My friends used to laugh at me because, even as a fully grown adult, I’d take Flintstone’s vitamins instead of those giant horse pills they make for grown-ups. But I’d explain: “One Flintstone inside me does more good than a bottle full of horse pills I never touch.”
The same goes for new year’s resolutions, especially green ones. They’re no good if you don’t actually get around to them. When it comes to, though, the threat seems so huge that many of us feel compelled to make huge changes that’ll have big impacts. Unfortunately, that approach is likely to go nowhere, fast. Psychologists tell us we’re likely to get farther faster if we set modest, achievable goals, and then build on progressive successes. That’s in part because, as I learned earlier this year, self-discipline is actually a limited resource. Just like your muscles can only bench press so much weight before they give out, you can only be so disciplined about changes you want to make before you inevitably blow your self-control and backslide. (Witness the dieter who, after a week of the most virtuous eating breaks down and puts a way a whole pizza and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.) Which is why experts say working with small changes first is the better way to go. They help build your self-discipline so you can tackle bigger projects, the way working out with lighter weights at first is the best route to a ripped physique.
So below is a list of green changes we’d all like to make. But since self-discipline is a limited resource, just choose one from each category. You’ll be impressed by how far you get by the end of the year.
For the quarter of 2010: (choose one)
Focus on one of these for three months, and it’ll become a habit that will stick with you through the rest of the year.
- Carry your own water bottle or thermos and try to avoid ever having to buy bottled water or take a paper cup for your tea or coffee.
- For one trip a week, choose public transportation, your bicycle, or walking, instead of driving.
- Every two weeks, turn the thermostat down one degree. (At the end of three months, your body should be comfortable with the new temperature setting, six degrees lower than where your thermostat currently sits.)
For the first half of 2010: (choose one)
- Carry your own reusable bags: In January, aim to have them with you on at least half of your shopping trips. By April, go for at least three-quarters of your trips. By June, shoot for 90%.
- Freecycle 20 items from your home.
- Start using one of the online carpooling tools to share one ride a month.
For the year: (choose one)
Commit to doing one of these projects at home:
- Replace one old, energy-guzzling appliance with a new, energy-efficient one. (And don’t forget to get the rebates you’re entitled to from your state, city, and/or utility.)
- Set up a rainwater catchment system.
- Install a tankless water heater.
Good luck. And let us know how it goes!