Getting started on your journey to green living starts with your mindset.
I was thisclose to being home. All that stood between me and my condo was about 100 feet of concrete — and that dreaded hill.
I angled my body, got a better grip of the stroller, and started walking. My heart pounded from the exertion of pushing my 25-pound toddler up the steep incline.
My house is located on a bit of a hill between two major roads. Whenever I walk with my daughters to the playground or to run some errands with them, there’s always a hill to contend with toward the end when I’m tired and ready to be done.
Being environmentally conscious can sometimes feel a little like that hike at the end.
It’s an uphill battle between doing what’s faster and easier versus doing what often requires more effort and planning.
It can be downright exhausting knowing how to help the environment. Are you making the “right” decision? Just when you think you’re almost there, you begin to wonder if you’ve actually made a difference.
And throw kids in the mix? It makes that walk uphill, with the whining and the extra weight, that much more draining.
It can also be inspiring as you push yourself. You learn new things, experiment with what works for you and your family, and work towards making the world a better place.
As you get started on your own journey to sustainable living, here are a few tips to help you maintain your calm and stay the course.
Take it slow
I’ve been on the path of eco-friendly living for about six years now, but it’s been a slow and steady process with changes made over time. It started with me shopping for clothes more at consignment and thrift stores, moving on to carrying a stainless steel water bottle, ditching ziplocks bags, etc.
Don’t feel like you have to do all the things at once. Switching to a more eco-friendly lifestyle is about developing new habits.
Research shows it takes on average, 66 days to develop a new habit, so pick one thing you want to do and give yourself some time until it feels natural. You can start from a list of ideas to switch to a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Work toward turning one or two of those things, like carrying a reusable water bottle with you, into a habit, before you move on to the next thing.
It’s not all-or-nothing
You don’t have to eat all locally-sourced food, drink only water from a rain barrel, and drive an electric car powered by solar panels to live greener.
I’m a firm believer that every little bit helps. It’s ok that you’re a stickler for using reusable produce bags at the grocery store and put your kids in disposable diapers. If we all make an effort in some ways, think of how they add up. For example, if everyone in the U.S. simply stopped using plastic water bottles, that’s a reduction of 50 billion plastic bottles!
Cut yourself some slack
Even when you make progress, sometimes you’ll slide back choose what’s convenient and/or cheap, and that’s ok. You’ll find yourself buying individually-wrapped snacks on the car ride to visit Grandma because you forgot to put the banana in your diaper bag. Or norovirus wipes through your home and you go through a case of paper towels instead of cloth ones.
If you get sidetracked, it isn’t a reflection of the type of person you are or want to be. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t later get back to the path you were on. Take a breath, tell yourself you’re doing great, and get back on track.
Make it fun
I’ve discovered this nifty trick in the morning to motivate my older daughter, Eve, to get ready. As I start to change her little sister’s diaper and get her dressed for the day, I’ll say, “I bet you can’t dressed before I get Liv dressed!” and Eve races to get dressed. I’ll do that with each thing I need her to get done in the room. What can drag on to take a good 20 minutes with a fair amount of whining is now completed in under five minutes with Eve smiling and laughing a long the way.
Think about what motivates you and set up challenges along the way for yourself to make the process more enjoyable. For example, I like to make grocery shopping a bit of a game and see how little plastic I can buy.
Ok, it might not be the most exciting example (if anything, I think it’s example of my nerdiness), but it motivates me and makes grocery shopping a bit more interesting while I work on reducing how much trash I produce.
Related: Download the eco-bingo challenge
Avoid the doom and gloom articles
It’s so easy to wonder what’s the point as you read yet another article about how quickly the earth is warming or how much plastic is in the ocean.
While it’s important to have an end-goal in mind and to be aware of why you’re doing this, do yourself a favor and skip the articles that the world is about to end. You need to stay energized and motivated to do this while raising your children without the anxiety that these articles can cause for some people.
Getting into the right mindset can make all the difference as you get started on your green living journey. It can be the difference between giving up before you even start and looking back in a few years and realizing all the changes you’ve made.