Environmentally minded youths have a bad rap for being confrontational and rudely brazen about the superiority of their lifestyle choices. It’s a stereotype that’s reinforced through any number of media outlets, whether it’s the news reporting on a radical environmental group or a lazy college party movie depicting eco-friendly types as hemp wearing and patchouli scented bums. These are the environmental caricatures that will go to dangerous lengths to get their message across, and ones that are referenced by conservative groups who openly mock them.  Such a stereotype is hardly the image that a typical college student would want to suggest if they’re keen on socializing.

Believe it or not, the majority of environmentally conscientious people are neither militant nor lacking in proper hygiene. If you’re already a fairly green person, that’s not such a hard pill to swallow. But if you’re trying to make your case to people who are skeptical of green initiatives, you might have a more difficult time explaining your perspectives and opinions.

So how do you win over people to understand that going green is the best way to go?

Don’t start from a place of superiority

When discussing the topic of environmentalism, people are typically hypersensitive to condescension. Those on the fence about environmental issues are prepared to defend their lifestyle to the death if they sense that they’re being mocked in any way. That’s why you have to be extremely diplomatic when you tell someone about green alternatives.

You have to speak to people from a place completely devoid of conflict, creating a nonjudgmental atmosphere where you can both speak your minds freely. If someone outright rejects your stance on renewable energy or local farming initiatives, don’t immediately go for the jugular. Simply try to express your views as calmly and as logically as possible.

Focus on the positives of a green lifestyle

I think many environmentalists start on the wrong foot by telling people what’s wrong with traditional ways of living. They might attack the wastefulness of low gas mileage cars or despair over the lack of recycling practiced in this country. But negativity doesn’t exactly attract followers to the cause—quite the opposite; it only breeds further negativity.

But if you start from a positive angle, you’ll have a much better chance at drawing people’s attention. Instead of attacking low gas mileage cars, you can talk about the efficacy of public transit or the innovations occurring with alternatively fueled cars. A conversation about recycling can easily be discussed from a positive angle if you just take the time to discuss its benefits rather than mock its detractors.

There’s no question that many more people need to be on board about environmental issues in order to propagate real change in this country. But the only way to do that is through non confrontational discourse with a positive message. Using scare tactics will only intimidate people from joining the cause.

How do you spread awareness about green initiatives?

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of online university advice.  She welcomes your comments here or via e-mail at katherynrivas87@gmail.com.