My personality is just short of being dangerously obsessive. If an idea latches on to my mind, everything else gets put on hold while I try that new vegetarian recipe/green cleaning technique/carbon-cutting strategy. I’m great about trying different ideas for reducing my impact.
What I’m not so good at is sticking with them long enough to form habits. Sure, I made pasta…once. I used to go to the farmers’ market every week…until the weather turned cold, wet, and uncomfortable. Even though I’m currently fired up about making my own vegetable stock from scraps saved up in the freezer (post to come!), six months down the road, when I desperately need stock for a recipe and am completely out of homemade, it’s possible I’ll go back to the over-packaged cubes that make everything taste like lovage.
Does this sound familiar? That could just mean that you, too, are a green dilettante. All animals are wired to enjoy some degree of novelty, and I know that my brain, in particular, has a regrettable rape-and-pillage approach to ideas, moving restlessly from one to the next. But I’ve also realized that, unless I’m building on previous progress, I’m not really getting anywhere in my quest for that darker shade of green.
I’m not proud of being a green dilettante, but I do think it’s fairly difficult not to be one. Our society makes it so damn convenient to slip back into old ways. New green habits, like making stock, bread, and cleaning supplies, hanging up laundry to dry, unplugging things at the outlet — well, they take time. They take effort. And there is always a faster, easier, and more familiar alternative. My favorite bread recipe takes a full 15 hours from start to finish (most of it rising time). Oh, it’s great bread — a dense, chewy peasant bread with an assertively yeasty flavor and a gorgeous golden crust — but a loaf at the store costs only $4, ten minutes, and a plastic bread bag to dispose of.
Maybe some of my green experiments aren’t worth making into habits, but I really hate to backtrack on progress towards less packaging, less transporting, fewer chemicals. And so, inspired by Lynn’s wonderfully practical once-a-week approach to changing habits over at Upcycled Love, I’ve come up with my own list of ways to thwart my dilettante tendencies and turn green experiments into green habits. (Disclaimer: I can’t yet vouch for their effectiveness. Read Lynn’s first.)
- Know why you’re doing it. Sure, it’s new and exciting, but what’s in it for you and the planet after the novelty wears off? Are you going to be reducing waste? Reducing food miles? Encouraging local ecosystem health? Intention matters. Knowing why you’re doing it may help you continue long after it’s ceased to be exciting.
- Have what you need on hand. It sounds obvious, but even small barriers can be major roadblocks to establishing good habits. Whether you want to eat more veggies, make your own skincare, or compost, have the supplies you need readily available. Make it easy for yourself!
- Choose just a few habits to develop at a time. Old habits die hard, and tackling too many new things at a time can be exhausting. Change is cumulative, and most effective when accomplished at your own pace.
- Commit to not buying anything you can make. Having taken the time to learn how to do something that cuts down on your impact, you might as well commit to continuing. As a fringe benefit, you’ll also be saving money.
- Vary it to keep your interest. Boredom is deadly. If you’re committing to picking up litter, choose a different place each week. If you’re baking bread, try a new recipe. Variety doesn’t make it any less green, but it might just help keep you going.
And with all that in mind, I think I’ve inspired myself to go off to the kitchen and make the starter for my 15 hour bread. What are your favorite ways to turn your own green experiments into habits? Please share what has worked for you!