Monday, May 4, 2015

Setting Green Goals

The Climate Crusader is celebrating her birthday, and attempting to use all of the resulting navel-gazing for the planet.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I have reached the stage of life where every passing year causes me to pause and take stock. What have I done with my life so far? Am I where I would like to be? What should I do in the next year? And, on a grander scale, what should I do with the rest of my time on earth? The navel-gazing knows no bounds.

Many people set resolutions on January 1 ... and I've done that, too. But New Year's Day feels a little bit arbitrary to me. My birthday, on the other hand, is like my own personal new year, when my odometer clicks up by one. If I'm going to be suffering from existential angst, I might as well harness it for good, and hence I've started a habit of setting personal goals.

Why Set Green Goals?

When it comes to making lifestyle changes, setting goals can be a great tool. After all, if you don't know where you're going, it's awfully hard to get there. This is true when it comes to going green, as well. By establishing specific objectives, you're in a better position to make a plan and make a difference.

For example, if you're particularly concerned about reducing your family's exposure to toxins, then you will want to set goals around examining and replacing the products you use with healthier alternatives. And if you want to reduce your food miles, you'll want to set goals around finding local food sources and gardening. By setting one goal at a time, and achieving it, you can make a lot of little changes that add up to making a big difference.

How to Set Goals

Not every goal is created equal. When you're setting green goals, here's how to make sure they stick:

  1. Make it about what you're doing, rather than what you're not doing. When we're making changes we often think about those things we want to eliminate. For instance, you might think that you don't want to make as much garbage. However, a goal of "don't through away so much" doesn't give you a lot of clues about how to achieve your desired result. Changing it to "reduce packaging waste" or "set a meal plan and shop the pantry" will put you on a better path.
  2. Make it manageable for you. Big changes are hard, and can leave you feeling discouraged when things don't work out. If you're starting a garden, you'll want to start with a few plants that you're likely to have success with. If you're learning to sew so you can mend and re-purpose your clothing, you'll want to being with an easy project. No matter your green goal, make sure it's manageable.
  3. Break down the steps. Whatever your green goal, identify the steps you need to take to make it happen. If we go back to the gardening example, this might include things like ordering a seed catalog, signing up for a community garden plot, reading a gardening book or buying a watering can. When you know what you need to do, it's easier to do it.
  4. Re-evaluate as you go. Figure out what is and isn't working for you. Decide if you need to switch up your goals, or if it's time to set a new one. It's very easy to become complacent on your green path, because you've made some changes. Without becoming a perfectionist, however, there's always more to do. Think about what's next for you and go back to step one.
As for me, my biggest green goal this year is to clean out my garage sustainably. It's become a collecting place for all sorts of things lately - leftover paint, old furniture, the car seats my kids have grown out of. I want to clean it out so that I can once again park inside, and I want to do it in a way that doesn't just result in a whole lot of junk going to the landfill.

Happy goal setting!


Katy Farber said...

These are great ideas for making any change. Thanks for this list and may you have a year of meeting your goals and enjoying life!

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