Are Your Eco-Friendly Resolutions Doomed to Fail?

Cans in Recycling Bin
Cans in Recycling Bin

Like many people, you might have a personal list of shalts and shalt nots for 2010. Alongside resolving to lose weight (after the excesses of holiday fare) and to save money (after the horror of your credit card statement), you may well have some eco-friendly resolutions (perhaps made when faced with that mountain of wrapping paper…)

As we all know from bitter experience, New Year’s Resolutions often don’t last beyond January. In fact, a recent study confirmed this: most resolutions fail, with 78% of us giving up. So if you’re making a whole host of great green promises to yourself – that you’ll never leave a light switched on unnecessarily, you’ll always buy organic meat, you’ll avoid excess packaging – then you may find that you’ve given up before long.

So how can you make your resolutions last?

Taking Small Steps – Not Giant Leaps

The secret to keeping a resolution appeared to depend on whether the person had broken their goal into smaller steps and rewarded themselves when they achieved a certain step.

(Most New Year’s resolutions fail: study)

Whenever you’re trying to make big changes in your life, it pays to start small. Rather than vowing to install solar panels and wear only organic hemp, think about little steps that you could take towards becoming more green.

How about:

  • Buying energy-saving lightbulbs. Every time a light goes, just replace the bulb with a green one. Simple and effortless: and it’ll save you on electricity costs.
  • Turning your thermostat down a little. A great excuse to wrap up in that warm Christmas jumper (or a Slanket, which seem to be all the rage this year).
  • Following some baby steps to becoming green: you can find some ideas here – and some ways to extend each.

And don’t forget about rewarding yourself. Perhaps you could treat yourself to a gorgeous piece of stationary (eco-friendly, of course!) or something from this gift list.

If you feel most motivated when you track your progress, try using a site like Joe’s Goals or 43things.

Other Secrets to Success

They also told their friends about their resolutions, kept a diary and focused on the benefits of success.

(Most New Year’s resolutions fail: study)

Most of us do best when we feel accountable to others; there’s an extra motivational boost in not letting someone down, or in proving that you can do what you’ve promised. How about making green resolutions as a family, and challenging one another to stay on track? (This could be a great way to encourage your kids to be interested in environmental matters, too.)

You could also get your office involved: it’s easier to be green when those around you are making an effort too – and a lot of paper, electricity and water is wasted in typical workplaces.

Keeping a diary is simply a way of staying accountable to yourself. You could spend a few minutes each day jotting down the efforts you made to be green – and the more you focus on the positives, the more encouraged you’ll be to take bigger steps.

Self-Interest Doesn’t Have to be Selfish

When we make green resolutions, it sometimes feels like we’re doing it all for someone else’s benefit. Sure, we’re motivated by keeping the planet in good shape for our kids and grandkids – but frankly, in our lazier moments, it’s hard for our good intentions alone to keep us going.

We’re naturally self-interested – and that doesn’t mean being selfish. There are plenty of eco-friendly resolutions that you can make which help you towards your own goals. If you’ve resolved to lose weight, to get healthier, or to save money this year, you’ll find that your green efforts actually boost these resolutions too!

For lots of tips on these, read some of these ecosimply posts from the past few months:

Losing Weight / Getting Healthier

Eating Less Meat – Benefits For You and the Planet

4 Ways Saving the Planet Helps You Lose Weight
Saving Money

5 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Water Use at Home – And Save Money

If It All Goes Wrong…

Look at this as an important part of change, not a permanent set back. Nobody gets it right the first time. It is important to get back to your positive behaviors and not beat yourself up. Feeling like a failure will create one. Feeling like a champion will help you win.

(How to Stick to New Year’s Resolutions)

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, your efforts just aren’t enough. Maybe you end up binning recyclables because you’re in a rush. Perhaps you come home to find that you’ve left the TV on standby and the computer running – again. You might berate yourself for it, or you might simply find yourself slipping back into environmental indifference.

Or perhaps it’s a big event that throws your efforts off-kilter: a long-haul flight, or using disposable plates and cutlery at a big event.

Don’t despair! It does take time to change habits, especially if they’ve built up over a lifetime. Focus on the things which you’re doing right, and keep adding, little by little, to these. Sticking to good day-by-day habits (and encouraging others to do the same) is what will make a difference to our planet in the long-term.

What green resolutions are you making this year? Where could you cut down your energy use? How good are you at reducing, reusing and recycling?

(Image above by eurleif)

2 Replies to “Are Your Eco-Friendly Resolutions Doomed to Fail?”

  1. This year I’m making a conscious effort to drive less aggressively. Not only will it be safer for me and my fellow drivers, but it’ll help me save gas when I’m not revving my engine. (I’m not an angry driver, I swear!)

    Also I’m trying to take baby steps with my office.. but already I’ve seen an improvement. After voicing my eco friendly suggestions for the past month, I am hearing my co-workers start to repeat what I’ve been saying to other co-workers, and they always say their change of heart is coming from their “younger associates,” as they nod in my direction. Yay!

  2. Great stuff! :-) That’s so good to hear that your efforts in the office are actually helping … sometimes the key is just to get people to stop and *think* for a moment!

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