10 Steps to Embrace a Greener Lifestyle

Hawaii Hibiscus by Matsuda Yukihiro

Hawaii Hibiscus by Matsuda Yukihiro

By Michael Kramer

As you’re reading this article, go ahead and cross your arms as you usually would. If you notice, you can accomplish this effortlessly, without really thinking about it. Now, release this position and cross your arms again, only this time put the other arm on top. How awkward was that?

Human behavior is full of habitual practices, which is why doing something as simple as crossing your arms a different way isn’t a simple task.  We have similar habits in many aspects of our lives, from how we brush our teeth, cook our food, and study for tests to how we treat people, dress, and shop.  We also have very different tendencies when it comes to moving beyond our comfort zone and embracing change.According to the Natural Marketing Institute, Americans generally fall into one of four distinct behavioral change categories when it comes to green practices: Indifferents, comprising 12% of the population, have no interest in contemplating these issues. Centrists, 27% of the population, have mainstream sensibilities and habits but are being exposed to new ideas and are not necessarily opposed to them. Nomadics, 38% of the population, check green approaches out in small ways to see how easy or fulfilling they may be.

Finally, the early adopters or “cultural creatives” now make up 23% of the population, and they love to be on the cutting edge. These pioneers chart new territory for the rest of us, enjoy taking risks, and champion new ideas, technologies, initiatives, businesses, and choices for lifestyles of health and sustainability. What is clear from these categories is that there are now more people beginning to adopt greener lifestyle practices (61%) than those who aren’t, so this is highly symbolic.

If you’ve thought of developing a greener lifestyle, you may have faced some resistant thoughts, but don’t worry, this is common. You might experience:

  • Fear, that changing your ways might be uncomfortable
  • Anxiety, that adopting green practices might cost too much money
  • Overwhelm, because it’s hard to know where to begin
  • Ignorance, about how to access information and resources

Embracing lifestyle changes, no matter how small, is a very personal decision. While often driven by a sense of connection to nature or to increasing humanity’s capacity to survive, sometimes the motivation to go green involves more personal issues, such as a desire to save money, become healthier, or prepare for unforeseen circumstances. Whether through ethical considerations, survival instinct, or thriftiness, the truth is that some don’t want to even consider change. Happy with their life and choices as they are, these people are considered mainstream, but they are actually a minority of our population, indifferent to emergent ideas of climate change risk, sustainability, or social justice.

But if you’re reading this article, chances you are, at the very least, contemplating the idea of change. Perhaps you’ve surveyed a few green websites or articles, seen a few green or organic products in stores, or checked out an event like Ecolounge, The Green Expo, or Green Drinks. And from this, curiosity and attraction spurs further exploration.

Contemplation eventually leads to making plans to change your behavior. Perhaps you have started to price water-conserving showerheads or considered how you might walk, bike, or bus to work.  You might be thinking about putting solar panels on your roof, buying biodegradable cleaners, or eating organic food. This is all preparation to act, and it may involve research, budgeting, and finding allies to support you.

Taking some action is the way we establish new habits. Perhaps you start off with a little yoga, bring your own shopping bag to the store, or buy compact fluorescent light bulbs. As you get more comfortable, you may start to take on more challenging practices, such as:

  • Shift from disposables to reusables;
  • Go paperless in your workplace;
  • Use biofuel in your car, or better yet, sell your car and choose another way
  • Buy 100% post-consumer paper and other green office supplies, including refillable cartridges of non-petroleum printer ink;
  • Wear clothing made of natural and organic fibers and dyes
  • Compost your own food waste at home, build soil, start a garden, and plant trees;
  • Use the Hawaii BuiltGreen checklist to green your home or office;
  • Buy most of your food from local producers with organic and sustainable practices. Could you be bold enough to eat only food grown on your island for a couple of months?
  • Put your savings in a community bank or credit union, so it invests in local people and businesses;
  • Reduce your waste stream through reduced consumption and packaging, efficiency, re-use, and recycling;
  • Convert your landscaping to edibles for people and wildlife;
  • Retrofit your home or office for passive cooling;
  • Capture and use rainwater and greywater;
  • Support local, national, and global businesses that are driven by caring values towards employees, customers, and the environment through your purchases and investments.

As experiments such as these start to form habits, you will notice that you never look at life the same again. You will experience the feeling of being connected to your community and environment in a deeper way, and as you evaluate the strategies your have embraced, you will continue to redesign your life towards a darker shade of green and social responsibility. It does get easier. And you will never cross your arms the same way again.

Michael Kramer is Managing Partner of Natural Investments LLC, Hawaii’s only investment advisor exclusively managing portfolios of socially responsible and green investments. He founded the Kuleana Green Business Program in West Hawaii and serves on the board of the Sustainability Association of Hawaii. He can be reached at Michael@naturalinvesting.com and 808-331-0910

Photo by Matsuda Yukihiro from Flickr.com

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