Change is something that starts with me!
“Every positive change in your life begins with a clear, unequivocal decision that you are going to either do something or stop doing something.”
This is the theme that the Green Team have chosen for Enviroweek 2018 and it is a powerful statement that can be applied across all areas of our lives, not least in regards to our impact on the planet. Revolutionising one’s lifestyle to achieve truly sustainable living is unrealistic for most of us, but we are all able to make significant changes to our lifestyle to reduce our negative impact – and we are compelled to do so.
So, decide what you want to change, plan to achieve it, take action and be persistent – simple! In reality, making long-term changes in our lives is rarely simple as the psychology that underlies the changing of behaviours is complex. The Stages of Change Model (developed in the context of substance dependence) describes the process by which all behaviours change, including adopting ecologically-sound habits.
The first two stages are Precontemplation, which describes those who are not considering making any changes as they don’t, or won’t, see a problem with their current behaviour, and Contemplation, which describes those who are wanting to, and thinking about making changes because they understand the need to, or perhaps feel a sense of guilt. A great many people in our society are currently in these stages. A lack of awareness or understanding around environmental issues and a ‘head in the sand’ attitude are barriers to making change for these people, as is not believing in the power of one to make a difference. Fortunately, at Loreto Normanhurst, we make the most of opportunities to raise awareness and provide an ecological education for all. This has helped many people within our community move into the next stages of change: Preparation and Action.
People in the Preparation stage are making decisions about how to implement changes, such as buying a KeepCup or reusable produce-bags with the intention to use them. The school has helped move people into this stage by eliminating disposable cups and straws from the café, for example, and major stores have done so by removing free plastic bags from their checkouts. Action is a more challenging stage to get to – remembering the KeepCup, the refillable water bottle, asking for “No straw please!” when out and taking the reusable bags out of the car! I’m hoping that every one of you reading is in the Action stage for some behaviours – consider this the practice stage and expect to be here for a few months! Building a new pattern of behaviour is challenging and any successes must be celebrated – success breeds success, after all.
Whilst in the Action stage one is at greatest risk of relapse to the old behaviour…or, in what is more likely in this context, a lapse or setback – when one can quickly hop back on the eco-wagon. Any lapses must not be seen as failures, but serve as a learning experience and strengthen one’s resolve to reach the goal of Maintenance; the final stage. Lapses are still possible, but much less likely as one has developed strategies – such as carrying armfuls of groceries rather than buying yet another bag!
My philosophy is to reflect on and evaluate current practice and then select one or two achievable changes to work towards making – it’s not an all-or-nothing approach, but rather one that follows careful discernment. Once these changes become habit, then more and more changes can be implemented. In our community, people are at different points in their journey towards sustainable(ish) living, and we can all learn from each other by sharing ideas and tips for success. What is abundantly clear, however, is that everyone has a responsibility, and ability, to make changes and our governments must legislate to facilitate the move to the Action stage to secure a healthy planet for our future generations.
Ms Elizabeth Cranfield