Because climate change is such a big problem, it can sometimes feel like individual actions don’t really matter. Taking action is important for many reasons, though. One of the biggest being that your actions can inspire and connect you to others, which can turn your individual action into a group action. But what actions should you be committing to? And how can you make sure you really stay committed to the actions you choose to take up?
Today we’re sharing 3 considerations to keep in mind as you decide on which climate actions are best suited for you. Check them out below:
1. Individual actions do matter – especially when you connect with others
I’m sure you’ve heard the argument that individual actions don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. While it’s certainly true that a handful of fossil fuel companies are responsible for a majority of carbon emissions, that doesn’t mean that your individual actions don’t matter. Because the biggest and most drastic actions need to happen at a policy level, the more voices that are calling attention to the need for change and action, the better. By embracing sustainable actions, you’ll show others that living more sustainably is possible and that our voices joined together are strong.
2. Find what drives you
When it comes to committing to a climate action it is important to keep in mind your personal strengths and passions. When you commit to an action you are actually passionate about, you are much more likely to stick with it. But what climate actions should you be committing to? In an episode of the How to Save a Planet podcast, host Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson recommends that a great way to figure that out is to create a “Climate Action Venn Diagram”:
“One circle is: what are you good at? Like, what skills, resources, networks, reach, influence are you bringing to the table?
And then the next circle is: what is the work that needs doing? Like, which climate solution are you gonna focus on? And how does that overlap with the skills that you have?
And then the third circle would be: what brings you joy? Like, what gets you out of bed in the morning? Because this is the work of our lifetime, right?”
The intersection of those circles is where you will identify what actions are best suited for you. You can check out some example Climate Action Venn Diagrams below. We’d love to see your Climate Action Venn Diagram! Share yours with us via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via direct message on Facebook or Instagram.
If you’ve made your venn diagram and are still struggling to figure out some actions at the intersection, try scanning a list of individual climate actions and see if they spark any ideas:
- The Powerful Role of Household Actions in Solving Climate Change
- 9 things you can do about climate change
3. Be mindful of ways to stay committed
Once you have your list of actions at the intersection of what you’re good at, what needs doing, and what brings you joy, the question becomes: how will you stay committed to those actions? For some actions it might be as simple as adding a step to your morning routine. For others, more research and planning may be required. It also might be tempting to try to commit to all your actions right away, but that will likely lead to burnout and frustration. So once you have your list, pick one action that you really want to commit to and develop a plan for incorporating it into your life. We found a few methods that have proven successful for people trying to develop new habits, learn more about them below:
Consider Tiny Habits
In an interview with NPR, behavioral scientist BJ Fogg discusses the idea of tiny habits. BJ argues that the main reason people don’t stick to new goals is because they tend to make them too big. For example, if you declare that you are going to read a book a month about climate solutions, but you have no plan for when you’ll do the reading, that action probably won’t end up being successful.
In order to develop a habit, you need to naturally add it into your existing routine. Maybe instead of your lofty read a book a month goal, you decide that rather than scrolling through Facebook every day during your lunch break, you’ll commit to reading an article about climate solutions. Because you made a plan for exactly where and when in your routine this action will fit in, you are going to be much more likely to successfully add it in as a new habit. Check out this short interview for more info and tips for creating tiny habits.
Make your goals S.M.A.R.T.
There is a method for creating and staying committed to goals called the S.M.A.R.T. system. S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. S.M.A.R.T. goals are essentially goals with a plan of action attached which means you are much more likely to stay committed to them. For example, saying you are going to ride your bike to work every day is an awesome commitment. But if you’ve never ridden your bike to work before and you try to do it every day, you’re probably going to get overwhelmed very quickly and end up feeling disappointed that you didn’t stay committed to your action. If, though, you instead commit to riding your bike one day a week and create a well thought out plan that includes things like mapping out your route and trying it a few times, you’ll be much more likely to stay committed. As you become more comfortable with biking, you can slowly change your commitment from one day to two, and so on and so forth.
Check out this article for more examples of S.M.A.R.T. goals and tips for creating your own (note: this article uses setting health goals as their example, but this method can be applied to any goals, including climate actions).
Once you have created the plan for incorporating your one identified action into your life, set a timetable when you will check back in. Depending on the size and scale of your action, that check in might be in a week, a month, or even a year. Set a reminder on your phone, add it to the calendar – just make sure you have a way of reminding yourself to check in on your commitment. At your check in consider: how is my commitment to this action going? If you feel like you’ve successfully added the action to your life, consider how you can build upon it to make it even more impactful. Or take a look back at your Climate Action Venn Diagram, do you have the capacity to commit to another action?
If you’re interested in learning more about committing to climate action, check out the “Taking Action” resource tabs at imagoearth.org/climate-anxiety. There you’ll also find deeper dives into topics like breaking unhealthy climate anxiety habits and talking about climate change with kids. Do you have more ideas for staying committed to climate actions? Share them with us in the comments below.