Developing Green Habits One Step at a Time

Neuroscience research by Soon et al. (2008) has demonstrated that the brain is subconsciously aware of our decisions before we have consciously made those very decisions. In other words, we’ve already come up with a decision or an answer, before we realize we have.

If most of the choices we make are developed subconsciously, then how can we break some of our unsustainable habits and develop new greener ones?

In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Phillippa Lally and her research team found that the amount of time to establish a new habit could vary from two to eight months. The more difficult or complex the new habit, the more time it will take for us to do it automatically. This information can be used to first establish green habits that are easier to accomplish, like remembering to recycle or turning off a light, over other green habits that may cause initial discomfort such as taking colder and shorter showers.

Lally’s research also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.” This means that building greener habits is not an all-or-nothing process. An individual does not have to be perfect since making a mistake once or twice has no measurable impact on long-term habits. Starting with one small step and setting long-term goals may lead to cementing greener habits and helping the planet.

By Efrain Esparza, GMC Writer

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