This was the message of Afsheen Rashid, project co-ordinator at eco-charity the London Sustainability Exchange(LSx) when she spoke at water tradeshow IWEX on Tuesday.

Ms Rashid said it was vital to tailor the message to the community if you wanted to make a connection and gave a number of examples of how LSx had achieved this over the years.

For the Turkish community, for example, who have no word for recycling, street theatre had helped drive home the importance of reducing waste.

Hindu’s had responded well to attempts to tie in a water conservation message with the idea of dharma, or religious duty to look after the natural world.

While finding inroads into communities could be a painstaking process – it took LSx six month to identify suitable community champions when working on the Hindu water project – doing so pays dividends in the long run.

Ms Rashid said that while speakers from LSx had reached far wider audiences than the champions, the response had been less enthusiastic.

On the other hand, hearing the message from those with whom they had a connection had inspired community members to take action.

Respecting cultural sensitivities is important and time spent doing background research on targeted communities was worthwhile.

She stressed the importance of translating any promotion material where appropriate, as even those who could read English would be more likely to engage if the message came in their native language.

And incentives could also be important, she said, with a need for positive change being rewarded.

LSx has produced a series of tool kits for those wishing to promote environmental sustainability in the wider community, and has material available on its website.

Sam Bond

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