Q: How can I persuade my friends to be greener and use fewer toxic products?
A: Time for an ecoholic questionnaire. Answer yes or no to the following: Do you have Earth Day events circled on your calendar but your friends couldn't pick out the day at gunpoint for a million-dollar prize? Have you memorized recipes for homemade cleaners but your family thinks baking soda's only functions are freezer-deodorizing and scone-making?
Unless you live in a colony of treehuggers or have some sort of ecological enlightenment clause that all your acquaintances need to sign off on, chances are you've got plenty of less-than-green loved ones in your life. So what do you do when you want to influence your corner of the world to live a little lighter on the planet?
Tough one. Your grandma's Glade plug-ins or best friend's antibacterial hand wash may drive you batty, but they may not be very interested in changing their ways.
What can you do to get those around you to take the next green step this Earth Month? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1) Lead by example: Heard the old adage "Show, don't tell"? Your family and friends will definitely notice that you're doing things differently. Okay, so they may not follow suit, but your chances of swaying roommates, parents or friends are higher if you're demonstrating just how easy it is to have a clean house that's easy to breathe in with green cleaners, or soft skin with organic lotion.
2) Come bearing gifts. Rather then telling people how awful their choice of products or lifestyle is, be a green Santa and use any gifting opportunity (birthdays, Mother's Day, dinner parties) to offer up locally made organic treats, a Teflon-free frying pan or your own gift basket of truly natural body care products (forget the Body Shop ones) or cleaners. David Suzuki Foundation's Lindsay Coulter says she gifts her non-greenish friends homemade cosmetics and DIY cleaners. One Ecoholic reader bought her mother-in-law a composter for Mother's Day, while another made her mom reusable cloth napkins to get her off disposable paper ones.
3) Share, don't scare. Nothing wrong with sharing interesting facts or research you've found with buds. Just watch your tone. Try a "Wow, just found out the ingredient in antibacterial soap has been declared toxic. Can you believe they say it might cause super-bugs?" rather than "I noticed you're using antibacterial soap. You're really poisoning your family, you know that?"
4) Make a night of it. Hold a swap night where friends and family bring in old movies, CDs, re-gifts and preloved clothes and they'll see what a blast recycling can be. Host a Bring Your Own Jar party where you make your own cleaning products. Just download a Green Cleaning Party Kit from Women's Voices for the Earth (womensvoices.org) or hold a DIY beauty night complete with a screening of The Story Of Cosmetics (safecosmetics.org).
5) Reserve nagging for parents and people who are forced to love you. My mom says having four kids prod her and my father to be more health- and environment-conscious has, over the decades, pushed them to change their ways dramatically. A pestering husband also got my pal to start peeling the paper labels off cans so they could be recycled separately - proof that nagging can be effective when strategic (i.e., nag about the can and not, say, dirty dishes in the sink).
6) Praise the smallest eco acts. Heap on the compliments when pals and fam take a stab at going green, even if you don't completely agree with their choices. You may not like Green Works or Burt's Bees because they're owned by Clorox, but they're still more natural options than the Tilex or Suave they were using before. And that deserves some kudos.
@ecoholicnation on Twitter