I’m not going to lie, changing a habit is hard!  It takes a lot of focus, determination and time.  Now consider trying to change the habits of others – especially your family members!  You will likely need a variety of different approaches and tactics to get everyone moving in the right direction.  It will likely be exhausting!  However, given the right incentive (no, not a bribe!) all of the effort and time will be worth it.  I hope this post encourages  you to begin to think about your family’s green habits!  🙂

What Is A Habit?

A habit is defined as, “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.”  So what are your family’s (not so) green habits?  Are they in the habit of leaving the water running while brushing their teeth?  Are they in the habit of leaving lights on even after they leave a room?  Are they in the habit of tossing all trash into one garbage can?   If you are like most families you have some of these habits (or some that are similar) but have never stopped to think about why you are doing them and why or if you should change them.

How Do Habits Work?

I recently came across an interesting article that suggested that all habits good or bad follow the same pattern:

  1. Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior)
  2. Routine (the behavior itself; the action you take)
  3. Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior)

If you think about any habit – bad or good – this is pretty applicable.  Let’s take the example of leaving the water on while brushing.  The reminder (one you may have to give your kids!) is grabbing the toothbrush which leads to turning on the faucet.  The routine is turning the faucet on and leaving it that way while you brush.  The reward is that it’s convenient to leave it on.  Take any habit that could be greener and I bet you can break it down into these three steps.

Here’s one last fact about habits that is actually pretty interesting.  A study conducted by a health psychology researcher at University College London concluded that on average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic – 66 days to be exact.  Check out this article on the Huffington Post for more info about the study.

How To Adopt Green Habits

So when it comes to getting your family to adopt green habits (i.e. turning off the water while brushing their teeth) you could just start reminding (aka nagging) them to do things differently.  I guarantee that is going to get old pretty darn fast – for all of you.  So before you start in on the reminding I think it’s really helpful to do a bit of a sales pitch in the form of an info dump.  For example, talk to your family a bit about where the water in your house comes from and that it’s not an endless supply.  Or talk about how much water is actually going down the drain and what happens to it (See my post, “How Many Gallons Per Minute Are Going Down Your Drain?”).  The hope is that this extra info will give them a different perspective and get them to start thinking about their actions and begin to make small changes to their behavior. So when tooth brushing time comes they grab the brush, squirt the paste onto the brush (and probably all over the sink too!) reach for the faucet and then think, “Hey, we need to save water and use less!”.  And voila!  A small glimmer of the start of a new habit!!  Faucet on, wet tooth brush, faucet off while brushing – gallons saved!!

Don’t forget it’s going to take some time!  And you are going to need to give lots of reminders but be positive! Try to make it fun!  Throw some fun rewards in there too!  Happy green habit forming!