It’s the time of year when folks are making resolutions and promising themselves this is the year they will lose weight, learn to speak Mandarin or take up ballet. While you’re in the mood, I’d like to seize the opportunity to suggest jotting down a few green goals alongside your personal, professional and parenting resolutions.
Ideas for “green goals”
If you’re reading this blog, you’re somewhere on the spectrum of sustainability. And that’s why I love you! But whether you’re a minty pastel or khaki green, there’s always more you can do or an area to improve on. Here are some ideas for green goals or resolutions:
- Reduce your household waste
- Lower your carbon emissions
- Consume less
- Eliminate synthetic chemicals in the home
- Make a stand on an issue that’s important
At this level, the goals above look pretty big and scary, right? Let’s look at how to make these goals less airy-fairy and more achievable.
Setting achievable goals
I’ve been doing some work helping businesses make sustainability changes in their organisation and this had taught me a lot about setting realistic goals. Some of you may be familiar with the acronym SMART – this is a tool for goal-setting used in everything from personal development to market dominance.
SMART describes the goal:
S = Specific
Your goal needs to be an actual, definitive thing. Saying “I will be more eco-aware” is not a specific goal, deciding to research the environmental issues of your region is.
This is a really important factor. As strategists like to say – if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Your goal needs some kind of metric that you can compare before and after your efforts. Examples are megalitres of water, tonnes of carbon, the number of bags of rubbish in your bin. Obviously some metrics might be less concrete: understanding of three green issues, to use the example above, or five eco-themed excursions with your kids.
A = Achievable
It seems obvious, but setting goals you can actually achieve is paramount. If you regularly aim too high, you are more likely to give up within two minutes. Try to think realistically – but not pessimistically – and set goals within your grasp.
R = Rewarding
Your goal must reward you in a way that is meaningful to you. That could be a financial or time saving measure – it could be a sense of satisfaction, better health, the knowledge you’re helping someone or making a difference. Examine your goal and make sure it gives you some nice kick-backs. It’s all well and good to change something for the greater good. But if it makes life more difficult and offers no reward, you’re unlikely to stick with it.
T = Time-bound
Ever wondered why there are so many books and blogs out there with titles like My Year Without Toilet Paper, Six Months Spending no Money, or Two Years Alone in the Wilderness With Nothing But a Nutcracker? It’s because goals with end-point are more concrete and therefore more achievable. Having a timeframe also allows you to compare (using your metric) and track your progress. If halfway through the year you realise your energy usage is down by 20 percent and you’re aiming for a 25 percent decrease by December, then you know you”re on the right track.
What are your goals?
With the SMART description in mind, let’s look at those bigger goals mentioned above. Here are examples of how they could be rephrased to be more achievable:
- Collect and reduce soft-plastic packaging (measured by the bag-full or weight) by 50% by December 2014.
- Reduce general waste by half by autumn.
- Buy nothing new for the year of 2014 (see one family who did just that for 2013 here).
- Reduce family’s carbon emissions by 25% by the end of the year (measured using an online carbon calculator).
- Switch to natural personal care products by June.
- Connect with an environmental organisation and offer your services by March.
These are just examples and I have not included the rewards as they are different for every person. When setting your green goals, make sure they are meaningful to you, not just what you think you “should” be doing. I’m guessing there’s something you have been meaning to change but for whatever reason haven’t yet. That is a great place to start.
Once you’ve set specific, measurable, achievable, rewarding and timely goals, the next step is to break them down into smaller goals steps. Below, I’ve listed three of my green goals for 2014 as examples of achievable goals setting.
1. Establish support for Plastic-bag Free Redcliffe by March
It is a long-term goal of mine to see single-use plastic bags banned from my area. I’ve been talking about it forever, but this year I am going to move forward. As you can see, my goal is just one step of the bigger, slightly terrifying, goal. I am going to break it down even further:
- Contact Queensland Conservation Society for advice
- Meet with retailers association to garner support
- Approach local council member for support
I have until March to do these three things. After that I will take stock of my situation and determine the next set of goals.
2. Reduce general waste by 50% by year’s end
This may seem like an ambitious figure, but I am assuming my kids will finally be shot of plastic nappies by then (I use them overnight). To achieve this goal, I will need to:
- audit our waste for two months
- analyse what we put in the bin
- find alternate waste disposal method or way to avoid items all together
3. Reach more people via this blog: double traffic by year’s end
I could (and will) write a whole plan for this goal, but there are a number of steps I plan to take, including:
- Write useful content
- Partner with major environmental charity
- Provide free resources
- Build presence on more diverse social media networks
- Connect with more people/blogs/brands
In my experience, it’s easy to come out of the gate of the new year with guns blazing. It’s a wonderfully cleansing, optimistic time of year, but unless you have clear, achievable goals it’s easy to let your ambitions slide. What follows is guilt, an F-it attitude or even a bit of disappointment in oneself, which is never fun or productive. So get out your pen and paper and jot down some SMART goals. Why not commit to them and share in the comments below?