6 Simple Habits To Reduce Your Environmental Impact
And how to make sure those habits stick
“The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.” — James Clear
In the simplest terms, habits are actions that we repeat regularly without thinking about it — usually every day. The key here, and why habits are so brilliant, is ‘without thinking about it’. When a habit sticks, it becomes something that you do automatically. This can be incredibly powerful.
So why not harness that power to reduce your environmental impact?
How to make habits stick
It takes 66 days for an action to become a habit: to stick. So how can you ensure you make it through those 66 days?
Habits guru James Clear cites four factors which help to build habits and make them stick, in his book Atomic Habits.
Cue: triggers and patterns which remind you to perform a habit. The most common cues are times (getting out of bed = brushing your teeth) and locations (getting to work = making coffee).
Craving: when the cue or trigger occurs it awakens a craving in us to perform a particular habit.
Response: this craving motivates a response, which is the action or habit itself.
Reward: in order for us to want to repeat an action (making it a habit) we must gain some kind of reward from it. This might be the happiness brought by endorphins after you go for a run, or the minty fresh taste after you brush your teeth.
Optimizing your habits for these factors, therefore, will help to make them stick. Two of them are particularly important: cue and reward.
Eliminate the possibility of forgetting your new habit with the cue. You can do this with physical reminders (leave yourself a post-it note, add a calendar reminder to your phone. Or you could add your new habit onto an existing habit: after brushing your teeth you spend 10 minutes writing in your journal each morning. This will help to make your new habit automatic and unconscious, so that you do it as part of your daily routine without having to think about it.
Rewarding yourself for completing your new habit will make sure you have the craving to do it again. Incentivize yourself. In terms of reducing your environmental impact, it might be that knowing you’re contributing less to our climate crisis is enough reward — you could even calculate how much carbon you save each time you make that habit, and keep note of it to keep you motivated.
6 environmentally friendly habits to add to your routine
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.” — James Clear
So the best habits become automatic by slotting seamlessly into your existing routine. With that in mind, here are 7 simple habits to add to your routine to reduce your environmental impact.
1. Cycle (or walk) to work
If your commute isn’t completely ridiculous, then why not commit to cycling or walking to work a couple of days a week. Make the habit automatic by putting your cycling shorts and helmet next to your work bag the evening before, so that you don’t have to think about it in the morning.
If this won’t work for you, then you could opt to choose public transport over driving on those days instead.
2. Keep up-to-date with environmental issues
Make it a habit to read one news article or opinion blog on new environmental research every lunchtime, to stay up-to-date with the latest environmental news. This can be a great opportunity to break bad habits too — why not try reading these articles instead of scrolling through Twitter?
Not only will this help keep you engaged with the issue, but it will also lead to you naturally having more conversations around the topic with others, helping to raise their awareness too.
3. Prepare your meals
‘Meal prep’ isn’t just for die-hard bodybuilders. Preparing your lunch the night before means you won’t go to work without lunch, and get tempted to buy packaged food on the go. Make it part of your routine by making an extra portion of dinner and taking this as your lunch the next day.
4. Shop at a farmers market once a week
Farmers markets are great places to shop for fruit and vegetables if you’re looking to reduce your environmental impact. You’ll usually find a fruit and vegetable stand from a local farm, meaning that you’re drastically reducing your food miles. It’s usually organic, and unpackaged, eliminating unnecessary plastic waste from your weekly shop.
Farmers markets usually take place on weekend mornings, so you could easily add this into your weekend routine. Remind yourself by adding it to your calendar as a recurring event.
5. Eat meat-free meals
Make eating meat-free meals part of your weekly routine. You might opt to have a meat-free day each week such as Meat Free Monday. You might choose to eat vegetarian for breakfast and lunch each day. Or you might eat vegetarian at home but allow yourself meat options when eating out.
We’re all well aware of the huge environmental impact of the animal agriculture industry by now, so this is a great habit to adopt if you’d like to reduce your own impact.
6. Pack your reusables
Never be caught out without your reusable water bottle, coffee cup, or shopping bag by making sure you always pack your bag the evening before you have a trip. This will reduce the amount of non-recyclable, single-use items you need to buy when on-the-go.