suggestions for change in terms you may not necessarily be comfortable with. No ... I don't mean those four letter words! What I am referring to are those phrases such as "save money", "save time", it is more convenient","c'est plus confortable" ...oops, well there you go. I was speaking somebody else's language! Gold star to me!


4. Recognise effort

Most people like their efforts to be recognised (ahem!). Acknowledging people's efforts along their sustainability journey can help to keep them motivated when things get difficult.


5. Reduce the barriers to action

Fully understand the problem at hand and how it affects a particular community before preaching to them about it. Understand the barriers that may be preventing people from taking up more sustainable practises in their daily lives. Then develop solutions with them to suit their local needs, i.e. training, information, incentives and so on.


The experts behind this sort of thinking call it community-based social marketing. Check out Doug McKenzie-Mohr's work in this area. McKenzie-Mohr is an environmental psychologist with a wealth of knowledge about how to work with people to bring about sustained behaviour change.


Finally ... if you would like to hear me speak on this topic, click here to listen into the interview I did with Piia on ABC Northern Tasmania. I am interviewed at about 4.12pm, about ten minutes into the broadcast. As for the "Radio Star" moniker ... well let's just say that I gave it a go ;)


A bientôt!


POSTNOTE: I was thinking a lot about this topic overnight. What I have written here emphasises the role of the individual in making a difference. Now we all know that some individuals have more power than others to affect change. So in order to make sustainability truly mainstream, we need to have sustainable practices become norms, i.e. accepted behaviours. We need our leaders to step up to the challenge. Incorporate sustainability into every aspect of government and business policy and operations. Make it business as usual.

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