Many people are well aware of the environmental challenges that we face as a species, and how our human actions are impacting our planet as a whole. But often times we find it hard to take on new behaviours, even when we know those behaviours will reduce our personal environmental impacts. There are lots of reasons for this including a lack of time, money, information and supportive social norms.
The truth is that environmentally friendly behaviours are not one size fits all. For example, about 90% of my local travel is done by bike, which includes hauling my 4-year-old around in a trailer. Most of us know that riding a bicycle is a more sustainable alternative to driving. But at the same time, this simply isn’t an option for lots of people. Maybe they have health problems that prohibit them riding a bike up steep hills. Or multiple kids who don’t fit neatly in one trailer. Or hate getting sweaty and having to shower or change clothes when they get to work. Maybe work is too far away or the roads too busy and scary. There are many reasons why some people can’t or don’t ride. But maybe those people are able to make equally important sustainability efforts in other areas of their life, for example by growing most of their own vegetables (something that I can’t do because my house has a tiny and very shaded garden) or completely weaning themselves off of plastic (something that I just find prohibitively difficult right now). We have to find a form of sustainability that works for us, because the best sustainable action is the one that you are actually doing.
Thankfully, there are ways to overcome our reluctance to change, one of which is to try out new behaviours in a positive and supportive place. It’s even better if you can try out new behaviours together with other people. Our family and friends have an incredible amount of influence over what we do, whether we want to believe it or not. We are social beings, and for the most part we want to fit in and be accepted by our community. If the community around us has sustainable behaviours as part of their everyday actions, we are more likely to join in.
And so I introduce to you the Our Seas Our Future Sustainability Challenge. Each month, you will be challenged to test out a new environmentally-friendly behaviour that in some way impacts ocean health. Give it a go for one month and see if you like it. If it’s something you can get on board with, great! Adopt it as part of your regular routine. If it’s a behavior that doesn’t work for you, that’s OK. After 12 months and 12 activities, you just might have a few new actions to add to your sustainability portfolio. If possible, rope a couple of friends or family members into participating with you. The more support you have, the more likely you are to keep up with the behaviours for a full month – enough time to decide whether or not it’s something you can take up for the long term.
If you’re already an eco-warrior, great! Each month’s activity will have two levels – one for beginners and one for people ready to step it up a notch. And if the advanced level isn’t enough, feel free to adapt the challenge to work for you and tell us what you did.
Share a photo on social media of yourself taking part in that month’s challenge, and include the hashtag #OSOFSustainableMe.
For 2019, OSOF is going green. And we hope you’ll join us! Stay tuned, the OSOF Sustainability Challenge launches January 1st. Happy New Year!
If you want to read more about environmental behavior change, there is a wonderful book that is free to download called Psychology for a Better World: Strategies to Inspire Sustainability, by Prof Niki Harre, University of Auckland.
Contributor: Andrea Greene-Liberatore