Well-Being: Finding Your Family's Environmental Best

by Aislinn Pluta   |   July 21, 2013


Trying to develop a deeper connection to nature for your entire family can seem like a daunting task. With diverse interests and busy schedules, it can seem especially difficult to even know where to begin.

Fortunately, there is an effective tool available that can help groups to design their desired vision for the future. Known as “Appreciative Inquiry,” this tool comes to life by tapping into the greatest moments and the biggest strengths of the group. This can be a fun process of exploration that gives you a heightened appreciation for your family as well as a vision for extending your family’s highest qualities into the future. 

This tool has been specially adapted here to help you reach your “Environmental Best.” Ideally, everyone in the family should participate.
What is your family’s “environmental best”?

Step 1: Discover your family’s best moments. 

This is the most important step! Take time to answer these questions as a group.

  • Describe a high point in the family—a time when everyone felt most engaged and alive, or deeply connected. What was happening? What made this moment so memorable and satisfying?
  • What are your core strengths as a family? What do you do particularly well? How do your strengths help sustain you through small and large challenges?
  • What are your family values? How do they help fuel your actions? How do you express these values in everyday life?
  • Describe a time when the family was at its “environmental” best, connecting with nature in a way that felt good for the family and the Earth. What was happening? How did it feel?

Step 2: Imagine your family in the future. What we dream, we become.

  • Imagine later in life, perhaps five years from now, that you are fully living your ecological ideals, and your family’s well-being is thriving. How are you connecting to nature? What do you imagine your “footprint” to be? What sort of housing are you in? How are you getting food? Using water? Transporting yourselves? How does your family feel? How does your family interact with one another? Remember to let your imagination roam free, and describe what you see.

Step 3: Construct possibilities that are inspired by your dream for the future and grounded by what has worked in the past.

  • Determine the aspects of family life on which you want to focus on to make your dream a reality. Is it the consumption of media or material goods? Relationships with each other or others?  Spirituality? Use of recreational time?
  • Design pathways that could help move your family in the direction that you envision. What ideas come to mind? How can you use what you do well to achieve your dreams? Be creative, and make sure your ideas highlight what you can do more of, rather than what you can do less of. Pick a few that you want to actually make a reality.
  • Write up statements or draw pictures that describe your strengths, your dream, and your design. Write it in the present tense, as if you are already making your dreams a reality.

Step 4: From your new sense of purpose, make your design a reality.

  • What can each member of the family do to uphold the design? Have all members come up with key ideas that they are excited about and that can stretch them in new directions?
  • Write down specific steps you need to take for each goal to become a reality. Be careful not to get overwhelmed. Get out the calendar and reserve time for these action steps to happen. For example, 1) visit one new park in your area in the next 2-3 weeks; 2) join one river clean-up by December 1st, etc.
  • Post your strengths, your dream, your design, and your timelines so you can see them and allow them to inspire and motivate you.
  • Gather social support—talk to friends and family about your wishes to spend more time outdoors and to green your lifestyle. See if they want to join you in making some of these changes together.
  • Continue appreciating what is best in your family, creating positive visions of the future, creatively coming up with innovative ideas to move forward, and continuing the momentum of the process. Be sure to celebrate your progress!

Aislinn Pluta is a freelance writer, researcher, editor, and nonprofit consultant. Her area of expertise is wellness, having received her Master of Positive Psychology degree at the University of Pennsylvania. Aislinn is fascinated by how our connection with nature can support not only mental flourishing, but how it can also extend into behaviors that support a flourishing environment. She can be reached at aislinn.pluta@gmail.com.