One Planet Living

Setting Sustainable Goals

I’m so excited by the response so far to yesterday’s One Planet Living post, and the idea of a year focussing on living within the resource constraints of this beautiful planet!
Thank you so much to everyone who has commented, subscribed to the newsletter, or joined the Facebook group – this is shaping up to be a real community challenge.

I talked briefly yesterday about one of the problems with big goals, or big challenges like “living more sustainably” is that it is just too big. And it’s too vague. That’s why the concept of “One Planet Living” really appeals. It feels much more tangible. The goal itself is actually measurable – there are various footprint calculators available online (try this one here from WWF, or this one here from BioRegional, who also have a  whole brilliant section of their website devoted to One Planet Living) that you can use to give you a broad overview of how carbon/resource intensive your lifestyle is. I would encourage everyone to go and have a nose and to crunch the numbers, and would be really interested to hear what your results are.
However, the problem I have found is that I think I could spend a year making lots of little changes, that all add up to be pretty impactful in terms of my resource use and the amount of waste I produce, but that I could ‘take the test’ again this time next year and still get the same results. They are great for looking at the bigger picture, but less useful for really drilling down into the nitty gritty, the baby steps, that we can all take, that will really add up.

I’ve broken down the concept of One Planet Living into twelve monthly categories, again because I think that when looking at our lifestyles as our whole and trying to make them more sustainable, it’s too overwhelming and hard to even know where to start.
So the idea is that each month, we have a collective focus, can pool knowledge and resources, and help to encourage and support each other.

I want to also invite anyone who wants to, to set themselves a goal at the start of each month, so that they have something to aim for, and something to measure any progress against. I know how easy it can be to drift along with lots of good intentions and yet make very few actual changes.
This blog post has some pointers around goal setting, and things I would encourage us all to think about at the start of each month, but before we get too carried away about the specifics of goal setting and what makes a good goal, the very first step to think about and get clear on is your ‘Why?’.
I touched on this briefly last year when I wrote about ‘How to totally win at resolutions‘, and it really is key to achieving the things you want out of life.
For me, and my big vision of living more sustainably, my ‘why’ boils down to the kids.

I want them to grow up and have a safe and habitable planet to live on. In reality I know that we are in a hugely privileged position, and that here in the UK we will probably be shielded from the very worst effects of climate change, but the world is changing, and if we don’t take action the future looks scary and unpredictable. Thinking about what they might be facing, what the world might look like in 50 years time, makes me feel overwhelmed at times, but it also helps to keep me motivated and helps to inform each of my decisions as I move forwards.
So get clear about your why. What is it for you about living more sustainably/going zero waste/mending your clothes that is important?How does it impact you, your family, the wider world? What are the benefits, for you and for others? Really take some time to think about this, and I would also encourage you to write it down – then it’s there to refer to when your motivation starts to dip and things start to feel hard (and they will).

Once you’ve nailed down your motivation, the next step is to start coming up with some sustainable goals.
So what makes a good goal?
I’ll give some ideas and examples specific to each month as we start it, and people are of course more than welcome to set their own personal ones, but here are some general guidelines and pointers to think about:

Goals need to be specific.
You need to be as specific as you can about what it is you want to achieve. So for example for February’s “One Planet Buying” focus are you going to spend the month buying only second-hand stuff, or researching ethical alternatives for clothes? What is your longer term aim for how you want to approach sustainable spending and buying moving forwards, and one or two things could you do in February that would move you one step closer to your ideal?

Goals need to be measurable.
Having some way to measure your progress is really important, otherwise how will you ever know when you are succeeding?!
Keeping a record of what you’ve bought and where from could be a way of measuring it. Or adding any money you would have used to buy something that you’ve now resolved not to, to a special jar can be a really good visual way of measuring your spending if that is what you are trying to reduce.
So once you’ve thought of your specific goal for the month, spend a few minutes thinking about how you are going to measure it, and what success will look and feel like.

Goals need to be achievable and realistic.
Even breaking down the concept of One Planet Living into twelve categories, still leaves us with some pretty meaty, and potentially overwhelming things to tackle. Zero Waste for example is massive. People devote their lives to Zero Waste and it isn’t something that happens overnight, or even in a month. For me, the ultimate goal of Zero Waste still feels a very long way off, and feels un-acheivable and un-realistic for us at the moment. But I could set myself a goal of reducing food packaging waste, and work on that. That feels much less panic inducing and far more achievable. The ideal is to find the balance between something that stretches us out of our comfort zones, but doesn’t induce overwhelm (and therefore inaction!).

Goals need to be time bound.
That’s a posh way of saying we need to set an end date. It gives us something to aim for. And for people like me who tend to procrastinate and put things off, there is nothing like the pressure of a deadline to ensure we get things done! Obviously within the confines of this blog and our One Planet Living year, each category is given a month of focussed work, but have a think about what kind of deadlines you want to impose – some might need to be shorter, some longer. Whatever works for you, but the important thing is to have thought about it beforehand and to have written down those deadlines!

By making sure we spend a little bit of time at the start of each month really getting clear on our motivation, and also what it is specifically that we want to achieve within that category, then our goals really should be sustainable – both environmentally and personally.

I can’t wait to get started on our first month’s category, Making Do, or loving what we have, next week, but for now, if you get a chance to spend a minute or two thinking about your ‘why’ for One Planet Living and you are happy to share it, please do let us know in the comments, or pop over to the Facebook community to join in the conversation 🙂

To keep up to date with all the One Planet Living resources and information, I’d love you to sign up to the newsletter, where I’ll be sending out a handy round up each month.


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  • Reply plumesworld January 6, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    2.9 earths, had a few issues with questions, I don’t have a loft so I can’t have loft insulation, I don’t have a garden so none of those questions relevant. Let’s see what I get it down to!

    • Reply Jen January 6, 2017 at 8:56 pm

      Yes, not the most accurate or sensitive of tests, but a good baseline to work from hopefully 🙂

  • Reply Mary Myerson January 6, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    It certainly seems the sensible thing to do. We can’t go on abusing the planet as we are. We need to be more careful and considerate of everything and everyone around us.

    • Reply Jen January 6, 2017 at 8:55 pm

      Well put Mary, thank you!

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