Introducing Population Media Center’s 2021 Environmental Challenges
"You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.” —Jane Goodall
Join us in this challenge to adopt new behaviors that can lead to greener living, greater understanding of environmental sustainability, and greater appreciation for our only home, Planet Earth.
We initially thought about introducing these as New Year’s resolutions, but after reading the high failure rate of such declarations, we decided to make it an open challenge launched in March and for all year consideration. At PMC, we know changing behaviors takes time. So go at your pace to explore these concepts and determine what is right for you. The challenges are categorized in five buckets to help capture key themes and ideas in an easy to follow grid:
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
- Avoid single-use plastic. Instead bring reusable utensils and straws with you.
- Use reusable bags instead of single use ones.
- Order take-out without single use utensils.
- Buy produce with less packaging – ever seen a plastic wrapped banana? Avoid buying produce that is unnecessarily wrapped.
- Use reusable water bottles instead of single use.
- Avoid fast fashion, which encourages continued spending and waste. Instead repair clothes, donate, or recycle them when you are done.
Take Action & Get Involved
- Vote environmentally in all elections to make sure local legislation factor in your environmental concerns.
- Volunteer for or donate to a reputable environmental organization.
- Pick up trash when you see it to help keep it out of run-off water, which can leak into our water systems.
- Protect our oceans by doing a beach clean up to keep harmful human trash from entering our precious oceans.
- Join related community groups or city council to lend your voice on local environmental issues.
Get Educated & Spread the Word
- Start a dialogue about climate change with others to keep it top of mind.
- Watch an environmental documentary to learn about topics like environmental justice, and how climate change disproportionately impacts communities of color.
- Read an environmental book to get different perspectives from different stakeholders.
- Learn the benefits of small family sizes and how population dynamics, environmental sustainability and women’s rights are interconnected.
- Share knowledge with your networks about all the things you’re learning and invite them into the conversation.
Manage Your Ecological Footprint
- Go with a plant-based diet for one or more days each week – it’s good for your health and the planet!
- Monitor your carbon footprint with an online calculator.
- Map out your journey and consider walking, taking public transportation or carpooling versus driving by yourself.
- Understand your online shopping footprint. It may be just a click of a button to order but, there is a carbon footprint in production, packaging, shipping, and transportation.
- Use approved reusable masks while you protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Let’s also protect the planet from disposing of single use masks appropriately.
- Buy locally sourced food. Remember, there is a smaller carbon footprint when you buy local.
- Create artwork inspired by our beautiful planet and all its beings.
- Take and share pictures of nature to remember the majestic natural world and the need to protect it for future generations to enjoy.
- Go camping to be one with nature and witness the variety of life Earth sustains.
- Take nature walks and hikes. This is good for your physical and mental heath and can also create a greater appreciation for our natural environment.
- Have socially distanced picnics at local parks – use the green space and support the development of more in your community.
For long time environmental activists, these concepts might look familiar but we hope the simple visual will serve as a gentle reminder for things you can do to demonstrate support for our one and only home, planet Earth.
For those who are new to some of these ideas, consider which are appropriate for your life, and then get to the hard part – incorporating the habits into your daily life.
How to Build New Habits
Annually, over half of us optimistically make New Year’s resolutions that do not make it past February. But why is it so difficult to keep our resolutions?
According to public sociologist Christine Whelan, “The unsexy and unappealing truth is, behavior change is hard, because we’re creatures of habit. To make a change in our behavior, means we’re adding something, or subtracting something, and we have to figure out what that is.” Yet, in our aspiration to adopt new behaviors we often fail to identify where there is give and take - what will we give in order to make room for the change? There are many tricks out there for how to make new habits stick and here are a few that stand out from researchers and personal experience:
1. Learn: Get educated on the benefits of the new habits to keep you motivated.
2. Make it Visible: Keep your goals visible. Print the graphic above and keep it on your fridge so you are reminded of the activities you’d like to try.
3. 30 Days to Automate: If you commit to building the discipline for 30 days it is more likely to last and become automated as a part of your life.
4. Simple Daily Ritual: Do a simple step every single day and it is more likely to become a lifestyle.
5. Identify a Role Model or Accountability Partner: Take the challenge on with someone else who is modeling the habit you want to build or will go on the journey with you. It’ll keep you inspired and on track.
6. Stack your habits: Connect the new habit to an existing one in order to build momentum and patterns that are easy reminders or milestones to keep you going.
7. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good: Happiness Project author Gretchin Rubin says, “Instead of pushing yourself to an impossible ‘perfect,’ and therefore getting nowhere, accept ‘good.’ Many things worth doing are worth doing badly.”
8. Celebrate Wins: It’s important to remember where you started and why. Celebrate small wins and milestones to recognize the progress you’ve made and commitment to self and planet.
Did our Environmental Changes Chart spark new ideas? What would you add? Please write in to let us know ways you’re living in honor of the planet Earth.