A few days ago I started asking around to find out what motivates people to kick not-so-eco-friendly habits and start living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. Motivation is such a fickle friend to me, I get these awesome little bursts of inspiration in which I am fairly certain that I can and will change the world, but someway or another it tends to fizzle out over time.
That is, of course, why I started this group; having people who are relying on me motivates me to get things done. There are a small group of you who have signed up to participate in my weekly greening challenges this coming year and I am so stoked to share my goals with you and to commiserate about the work of meeting them. But I also feel like motivation and I need to become better friends before I can lead this parade into awesome town (I am sorry, I don’t normally talk like this but I’ve been watching a lot of Guy Fieri cooking shows lately.).
So I asked around. It would seem that the most motivated green-living type people I know all have three things in common: They spend a lot of time out doors, they have a great network and community around them, and they’ve all read ‘The Lorax’ by Dr. Seuss.
You see where I am going with this right? With The New Year only a week away it’s time to get pumped and to do this I have three things that I want you to think about (and hopefully do) as you ring in the New Year.
First, go outside every day.
I know that it’s the middle of winter here in the northern hemisphere and that a lot of folks (especially around here on the Canadian prairie) tend to limit their outdoor time to walking to and from the car, but hear me out.
About two years ago when my son was an infant I read this book by a man named Richard Louv called “Last Child in the Woods”. In this book Louv talks about something called Nature deficit disorder a term he uses to describe a whole slew of behaviors including depression, attention disorders, and lack of care or empathy for the earth, which Louv believes are linked to the fact that this generation of children aren’t spending as much time in nature as the generations before. While Louv’s book focuses on this phenomenon as it pertains to children it is not hard to see that it affects adults just the same because if our children aren’t spending much time outside, we are likely spending even less, and we simply aren’t, after all, all that different from our children.
If it is the case that our increasingly urban lifestyles which disconnect us from nature could lead to things like depression and lack of empathy for the earth then the first thing we should do to get motivated is to go outside and get reacquainted with whatever nature our area has to offer.
I have been doing this with my son everyday after breakfast, snow or shine, for just over a month now, I have more energy, I have a better knowledge of the wildlife in my neighbourhood, I have gotten to know my neighbours, I just generally feel better and I have seen a drastic difference in my toddler’s behaviour; he is less aggressive, he is more willing to play independently, he sleeps better, and he has developed ‘relationships’ with the animals who live near our home which I hope can be a stepping stone to a sense of stewardship for the Earth and it’s resources.
This is the part of this post where I was going to bombard you with adorable photos of my kid playing outside, but since I realize that not everyone is into that kind of thing I will post only one of him stuck in a tree.
If you want to see more, lately I’ve been posting a picture every day to twitter and instagram with the hash tag #dailynaturewalk bonus points if anyone else out there wants to use the hash tag to share your own adventures!
Secondly; head out into your community and see what is out there.
I feel like the key to being successful at anything is community and support. Humans are social creatures; we need the support of other humans around us to survive and to do just about anything. When a culture or community supports a certain practice, that practice becomes the mainstream simply because it is what’s easiest for us to do.
Here’s an example: People in my city don’t take the bus. At least, people who have other options don’t take the bus. I know a lot of people who would love to use public transit to cut down their carbon footprint and save a bit of money by leaving their car at home, but the bottom line is that the transit system in this city is neither effective nor reliable. I would know because I am one of the people who have no other option but to rely on it. So you could say that in my community there isn’t adequate support for public transit. There is, however, plenty of support for driving a car. Within a 5 block radius of my home (near a main street) there are about 6 gas stations, 3 car washes, 5 service garages and countless free parking lots.
In general human beings are go-with-the-flow, easiest-rout-possible kind of beings, so if we are to start changing the status quo in our own lives and within our communities we need to have support. Before we take on weekly challenges that will include things like recycling, transportation, gardening ect. We need to know what services are available to us.
We also need to know if there is a community of like-minded citizens nearby. Is there a cycling group in your city that is petitioning for bike lanes to make the streets safer for cyclists? Are there community gardens nearby that offer gardening space for apartment or condo dwellers? Is there a farmer’s market where you can meet with local organic farmers? Making these connections will not only help you find and access services you may need in the future, but maybe you’ll make some new friends while you’re out there looking.
While you’re at it, talk to your friends and neighbours about your goals, you may find that you have the same vision. Maybe you will find that a friend has the means to help you with one goal while you have the skills needed to help them with theirs. Maybe your friends will tell you that you’re nuts but as they see you working towards your goals they will decide to join you.
In my case, a friend has recently voiced interest in starting a buying club. The idea being to purchase organic local meat in bulk and divvy it up amongst a small group. I wouldn’t have known this if I hadn’t voiced my desire to meet some of these goals this year and now I have the chance to help her make that idea a reality.
Then of coarse there is this group. We are a small group at the moment but maybe we can grow! No matter our size though, I hope that we can all be a source of enthusiasm and support for each other.
Whatever the case may be, my point is that big changes begin and end with community. As the New Year approaches think about the support you have around you and if you feel like you need more then go out and rally up some new friends.
Thirdly; I made up the thing about ‘The Lorax’ but you should probably read it anyways.
I was trying to come up with something I could post that would serve to motivate everyone who has signed up, but all of the short documentaries and videos I could think of were kind of depressing. I am not saying that documentaries about climate change and the environment aren’t important. They are. I just wanted something really positive to be my rallying cry.
“The Lorax” is a children’s story by Dr. Seuss that I think gets more and more profound as the years go by. Check it out at your local library or book store, borrow it from a friend, or if you already know it read it again for good measure.
Feeling motivated yet? I know I am. See you all in the New Year!