make eco-friendly habits stick

Guest Blog by Dr Kirren

Forming habits can be very powerful, helping us to achieve our goals effectively and efficiently. But did you know there’s a reason forming habits that help the planet can be a little trickier to make part of your routine?

So, whether you’re looking to remember to recycle your cardboard packaging every week, take a reusable bag or coffee cup with you when you head to the shops or switch to 30°C when you turn on the washing machine – keep reading for my advice on how to make them stick.

So, first things first: What is a habit? Habits are mental shortcuts, which make certain actions automatic. This means we can repeat them without much deliberation, thought or mental effort. Habits can make certain difficult tasks easier, while also freeing up the brain to focus on more complex decisions and tasks.

We develop habits through repetition and reinforcement. When we repeat a behaviour again and again, this triggers a certain memory process in the brain which makes the action automatic. This means the next time you face the same situation, the action will come to mind quickly, without having to consciously think about it. For example, when you get into a car, putting on your seatbelt is second nature because it’s become a habit.

Sometimes, it can be harder to try and establish a habit that doesn’t seem to impact us or benefit us directly. This is sometimes the case for sustainability-focused habits – such as recycling your cardboard packaging. While we know it’s important because the fibres which make up cardboard can be re-used again and again when we recycle, there can be less of a clear, positive impact on our own daily life than, say, regularly brushing our teeth to keep them healthy and avoid fillings.

When the personal reward is seen more clearly, it can be easier for the habit to stick – because your brain will release ‘happy hormones’ like dopamine, which give you a kick of satisfaction.

So how do we ensure our eco-friendly habits stick? To create the motivation required for long-lasting habits in the absence of a personal reward (or at least personal reward that’s immediately obvious), we need to ensure we know exactly why we want to commit to a particular behaviour.

Reminding ourselves of the reason we want to develop a particular habit can serve as powerful motivation. Finding out more about ‘why’ you should do something can help with this as understanding the benefits of a certain action can make us more motivated.

So, spend time reading and researching to learn more about the benefits to the environment of taking up more eco-friendly behaviours, which will help you to see the need for and importance of them.

The Beyond the Box website is packed with information about cardboard packaging and its credentials as a sustainable packaging choice – cardboard is recyclable, renewable, reusable, and biodegradable. For example, did you know that over 80% of cardboard boxes in the UK are currently recycled and the paper fibres which make up cardboard are reused on average seven times?  Plus, there’s plenty of inspiration on recycling and reusing your cardboard packaging, as well tips on what else you can do to help.

And if you’re looking for more advice on how to form habits that stick, check out my TikTok and Instagram videos for inspiration.