Take Action in 2019!
You don’t have to have a psychology degree to effectively change behavior. But it doesn’t hurt to lean on a little science to turn our resolutions into new actions.
Renewing our commitment to sustain our planet in January isn’t a hokey tradition - it is smart! A New Year’s resolution can help us take stock of our actions, refresh our thinking, and keep hope alive.
Here are a few behavior change hacks to make those resolutions stick.
Expand Your Horizons
Pick an area you want to focus on rather than just one single action. You could choose to stop using a toxic floor cleaner in your house, but what if you don’t find an alternative you like? Is that a fail for the year? And what happens after you find the alternative? Is 2019 a wrap when it comes to resolutions?
Instead, you can decide to make 2019 a healthier year by reducing toxics in your life. This broader focus allows you to spend the year exploring all the aspects in your life where toxics may show up. How can pests be controlled in the home without pesticides? What about body care products? Perhaps you are exposed to toxics in your workplace.
Metro’s Healthy Homes is a great place to get started in focusing on this topic.
To thine own self be true
Spend the first few months of the year observing your behavior before creating a plan. If your goal is to address consumption, first it is important to know what you consume and why. Are you purchasing new stuff because the old breaks down a lot? This can mean that you might need to explore ways to purchase durable goods, create maintance plans and/or learn how to repair things that break.
But you also need to also know your potential failures. If you know that you hate tinkering with stuff, your repair plans should include exploring services that repair stuff or even joining a repair fair. If you love tinkering with things, perhaps IFixIt.com is a good site to check out.
It is also helpful to plan ahead to overcome those potential hiccups before they even happen. If you know that you use a lot of single use items, think about where you can strategically place a reuseable item so that it gets used. Tote bags in the car or bike bag help you say no to single-use bags when you are in on the go. A towel at your desk at work helps you dry your hands without using paper. Making lunch the night before helps avoid take-away packaging during breaks.
Find specific ways to measure your success. There is a reason the first step of the Eat Smart, Waste Less Challenge to reduce wasted food is to measure the food you currently waste. Measuring over time gives you clues as to which food are wasted and it gives you a chance to toot your horn when you measure a difference.
Gold stars for baby steps are helpful as well. Perhaps you found a cool app that helps you stick to a grocery list while shopping for food. Maybe you found a great recipe for wilted spinach. Celebrate by sharing your new finds on social media.
Sharing your story about the ups and downs is also a fantastic way to celebrate the journey of your commitment. Storytelling about proper food storage helps you own and embrace the new identify as a person who saves food. It also inspires your listeners and gives them a head start in overcoming hurdles you had to leap.
Master Recyclers Make a Difference
Some reputable people will challenge the value of focusing on environmental behavior change. They worry that it is not enough to focus on individual actions given the scale of the environmental challenges we face in 2019. They are concerned that manufacturers will not be willing to make the shifts in priorities. They argue that energy is better spent on city design, buildings and policy.
To be sure, we are facing global problems that will require global and systemic solutions. Today’s level of consumption is at a scale such that our very climate, which makes the planet habitable, is at stake. With our consumption of resources dramatically overshooting the earth’s capacity to renew those resources, slowly changing behaviors can seem futile. The global economies and inequities that drive unsustainable consumption must be addressed.
In light of these systemic problems, it leaves a person wondering what difference they can make.
As individuals and community leaders, Master Recyclers play a unique role in making much needed change on both a systemic and individual level.