We can all agree that 2020 was a difficult year, and with the New Year rolling around we all hope 2021 will be a better year than the last. Since this is the time for resolutions and new commitments for personal growth, we thought we would help to inspire some new habits that are good for you and good for the planet. This is why POW is introducing the 12 month challenge. This year-long campaign will feature one challenge for every month; each designed to help you build some new habits, kick bad habits to the curb, or to reinforce good habits that you already have! With incentives like reducing your carbon footprint and amazing prizes from our sponsors- what's not to join?
Before we dive into this year, here's a refresher on what habits are how we can adapt them to live more sustainably.
There are many specific definitions of what a habit is, in general, it can be said that a habit is a behavioural pattern that we repeat at regular intervals, such that the repetition serves to improve our ability and familiarity with the behavioural pattern. Typically, if the behavioural pattern is repeated often enough, it becomes so ingrained in our daily lives that we carry it out with little to no conscious thought. It goes without saying that there are good and bad habits, and that we all have some of each come and go in our daily lives.
Habits are formed through repetitive behaviours, driven by what experts call a habit-loop. Put simply, a habit-loop is a way to describe the three most basic components of a habit: cue, behaviour, and reward. The cue is an event which an individual responds to, which prompts them to engage in a specific behaviour in order to achieve a desired reward. An example of a ‘bad’ habit-loop would be: stress (cue) causing someone to have a cigarette (behaviour), leading to a reduction in stress (reward). An example of a ‘good’ habit-loop would be: a confrontation (cue) leading to someone taking 5 minutes to calm down (behaviour), leading to a calmer and less destructive resolution (reward). You get the idea.
Some of us have habits that we likely are not even aware of. More often than not, creating or breaking habits does not come naturally to most people – it requires consideration, effort and time.
Isn’t a routine the same thing as a habit? Routines and habits are similar in that they both involve repetitive behaviours, but they differ in one key aspect. A habit is a behaviour which is the result of an impulse, while a routine is often something that you choose to do consciously because you feel as though you must. For example, one might have to consciously decide to drink their coffee without cream or sugar, knowing that the reward - in terms of health benefits - accumulates over time. A routine becomes a habit when it is done so regularly that your mind automatically associates the behaviour with the reward.
Now, back to POW and the 12 month challenge. The prevailing idea of the 12 month challenge is intrinsically connected to habit forming. Habits can be formed in a few weeks - though sometimes they take much longer than this. The idea is that every month we inspire people like you to do two things: alter your behaviours in an environmentally friendly way, and repeat these behaviours until they become habits that you perform unconsciously. Hopefully by the end of each month you have formed at least one good habit -or conquered a bad one!- that helps in the fight against climate change. Not every one of the challenges will be entirely about forming different habits, but many of them will be!
Here are some tips for habit forming to help you when considering the coming challenges.
- Start small and increase in measured steps. Imagine a person trying to eliminate single-use plastic (could this be a hint? Wink wink) from their life. It is so prevalent in all aspects of our way of life that this person would have to significantly change dozens of their behaviours overnight to eliminate all single use plastics immediately - this makes the process daunting and seemingly unattainable. Instead this person could eliminate or change all of their behaviours that use plastic straws - perhaps they could use a metal straw, or do away with straws altogether. Once they have mastered that particular behaviour they could start working on a new behaviour to change - like using tupperware instead of saran wrap.
- Progress over perfection. For those of you familiar with POW’s messaging this should come as no surprise. Any step in the right direction should be recognized and celebrated. It is no different for forming good habits. Perhaps the individual in the above example did great and avoided using plastic straws for 6 days, then forgot to ask their server to withhold a straw from their drink. Instead of framing the experience as a failure to avoid plastic straws one time, they should instead frame the entire week as an 86% success rate! Do not let hiccups discourage you from continuing. We are all human and we are all bound to make mistakes, what is important is to focus on progress.
- Remember the benefits. There are many benefits to forming habits with environmentally friendly living in mind. The most obvious being the effect they have on climate change and the environment. There are often secondary benefits to these habits that can often be overlooked. Spend some time thinking about what other benefits might befall you by participating in the 12 months challenges. Walking or bicycling instead of driving is not only a great way to reduce emissions, but it will also save you money in vehicle maintenance and fuel cost, and get some extra exercise in the week!
Sometimes it may seem like altering a tiny part of your daily routine is an insignificant gesture in the face of climate change. It is important to keep in mind however, that more often than not it is not just one person acting. Together, our individual actions will add up to make a massive difference!
Sign up here to join our 12 Month Climate Challenge today and together we will build some great habits!
For more information on forming good habits - or breaking bad ones - check out some of these links: