Ocean plastic pollution, climate change, water shortage. Aarrg! Why are there so many things? You do your best to be environmentally friendly, but it always feels like it’s never quite enough. There are always more actions you feel like you should take, but who has the time?
If you’re already thinking “I’m too busy even to read this post,” then it’s for you.
The news feels overwhelming — climate change 24-7
If you’re like most people, you read the daily news, either from a paper or on a social media platform. This also means that news is coming at you 24-7, when you just got out of bed, when you’re having lunch, and when you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. We’re bombarded with breaking news around the clock, and, unfortunately, it’s not all peachy.
The notion “if it bleeds it leads” has a stronghold on the way news is produced, meaning that scandalous and terrifying stories get more air time and more shares. To make matters worse these extreme and negative events latch onto our brain and are more salient than other, more fleeting news stories. In psychology this is known as the negativity bias, and it makes it seem like horrible things are happening “all the time”.
On top of that, one report after the other confirms that climate change is real, and it has global consequences. On an almost weekly basis we hear that the different ecosystems on our planet are doing worse than predicted.
All of this combined make us feel pretty overwhelmed. Every time you find an environmental action to take, it seems like a new issue hits your news feed. How can we act on something as significant as climate change when we’re just one person? And what is the best thing to do?
Taking actions even when you’re busy
Even though it seems daunting, lowering your carbon emissions is no different from any other thing in your life that you need to act on, like organizing the garage, getting in shape, or learning a new skill.
Here’s some advice on how to get started.
- You don’t need to do everything at once
We often forget that we don’t need to be superheroes to make an impact. The constant flow of news screams at us: “Everything is important!” And we end up feeling like we should do everything at once — but we don’t have to. To put it in perspective, if you want to get fit this year, you don’t get up January 1st and run a marathon. If you did you would damage your body and your long-term prospects of becoming healthy and fit.
When you send your kids off to their first day of kindergarden, you don’t expect them to come home and be able to read. Learning new skills takes time. Switching to a low-carbon lifestyle takes time.
- Break the action up into smaller bite-sized actions
When eating an elephant take one bite at a time. — Creighton Abrams
Remember that garage clean-up that took you ages to get started, simply because you didn’t know where to start, (and Netflix didn’t have shows about organizing)?
(Remember life without Tidying Up With Marie Kondo?)
We don’t have a Marie Kondo way of environmental tidying yet, but we’re working on it. Here’s the key thing to remember: lowering your CO2 emissions is the same thing as tackling that garage. You have to start.
Where should you start? But where? Should you insulate the house, buy an electric car, recycle? The task seems so daunting you feel like giving up before you even start.
So what should be your first step if you want to lower your carbon emissions? Unfortunately, there is no universal answer for this, but if you narrow in on one area of your life, like your house, your travel habits, or your car, it’s easier to find low-hanging fruits.
If you look at your home, you might find that switching all your lights to LEDs and buying a new low-energy fridge will significantly lower your total energy usage.
- Make it repetitive
If you’ve ever tried getting into a new habit, you know that repetitiveness is your friend. If you can make the new practice as natural as brushing your teeth, it’s much more likely that you will stick with it.
The field of habits has been heavily researched and debated, and though you could spend an eternity reading about how to make new habits stick, the scientific consensus is that it takes time to build new habits. There are even several habit changing apps that can get you started. Don’t get discouraged if you fall off the wagon now and then. Simply start where you left off.
For an added boost, hook your new actions onto an existing habit. This makes it much easier to integrate the new habit into your life. For example, you can keep an egg timer next to your toothbrush. Then, when you take a shower, set the alarm for 5 minutes. When the timer goes off, it’s time to get out of the shower. This makes it easier to save water and the energy needed to purify, heat, and transport that water. If you see the timer every time you brush your teeth, it’s easier to remember to set the alarm when it’s shower time.
- One-time actions and automation
Something that’s even better than creating a habit is lowering your carbon emissions with a one-time action, or actions that you can automate.
A one-time action could be installing solar panels, or buying an electric car. Options like these are often put off because they are expensive. If you’re considering such an option, be sure to calculate the return on investment, as that might make it easier to decide on the purchase.
If you’re not ready to commit to such an investment just yet, you can opt for subscriptions. Examples of environmental subscription services include the following:
low carbon emission food subscription boxes;
subscriptions with green energy providers;
and carbon offsetting subscriptions.
Subscriptions make sure you don’t have to spend mental energy on lowering your emissions, which frees up time and brain power for changing a habit or slaying a larger carbon monster in your life.
Acting on climate change with peace of mind
Acting on climate change is without a doubt necessary, but it shouldn’t be anxiety-inducing.
Your choice is not between being a calm climate criminal or a stressed-out sustainability saint.
With some practical tools, planning, and a little bit of habit-changing you can tackle your carbon emissions and environmental footprint, without feeling overwhelmed. Just like any new change in your life, it takes a little time getting used to. Go at your own pace and start with manageable actions.
Try it for yourself. Write down the next 3 easy actions you can take to start tackling climate change, right now. If you think a carbon offsetting subscription is something for you, feel free to look at our services here.
It’s not about doing everything at once, but about taking that first step.