Imagine a music festival where one of the stages is powered by a group of people pedaling stationary bicycles. Imagine a music festival where all 10,000 attendees receive a totally recycled, green water bag as they enter the grounds where they then find abundant water stations to refill those bags throughout the seven hour festival. Imagine a music festival that features the best locally sourced, organic food in the area. Imagine a music festival that has a variety of educational tents/booths teaching people about waste disposal, how to reduce their carbon footprint, and how to take recycle/reuse to a whole other level. Imagine a music festival with T-shirts that have been upcycled from recycled Goodwill T-shirts. If you can imagine all of these things than you can imagine Rock the Green (RTG), a music festival I had the joy of attending this past weekend in Milwaukee, WI. RTG, now in its second year, is a music festival unlike any other because along with the great music it provides, it presents a great message as well. It is music with a message, or it could just as easily be described as a message with music. The message is simple, but powerful: It is possible to throw a world class music festival and produce near-zero waste; and it's possible to have an incredible amount of fun and teach people--children, families, and adults of all ages about sustainability and green environmental practices at the same time. (To learn more about Rock the Green, a non-profit organization that in addition to the annual music festival provides year-round educational opportunities regarding sustainability and how we can all have a "feather light eco-footprint," click here).
My wife and I are marriage and family therapists and work a great deal with helping families. People often come to us because they are worried about a young person that they love--a child, a grandchild, a niece or nephew, or a friend. They are worried about unhealthy choices this young person is making and they wish they could influence them to make better choices. As I left the Rock the Green festival I realized that I had not only learned a few new ideas about recycling, but I was also reminded of a few important ideas about how to influence others to make better, healthier choices.
What I learned is that when you have a desire to influence the choices that others are making, the two most important things to keep in mind are:
1. Add "music" to your message--present your message in the context of a fun and positive energy.
2. The most powerful way to teach your message is by living the message yourself--be the change you seek to teach.
Rock the Green did both of these positive things. Now it's just as important to note what they didn't do. They didn't create a lecture series about environmental practices, and they didn't go around and protest at other music festivals for not embodying sound environmental practices. Instead, they created and embodied the change they teach.
Is there a child or young person that you have the chance to influence in your life? Are there important messages that you would like to teach this young person about what it means to be well--emotionally, spiritually, or physically? Take a tip from Rock the Green and rock your message. Make your message fun. Keep the message clear, but avoid burdening it with a lot of emotional heaviness. Mix in equal amounts of humor with the message. And most importantly, live your message. Model the message. Showing is as important as telling. When it comes to influencing young people, remember that they are always watching us. They are watching to see how we are indeed "rocking the message" in our own lives.
And if you want to teach someone about environmental wellness, be sure to attend the third annual Rock the Green music festival.