How to Form Sustainable Habits That Last

It can be hard incorporating sustainability into your everyday life. It’s even more difficult making sure those sustainable habits last. When we first think of forming these habits, the first step is to realize their importance. When it comes to our environment, our natural resources are over-consumed. For example, deforestation—heavily driven by meat production—has decreased forest ecosystems worldwide by over 80 million hectares since 1990. Even small habits we do, such as shopping fast fashion, using single-use items, and drinking bottled water harm our environment. Who would have thought? 

While many may think sustainability is just an environmental issue, it’s also an economic on; only one-fifth of the population has access to most of the planet’s environmental resources. With the increase in population over the years comes increases in poverty levels, lack of basic healthcare, and poorer sanitation. While sustainability helps our environment prosper and fight against energy use, deforestation, and carbon emissions, it can also open the door for decreased poverty rates and more global job opportunities for those in need. So, if you’re looking for any cons to forming sustainable habits, there aren’t any—only pros. To help, we’re sharing six tips on how to form sustainable habits that will last you now and, hopefully, always.

Starting small with sustainable habits

Start small with your sustainable habits

One of the mistakes people make when adding sustainable habits to their daily routine is starting off too big. When forming these habits, it’s easier to start on a smaller scale before working your way up to the habits that will have a larger impact on what you’re used to doing.

Instead of using paper towels, opt for a reusable towel option. (The U.S. alone produces 3,000 tons of paper towel waste a day). Also, try to eat less meat—this is great for fighting against deforestation. Moreover, stop using pesticides or weed killers, and use refillable water bottles instead of buying multiple single-use plastic water bottles (which can take more than 400 years to biodegrade). Running a full load in your washing machine and stopping that satisfying, yet harmful, habit of running the water while you brush your teeth prevents drought and energy overuse. Even thrifting clothing and furniture can be beneficial.

While you may think the little changes you make won’t have an impact, they do. This is especially true if you can get your friends and family on board to start the journey with you. Every change can make a difference, no matter how big or small.

Consistency is key

When trying to form a habit, especially one that’s sustainable, consistency is key. In order to stay consistent, taking the time to do a habit every day (or think ahead for when it might come up) will help you stay on track. Starting small is also a great way to get going because you’re more likely to act on smaller habits than bigger ones. When you wash your dishes every night or after a meal, find ways to use less water instead of leaving the faucet running. Make sure you reuse and recycle (drink water from your reusable water bottle). When you’re not in the room, always turn the lights off instead of having them on for hours. Also, wipe any greasy or unwanted stains using cloth napkins instead of paper towels. 

Habits aren’t something you’re born with. You didn’t wake up randomly one day and choose to recycle. It’s repeatedly performing the same task or action every day until it sticks and becomes your new norm. With the non-eco-friendly tasks that you’d like to minimize but aren’t done on a regular basis (such as shopping fast fashion), it’s helpful to keep a list on your phone of your favorite clothing and furniture thrift stores. This can serve as a visual reminder to keep sustainability in mind when you’re on the lookout for new attire. 

Reward yourself with self care for sticking to sustainable habits

Reward yourself for sticking to sustainable habits

Who doesn’t love a reward after accomplishing their goals? Rewarding yourself here and there is a great way to keep yourself motivated. Rewards are especially important when trying to form a long-lasting habit. When you think of simple habits such as turning the lights off in a room you’re not in, the reward is simple: less money and less electricity and energy being used. This also goes for not letting faucets run or filling the dishwasher entirely before turning it on to wash. Even visualizing how much better the planet would be when maintaining our sustainable habits is a reward on its own. 

If you’re looking for more motivation to form and maintain your sustainable habits, personal rewards make ideal persuaders. If you take a day to start growing your own produce (great for reducing fossil fuels used to transport produce to supermarkets), reward yourself with a solo or group trip to your favorite restaurant or cafe. Donated any unused items (a great way to reduce waste)? Reward yourself with a facial or massage (maybe even a self-care day full of relaxation and positive affirmations). Rewarding yourself gives you the incentive you need to keep performing the action. When you’re a newbie to the world of sustainable living, rewards make the journey easier.

Find sustainability inspiration

Find sustainability inspiration

When we have a goal, there’s almost always someone who inspires us. If you’re looking to form a healthier diet or start weight training at the gym, it’s not uncommon to find online gurus and people who encourage and teach us how to start (and stay consistent). So when it comes to sustainable habits, finding people who can inspire your environmentally-friendly lifestyle will keep you motivated.

For example, if you’re looking to start “freecycling”—reducing, reusing, and recycling furniture (the average piece consumes about 5.3 gallons of gasoline)—find platforms that can help you discover old pieces and repurpose them. Such platforms include Stooping NYC, Curb Alert NYC, and The Freecycle Network. Read books and watch videos that revolve around sustainable living. Books such as “Live Green” by Jen Chillinsgworth and “Make Your Place” by Raleigh Briggs are great additions. Gather tips and tricks from your favorite climate change influencers or professionals and incorporate their teachings into your everyday life.

Change your environment to reflect your sustainable habits

Change your environment

While forming that sustainable habit is one task, making sure to sustain it is another task in and of itself. One way to help you stay consistent with your sustainable lifestyle is to change your environment to match your goals. This means changing your home and settings to be a space of overall sustainability. The goal: Eliminate alternative options that aren’t environmentally-friendly. This will force you to stick to your sustainable habits without having anything else to fall back on. These changes and additions can be simple. For example, you can add more greenery to your home’s decor, which helps remove toxins from the air. You can also install a water filter to keep microplastics out of your water. Another action can even be creating a compost bin for your kitchen scraps. (This is ideal for keeping landfills waste-free and adding nutrients to your garden). 

Some of the larger environmental home changes you can make include switching to solar energy, using double-glazed windows, and only installing ENERGY STAR appliances. These appliances use 10-50% less energy each year than their non-energy efficient equivalents. Modifying your home with these options makes you more aware of your daily goals. It will also leave you feeling positive if you accidentally slip back into a non-sustainable habit. In doing so, it serves as a reminder for the climate-friendly habits you want to do going forward. That’s a win for you, your home, and the environment.

Create a backup plan

When you first start your sustainable journey, you’re likely to make mistakes. Whether you forget to turn the lights off in an empty room, or you leave your faucet running longer than five minutes while washing your face, these mistakes can give you that unwanted incentive to just forget about your goal of forming new habits and settle for the ones you’re used to. Don’t let the mistakes keep you from your waste-free and climate change-fighting goals.

When forming sustainable habits, you should have a backup plan. For one thing, if you forget to recycle one day, take the next few days to plan out your recycling schedule. If you went grocery shopping and gave into the temptation to buy plastic water bottles, save those bottles for when they’re needed and use your reusable bottle going forward. Having a backup plan will get you back into a sustainable mindset and ready to try again the next day.

With these simple tips, you’re well on your way to living a more sustainable lifestyle. In the quest to go green and save our planet, Fracture is honored to bring you along with us.

About The Author

Mariah Thomas

Mariah Thomas is a freelance journalist and author of “Heart and Soul: Poems of Thoughts & Emotions.” She has a passion for lifestyle, arts, and culture reporting, with some of her editorial work featured in Apartment Therapy, Women’s Health, TLC, and Working Mother magazine.

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