Mind the gap

There are many reasons we don’t make the behaviour change we aim to, and a variety of tools to overcome this – whether ourselves, as a household or in our work teams.

Often we rationalise our failure to act sustainably in ways that reduce our sense of responsibility or guilt. Here are some examples of these rationalisations:

  1. ‘I am a drop in the sea; whatever I will do will not change the big picture.'
  2. ‘I don’t have time or money to invest in a better option.’ Changing our habits requires attention and often time. Some ethically sourced products also cost more. Between work, study, family and other obligations, we feel that we cannot fit any other chores.
  3. We simply don’t know how to do better. The wealth of information, sometimes contradictory, is overwhelming. If sustainable options are not embedded in our daily life, it takes time and patience to learn.      
  4. 'It’s not me that needs to make the effort – it is the government, big corporations, legislation, people who drive big polluting cars...'
  5. 'I have no control over things. I live in a rented house or college accommodation. I have no choice but to do things this way.'

All of these reasonings have an answer. We can’t fight it; we can create an alternative.    

Top tips to help yourself (and your household) do better

  • Put some fun into it – instead of preaching or feeling guilty, create an alternative that you can enjoy: 
    • The four minute shower song playlist. Pick a song that is up to four minutes long, play or sing it in your shower. Once it is done, you should be out! Here is a suggested Spotify playlist of 3-4 minute songs.
    • A coin for a miss. Create a coin jar to put a coin each time you miss. If you forget to turn off the lights, to take the reusable coffee cup when you go out, or any other small change that you intend to apply – put a coin in the jar. It will help you remember, and you will have a (hopefully) small sum to spend.
  • Brand yourself as an environmentalist – it will encourage others to join in. Once you’ve said it openly, you will find more people who share the same concerns and practices, so you’ll get reinforcement from
  • Just say no. Old habits die hard, but once we are aware of the consequences of these habits, we can decide to avoid them.  Decide not to buy (or at least reduce dramatically) fast fashion, unneeded stuff, packaging, etc.
  • It’s not all or nothing. You don’t have to be perfect in what you decide to do better.  Any small improvement is a blessing.  In food consumption, you can be the unfaithful vegetarian or imperfect vegan; in transport, you can be the occasional cyclist, and in shopping, you can decide to limit your self to a particular number of items.
  • Put a £ value on your externalities – calculate how much it would cost you to balance carbon from your habit. You will see that the small daily decisions add up to a meaningful result. By taking the time to understand the environmental costs of certain decisions, these choices can become easier to make, and you will be able to prioritise where to invest your energy and goodwill.
  • Vote on what your household chooses to focus on. Here are some examples of simple ways to go green.
  • Follow these weekly tips; it will add some interest to the process and will allow you to move forward gradually.  

Leading your team to do better

One of the loveliest resources published recently relates to the theory of nudging. It may not sound like that at first, but nudging has enormous potential to make our universities and our societies greener.

Another tool is encouraging healthy competition or social interaction around your goal. You can initiate one of the following:

  • Take the carbon footprint quiz
  • Best plant-based iron chef-style competition
  • Swap party (online also works)
  • The best find in a second-hand shop competition
  • Edible garden ideas, tips and seed exchange
  • Planet Pledge campaign 
  • Monitor your energy reduction or plastic consumption and give prizes to the winners

Play the What-if Game

Choose a topic and try to calculate what the result would be if everyone in your team changed a certain behaviour. Once you calculate your overall result, you will all gain motivation to make this change.  

Some examples
  • Avoid meat for two days a week
  • Replace your shampoo bottle with a shampoo bar
  • Buy unpackaged products
  • Reduce the temperature of your heating by one degree
How to do it
  1. Choose one or two steps along with your team
  2. Calculate your consumption/mileage/portions
  3. Calculate the carbon associated with this behaviour
  4. Add up everyone’s carbon reduction.   

What do you do to support your behaviour change, or others’?  

Please share with us the results; we will be happy to pass it on.  

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