Bombarded with messages about melting glaciers and dying sea creatures. I’m sure all of you have already seen dozens of pictures of oil spills in the ocean, seagulls with plastic rings for a collar and tons of rubbish piled up as the mountains of ever increasing waste. Global warming. Deforestation. Loss of biodiversity. These buzzwords represent a cruel reality, which is that our world is changing. In full honesty, is our behaviour changing together with the environmental needs of our planet? Or are we in our imperfect human nature sticking to our habits unwilling to sacrifice our comfort? We all want to live meaningful, happy lives and saving our planets in the process is exactly how we will achieve that.
You are the problem...
Our consumerist culture is one of the biggest causes of environmental pollution. We buy excessively, consume irresponsibly and dispose of waste mindlessly. In the short-term, anti-environmental behaviours seem more beneficial for us. Sustainability is about sacrificing comfort for a long-term gain. Eating junk food, not going to the gym, night-time Netflix marathons on weekdays or sleeping till noon are only a couple examples of how our short-term vision blurs the long-term gains. Although pro-environmental actions are better for everyone in the long-term, they also require more from us. Luckily, there is a way we can make it easier for ourselves.
...and the solution.
If you want to get yourself to do anything, you need to know what tricks work on you. This is also true if you want to become more environmentally responsible. It is not going to happen overnight and no one else will do it for you. But we all want to progress and improve as human beings, don’t we? That’s why the following tips will not only let you know how to become more environmentally friendly but will also make you happier in the long-term.
Do you make a conscious attempt to protect your environment? Research suggests that if you do, you are also more likely to be happy. People who frequently engage in pro-ecological behaviour see themselves as happier, than individuals who are not pro-environmental. Happiness is, therefore a consequence of sustainable behaviour.
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The Good Samaritans of sustainability
Acting in an environmentally and socially sustainable way requires a certain level of altruism. This means putting our own needs second, while making the needs of others a selfless priority. Of course it would be easier to put all of our rubbish into the same bin. Waste separation requires an investment of time and mental energy. Biking to work, turning off the lights when you leave the room or buying organic products also requires a conscious effort on your part. If you don’t see the benefits, you will not be motivated to move a finger.
A wise man once said there are no selfless good deeds #JoeyFromFriends. Therefore, even investing our time and energy into saving our planet through environmentally responsible acts has to come with some kind of a reward. The most effective one is perhaps also the simplest. It makes us feel good. Several studies show that altruism makes us feel good about ourselves in the long-term.
Advertise the higher purpose to yourself
Generic speeches about “environmental issues” are likely to put your brain into sleep mode as soon as they begin. Personal is what matters. What would you be more likely to care about: the fact that the oceans are getting more polluted or the fact that the quality of the drinking water in your town is getting worse? While oceans are an abstract concept that does not directly impact you, the drinking water in your town has a direct connection to your everyday life. That is why you are more likely to respond to a sustainability campaign, which has a strong local focus. It is simply relevant to you.
Thinking about acting in a more environmentally friendly way will, therefore, not get you very far. If you really want to become more aware of the impact you have the power to make, look into projects and campaigns that are going on a local level. Once you become aware of these issues, your likelihood to care and to do the socially responsible thing will also increase.
A greener tomorrow
Behaving sustainably with the greater good in mind has the power to increase your happiness. But it’s a journey not a destination. Pro-environmental behaviour is not about deciding to use the plastic waste bin one time but rather making a conscious decision to become someone, who cares about ecology and forming habits to go along with that identity. It’s not about changing the world; it’s about changing yourself in order to have a positive impact on the environment you live in.