What’s troubling you?
Committing to making changes in your lifestyle is quite scary. Whether it’s losing weight, kicking a bad habit, living more healthily, or making changes to live a more sustainable lifestyle, the first step is often the hardest.
I like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t make excuses, and in a lot of ways I am. I am quick to admit to mistakes at work, take responsibility and move on, making sure that they don’t happen again. On the other hand I excuse any deviation from my healthy living goals once a simple mistake has been made. “I’ll start the diet again on Monday”, I say in my head as I tuck into a tub of ice cream in the evening having had one too many biscuits at breaktime… Likewise, Kat will ask if I want to go to the gym on a weekend, and I’ll say “No thanks, I want to save myself for my new programme which starts on Monday.”
With the changes I’ve made to my lifestyle to try and be more environmentally friendly, I’m more forgiving of myself, and have less of the ‘Start on Monday’ attitude. It could be down to the fact that I never crave a plastic straw in the same way that I crave a cheeseburger, who knows, but I’ve been quite disciplined at it.
Is there a problem?
That doesn’t mean I didn’t worry about it when I was starting off. I have got less easily embarrassed as I’ve got older but I have a painfully British need to not be a burden on anyone. When I first started out I would be reluctant to ask people to unpack it if they had packed a plastic bag for me. The more I thought about it, the more I thought, “Stop worrying, you're being silly!” and decided to change.
I was scared of inconveniencing someone, but when you think about it properly, it’s not really an inconvenience at all. Taking something out of a plastic bag at the shop is simple, and takes less than a second. In fact, Kat had a situation recently when she unpacked the plastic bag to put in her organic cotton tote bag, and the person behind the counter said “Thank you for helping to save our environment”. Sometimes people want to help but just need a bit of prompting!
It can be a bit of a different situation with a straw, as even when you ask for your drink without a plastic straw, sometimes the person serving you will forget and then the straw has already been used and is likely to be thrown out after use. People are busy, and mistakes happen, however, the way that people are becoming increasingly aware of the effect of plastic waste on the environment means there is no stigma attached to caring (not that there should be anyway). When I’m carrying my metal straws, I will get them out straight away and actually show them to the person who is serving me. I find that this helps them to remember not to put a plastic one in.
2019 is going to be the best me
As we come towards the end of the year, I’ve started to think about New Year’s resolutions. News like this recent story from Indonesia are just further motivation for me to make an increased effort to have less impact on the environment. I think I do quite well at the moment, but writing things down can be a real motivation to stick with something. One of the best ways to keep yourself on track with any goal is to write it down and tell people about it, that way you feel like you aren’t just letting yourself down when you mess up, as the way that the people who we care about view us is important. That’s why my next blog is going to be about my promises to myself for 2019 (sign up to the newsletter to be notified about blogs, offers and new product announcements).
I recently read The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters (I know, about five years after it was all over the press), and it linked really closely to what I had been thinking about with regard to changing parts of my life. There is a part of all of us that wants to take the easy option, that wants to eat rubbish, that won’t bother to go out prepared for a plastic free day. That ‘animal’ part of us can be controlled by the human, rational part of us, and it needs to be if we are going to improve ourselves and improve the environment.
I have been reassuring my chimp ever since, letting him (my chimp is a him, I’ve named him Gerard) know that it’s not going to be a big effort to not buy plastic products, and letting him know that in the long run it’ll give him a better environment to live in. He’s still got in his head that it’s the now that is important, and convenience should be our main goal, but I’m slowly winning him over.
Years ago, before I had even thought about plastic waste, before I’d read any books on mind management or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), I had applied some of these techniques already. I used to get so nervous before important rugby matches that I would be unable to eat, and I would throw up. Bear in mind that this is when I was 14, so how important can the games have been? I trained myself to overcome this, and for the next 16 years that I played rugby, never went past the light butterflies stage of nerves, even when playing in front of 35,000 people, even in games when my next job depended on putting in a performance. I’ve used similar techniques to develop my public speaking (the first assembly I delivered to a couple of hundred students, my hands were shaking like crazy, now I think I could speak to the whole school without even breaking a sweat).
It has become harder to change ingrained habits as I’ve got older, it’s become more challenging and scarier than it was twenty, or even five years ago, but it’s still possible. I have spoken before about how I enjoy pushing myself to make changes, and how once I have it as a habit it’s much easier to stick to. It sounds cliche but it is true. There are so many more changes that I want to make and some of them are scary. When I was overcoming my nerves and fears before big matches and talks I changed the way I viewed the fear, so it became an opportunity rather than something to be scared of. I'm very excited about the opportunities that the New Year has in store, and continuing to make changes to live a more eco-friendly life is one of them.