Making that Low-Carbon Resolution Stick

During January, I shared with you my four low carbon footprint resolution ideas: eat more plants, use less energy, buy less stuff, and talk and advocate for change. I often think about this column when I run. And this past Saturday I was on a long run on Cougar Mountain while I listened to one of my favorite non-climate-change podcasts, Trail Runner Nation. The topic was James Clear’s Atomic Habits book. 

While the podcast was talking about the book and how it relates to ultrarunning, I thought what if I wrote about Atomic Habits as a follow up to my climate change resolutions series. Let me start by telling you that I haven’t read Atomic Habits and the queue at the library is rather long for this book. (Yes, in an effort to buy less and because I am thrifty, I am a regular library user, but I digress.) Fortunately, the web is full of synopses and visual aids of the book plus I have listened to at least two podcasts about the book, so that makes me an expert, doesn’t it?

All kidding aside, James writes that the four keys to making habits are: make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, and make it satisfying. Let’s apply these principles to our low carbon resolutions. The first resolution is to eat more plants and reduce meat and dairy consumption. You can make this obvious and easy by filling your house with whole fruits and vegetables. Put an attractive bowl of oranges, apples, and bananas on your dining room table or kitchen counter. On the flip side: make it difficult to eat meat and junk by removing those items from your house. Make it satisfying: learn to make some tasty plant-based recipes (see the article for great recipes).

How will you get yourself to buy less? I think the straightest path is to make it harder to buy stuff. That means canceling memberships like Amazon Prime and Costco that reward you for abject consumerism. Make it easy to be satisfied with what you already have. This is where celebrating the small wins might be helpful: I kept my iphone/car/jacket for x years now; woo-hoo! Part of “obvious” means creating the ideal environment and maybe that means socializing less on Facebook and Instagram with those proud of their latest wasteful purchases and more with those who celebrate frugalism and reuse.

For reducing your energy usage, what about keeping a log of your lower-carbon thermostat setting on the fridge so your lower footprint is obvious and you are happy with your small positive steps? Give yourself points for wearing clothes multiple times between washes and for batching up drives, walking instead of driving, and other low-energy behaviors.

Finally, how do you make advocating for change a part of your identity? A big one here is to join organizations that advocate for change like, Climate Reality Project, Citizens Climate Lobby, or the Nature Conservancy, to name just a few. If you prefer faith-based groups, consider joining Laudato Si Movement, Catholic Climate Covenant, or your local creation care / green team group. And if you are local, please consider joining our Saint Francis of Assisi ministry at St John the Evangelist! Associate with those who share a purpose, an identity in advocating a better future for all instead of those caught up with the next best thing. 

So now you have some resolution ideas and, thanks to James Clear’s Atomic Habits, some suggestions on how to make them stick. Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 
Paul Litwin

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