How to make your New Year's resolutions sustainable?
January is a clean slate every year and when better to start your sustainability journey or refresh on your old habits then now?
The beginning of the year is everyone’s final deadline to finally start getting their things done, and if sustainability was one of your big targets, it’s the perfect time to start on lessening your footprint.
So how do we make our sustainable resolutions … well sustainable?
Small habits, small victories
We’ve all been there. It’s the first day of the year, we look at the resolutions list we had made the day before and it’s filled with big goals and we don’t even know where to start. So comes the second day of the month and we wake up early to an entirely new schedule of productive morning routines and whatnot, and before we know it, half of our commitments soon fall out of our days.
Establishing new systems is already difficult as is, but keeping them in our life is the real challenge. So much so, that apparently 2 weeks into the new year and we’re already giving up on our goals.
No shame here, so let’s not forget the problem is not You and neither are resolutions useless.
There are two things that are often missing from our list though that could make a difference: the whys and the hows.
Before committing to something, a few guiding questions are always helpful to get us started:
How am I going to achieve these goals?
How do I plan attainable changes without under-or overestimating our capabilities?
Why am I making these changes in the first place?
For me, the key lies in small habits, that can be incorporated into my life easily, without disrupting my current systems too much. “Becoming eco-friendly” is a vague task, but bringing a totebag when you go shopping is not so much. Be it putting a reusable bag in all of our bags, introducing meatless mondays, or thrifting the next time you need jeans, habits first and foremost have to be maintainable for you to keep doing them. And once we find our new sustainable habits, we can celebrate tiny victories everyday!
A lot happens in our mind. It actually all starts there.
Every commitment starts with a trigger that make us want to make a change. When it comes to keeping up these habits, it’s useful to keep reminding ourselves of the whys of things. Why do we do what we do?
Try framing the very way you think about our world, our responsibility, the impact of our actions to be helpful for your journey and alligned with the actions you want to take.
Mindset shifts could be a strong foundation upon which you build your sustainable actions, and can be extremely beneficial to keep you on track.
#1 It’s not going to happen over night
Decluttered your entire space but filled up your space with sustainable alternatives that you ended up not using? Forever struggling with wishcycling? Your home just does not look like that of those sustainable Youtubers’?
You don’t wake up one day, being 100% perfectly sustainable.
As you buy new, learn more, or go through different life cycles your sustainable habits will have to adapt accordingly. More importantly, sustainability is going to look very different for you, depending on your circumstances. Whether you’re a parent with toddlers realizing your household continuously piles up on stuff or a student living in a cluttered flat, feeling like you’re lagging behind on this movement is completely natural.
Remember that all of us go on different paths, and once you start your eco-conscious journey, you’ll keep perfecting your choices. Don’t be too hard on yourself and be patient, allowing occasional hiccups and welcoming lessons along the way.
#2 Notice the mindsets that lead to unwanted behaviour
Do you ever feel like you’re pretty much well-behaved 80% of the time… but occasionally go on a retail therapy? You pat yourself on the back because you don’t spurge on anything anymore… except for clothes, all the time?!
You’re not alone.
We grow up being socialized into certain mindsets that are ridiculously difficult to get rid of. When you realize you might just shop out of boredom, roaming the malls to have fun, or buy something as a reward or because it's on sale, stop for a moment and ask "Do I need it?", “Can it wait?”, “Can I do something else instead?”.
Most impulse buys can be prevented if you just put the item back on the rack, or close the tab on your computer and force yourself to wait a couple days, before considering it again.
Once the initial thrill and excitement of the idea of owning something is gone, it’s easier to let go of it.
Realize that most of the time, the very act of buying makes you happy but owning not so much.
Try to replace this act with something better that makes you equally happy. Go on a thrift shop tour instead of the mall next time. Instead of retuning to commercial brands, try researching sustainable brands.
❖ Check the sustainability ratings or find sustainable clothing brands with GoodOnYou
❖ A guide to slow fashion with Headerpop
❖ List of zero-waste shops in Brussels
#3 Sustainable purchases CAN be affordable
One of the few things that keep people from becoming sustainable is prices.
Whereas, depending on the item, prices may not vary too much from mid-range unsustainable options, not to mention the cumulative cost of commercial items exceeding certain alternatives most of the time, prices really are not the real problem.
Sustainability ultimately means buying less (new), and reducing our environmental footprint overall. I think, mindset around prices need a massive shift too. To re-consider pricetags as more than a high or low number but an indicative of what you’re paying for. Consider it as a sign of safe materials, resources, energy use, waste management, social responsibility, fair wages and treatment or lack thereof.
That is not to say, pricetags are irrelevant. But they should not be the only factor. You can be eco-friendly without getting the latest eco-friendly trend.
What’s more… if prices keep you from getting an item, force you to re-use what you have, make you wait and save up before you buy, re-consider your purchase or make you buy less of said thing, isn’t it eventually the most sustainable thing a brand can do to you?
❖ Find sustainable alternatives in Belgian eco-friendly shops!
Reuse, Reduce, Recyle
Onto more practical stuff, never forget the three R’s rule! Reuse, Reduce, Recycle. You can also add Refuse and Rot (composting) to the mix. The bottom line is to have less, save more and give back to the Planet.
While these rules are applicable to everyone, it’s useful to create rules that are personal and adapted to your lifestyle.
Realize when you’re most likely to make unsustainable choices and make your own rules!
Do you have surprise lunches outside? Always bring your own cutlery. Do you often have leftover when you eat out? Bring your lunchbox from home. Do you impulse buy? Never leave your shopping list at home and have a reusable bag in your bags.
❖ Learn how to upcycle with R-Use Fabrik
❖ Tired of unnecessary packaging? Try bulk stores! A review of Belgian bulk stores: http://refillambassadors.com/bulk-store-brussel/
❖ Recycle your clothes, cosmetic containers, electronic devices at Yuman
Make it easy
How many times have you just tossed an item into THE bin, because the kitchen was just too far for you to get to the recycling bins? Let’s be honest, many of us are guilty of this
The key is to make sustainability so visible, you can NOT miss it.
Get recycling bins at hand, where necessary.
Get yourself that compost bin, you’ve been eyeing. It’s damn hard to miss it, once you have it in your posession.
Always have your water bottle ready and clean.
Put a reuseable cloth in place of your makeup wipes.
Continue this list with your most personal struggles that you can change today, right away!
And never forget to ackowledge you efforts, and look back to DAY-1 of your journey, to remind yourself where you started and where you are now. Little victories make you go a long way.
For some inspiration (and maybe just a tiny bit to hold ourselves accountable this year), here are some of our personal sustainable resolutions from the MIKLØ.bodycare team!
Keeping a capsule wardrobe
Supporting local businesses, small creators
Learning how to better preserve food and reduce food waste at home
Learn to sew to repair my bag handles (☹)