Are you looking for ways to protect the planet and persuade others to join your cause? New research suggests that having a conversation about pro-sustainability opinions could be the key to success. In this blog post, we’ll look at the study and explore how talking about sustainability could help change minds and inspire action.

The research, conducted by a team of scientists at The Ohio State University, explored the idea that talking about sustainability could influence people’s behavior. In three experiments, the researchers found that exposure to a pro-sustainability opinion in a conversation or written exchange helped coax people who held anti-sustainability views toward support for an environmentally friendly initiative. The findings suggest that talking about sustainability can be an effective way to persuade people to take action.

In the first study, the team set out to determine whether having a conversation about a sustainability topic could influence actual sustainability behavior. A total of 568 college students read a statement about a university policy to expand plant-based food options in campus dining halls. Pairs of participants were randomized to either share their stances, thoughts and feelings about the plant-based foods policy or, as a control, to try to guess the name of a famous person described in a biography they were given to read.

For the last 30 seconds of the interaction, researchers gauging participants’ commitment to the planet-friendly cause told students in two of three groups — one discussing the policy and one the famous person — to decide how much effort they would put into performing a task that would generate financial support for the plant-based foods policy. Results showed that having a sustainability conversation before committing to take action in support of the issue increased sustainable behavior — the clicking — above and beyond the conversation or commitment alone.

In the second and third studies, people initially unsupportive of the policy who interacted with someone supportive of the initiative were more likely to engage in behavior supporting the policy. Pro-sustainability participants, on the other hand, could not be swayed to lower their commitment by a conversation or written exchange with someone expressing the counterpoint.

Organized efforts to talk about behaving sustainably could have real-world applications in college roommate selections, the workplace and other sectors, the researchers noted. Simply having a few prompts could spark stronger commitments than those that people tend to make to ambitions set by a third party.

So next time you’re trying to persuade someone to join your cause, consider having a conversation about sustainability. It could be just the thing to help change minds and inspire action.