4 Simple Steps to Growing a Planet-Strong Community

Being an eco-warrior can be tough if you feel like you're the only one that cares. Isolation not only leads to disinterest, but can stop you from making bigger, better changes in your community. The obvious solution is to nip that pessimism in the bud by gathering like-minded, motivated people around you.

Easier said than done, though, right?

For those people living in smaller communities that are struggling to find a thriving zero waste or eco-friendly community, here are four steps to creating one yourself:

Start an online group

Even local groups need an online place to plan get-togethers, ask for advice, and offer support.. Social media sites like Facebook or Meetup are excellent choices for several reasons.

First of all, you can get them started with no money. You don't want to be in a financial hole from the get-go, so social media is a great choice.

Secondly, starting an online group allows people to 'get to know each other' without the terrifying prospect of meeting strangers in real life. You'll be able to create posts and engage with the fellow eco-curious without immediate in-person pressure!

Finally, chances are the kinds of people you are looking for can be easily found on social media. Both Facebook and Meetup are location-specific, meaning you can reach out to people who live nearby. That makes it easier to move your community offline and into the real world.

Speaking of…

Hold an in-person workshop

You've amassed a little group of like-minded people on your social media platforms and you know each other in the online world. It's time to take this relationship to the next level!

Why not host an in-person workshop?

While they may be a little more work than a casual meetup, workshops are so valuable. They're far more motivating than meet-ups, because they allow participants to learn a particular skill - chances are you'd get a better turn out!

You might feel intimidated by the idea, but everyone has something to bring to the table. If you practice zero waste, bring the ingredients for a zero waste product. If your eco-consciousness is based around veganism, teach a cooking class. If you're all about community gardens, a seed-swapping event could be fun.

The options are endless and customizable based on what your community wants to learn. (You should already have a pretty good idea of what they're interested in since you've been chatting in your online space!)

Once your community is starting to solidify, take it to the next level...

Identify an initiative to address

Once you have an active group, find a local eco-cause to get involved in. While individual and small-group actions are rewarding, bringing your ideas to the larger community is also really valuable. Petition, speak, and become an activist with your community.

Here are just a few ways to spread your activism beyond your group:

  • Attend a local town council meeting and present your issue. Each town or city council meeting should have a time at each meeting for public comment. Prepare a 2-3 minute - max - comment about the issue you've found and offer a simple solution if you see one.
  • Reach out to local press. See if a local newspaper or TV station will cover your cause of choice. If you can show that a group of citizens have a worthy cause, they may be interested.
  • Hold a community event. Take your workshops beyond just your group and open them to the community to spread the word. Chances are you can find local shops or organizations willing to give you the space in return for some solid community education!

Keep trying

While I made the process sound simple, be aware that you'll have setbacks. I know because I've been there. The meetups where one other person shows up. The cancelled workshops because no one wants to come.

That's OK! It's all part of the awkward growing process that is creating a community. Expect failure, but don't let it scare you into not trying at all.

But stay positive and engaged, and try again next month. There are eco-minded people out there to create wonderful communities with - it just may take a little while to find them.

Polly Barks is the author of Green Indy, a site dedicated to making zero waste more accessible to everyone.

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