Getting in touch with businesses who you reckon could do more on the waste front is a great way to make changes. People often believe that their one letter or phone call won’t make a difference, but it can be surprising the changes small groups of people can affect, particularly with local businesses.
A great way to proceed is to make phone calls, write letters, or drop in and make suggestions to business owners. There are some rules of thumb that we follow when we do this:
- Be positive and not aggressive: the reality is that there’s a person on the receiving end of this letter or phone call with feelings and emotions. If you want to see change, it’s better not to make that person defensive, and better to make them warm to you rather than box you in the ‘cantankerous person’ category, which makes you easier to dismiss. If you struggle with writing letters or communicating in a way that is not aggressive on issues you care about (and are reflexive enough to recognise you have this problem), get a friend to look over the letter for you, or to be a sounding board for your message. Preferably, a friend who is not also a highly waste conscious person because a) they may be just as liable to get emotional and grumpy as you b) getting a non-waste conscious person to read over the letter is a good way of getting this person to think about waste for a moment <– side win!
- Proactively offer solutions rather than just pointing out problems: we operate on the assumption that most businesses, politicians and individuals want to do the right, non-wasteful thing (we operate with this presumption even on the odd occasion where we might suspect this isn’t the case), but that they may be too busy, stressed or overwhelmed to work out what the right thing is, or many not be aware of possible less wasteful alternatives. You can be most helpful if you are able to do this mahi (work) for the business and provide well-researched alternatives to the wasteful item or practice you are wanting them to change. If you can take the time to look beyond the obvious solutions, this can be helpful too. Sometimes the solutions you think are obvious really are obvious, and the business owner has already considered them and found they don’t work, for whatever reason.
- Namedrop good practice: if you can, find a way to refer to a similar NZ business/organisation to the one you are writing to that already does the thing you are recommending. This communicates that the practice is possible in NZ, while creating a space for possible peer learning/sharing (if it’s not a commercially sensitive/competitive situation). It can also be a way of flagging that the competitors of the business you are writing to are already one step ahead of them in the way of the future (motivating!)
- Let them know less wasteful practices are good for business: Find a kind way to communicate that you have chosen not to buy their product because of the packaging, and that if they were to reconsider their packaging and opt for something like wasteful, they’d attract more custom from waste conscious people.
However, here’s the thing. You may have a list of businesses that you wish would package their products differently or you might love it if your local cafe wouldn’t smother their cabinet food in plastic wrap, but perhaps you’re unsure what to say or recommend they do instead.
We’ve found that while lots of people care about waste and want to communicate better ways of doing things, they also struggle when it comes to offering up solutions for businesses, and they can get confused by greenwashing too. On The Rubbish Trip we see different ways of doing things all the time – some great, some less so. We have come across loads of good alternatives to common wasteful items and practices. Is there a tricky item you’ve identified and that you’d like to find an alternative for to suggest to a particular business? Leave us a comment…