Leading a more sustainable life doesn’t happen overnight for most people. In general we change habits gradually and sustainable changes are no different. One step at a time we drop high-consumption habits and pick up more sustainable options.
In a world full of choices it can be overwhelming to make a lot of changes at once. For this reason it can be useful to start with a short-term challenge, like plastic-free July or doing meat-free Mondays. These are useful because they’re not too daunting and you can plan ahead for them by, for example, adding different foods to your shopping list, being prepared with shopping bags and produce bags, or maybe planning to shop at a bulk food store or farmers market, or simply not buying packaged food, especially fresh fruit and vegetables.
You might not be perfect at a challenge but that doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means there’s more progress to be made. What you’re not doing well, doesn’t negate what you are doing well. So take notice of your accomplishments, no matter how small, and give yourself credit. The positive reinforcement will encourage you to keep going.
A great way to begin reducing your environmental footprint is to take a project approach and do one thing at a time. Here’s seven ideas that don’t cost a lot to get you started:
- Swap your lights to LED – do it gradually if you need to or all at once – use less electricity and reduce your bills
- Eat less meat and dairy – not only do cows create the greenhouse gas, methane, their water use is very high and land use too, which contributes to deforestation
- Switch to renewable power – wind or solar, or hydro if you live near its source
- Ditch the car for a day – catch the train, bus, or tram, walk or ride to work or school – these all produce less carbon and are better for your health
- Install draught excluders – to be more energy efficient
- Heat or cool only the rooms you’re using – shut the doors of little used rooms
- Grow plants – start with a few herbs, plant a shrub or tree, get an indoor plant, and then grow more – plants take carbon out of the atmosphere and are a really important way to tackle climate change, cool your property, and improve your health and wellbeing.
Your approach will depend on your finances and how much time you can put into it – and that’s ok. Getting started is the most important thing. You’ll find that once you’ve done one, you’ll want to do more, and each step will be easier.
Becoming more sustainable is a journey. For most of us, most of the time, any change is progressive. It takes time to utilise your brain’s neuroplasticity and map lasting change. It’s not a case of being a saint or a sinner, it’s a matter of taking steps to a more sustainable lifestyle and every step we take makes a difference. If everyone took these steps the collective impact would be significant. And many people are already doing these things, so you’re in good company to create a better, cleaner, healthier future for us all. You don’t need to be perfect to be the difference the world needs, just get started.
© Palitja Moore, text 2020, and image, 2019
Sources, further reading, and inspirations
- Figueres, Christiana, Rivett-Carnac, Tom. The Future We Choose: surviving the climate crisis. London, UK: Manilla Press, 2020
- Low Carbon Living Guides
- Denim choices
- How to motivate yourself to change your behaviour, TedX Talk by Tali Sharot, Behavioural Neuroscientist
- Thomson, Sophie. Sophie’s Patch: inspiration and top tips from the popular Gardening Australia presenter. Sydney, Australia. Harper Collins: 2018.