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How To Make — And Keep — Sustainability Goals In 2019

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Making eco-living goals is all well and good, but keeping them is what matters. Here are some helpful tips to keep you going!


This post was written by Emily Folk, the creator of Conservation Folks.

So you want to live a greener life? That's great! Sustainable living is more important now than ever, and there are many ways to make your lifestyle more eco-friendly.


But, like any goal, it can be hard to stick with the green lifestyle changes you want to make. As you’ve probably discovered on your eco-living journey, there are so many things that need to change — in our daily habits and throughout society — in order to be sustainable, that just thinking about it can be discouraging and overwhelming.


Where to start? The trick is to start small, and to make changes where you can, with what you have. And to not be too strict with yourself. Some progress is better than no progress. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say! The way you approach the process of making and following through on your goals can make a big difference in your success.


The journey of a thousand miles truly does begin with a single step. So what can you do today to make progress toward a more sustainable 2019? Try out these tips below!


Examine your lifestyle

When setting sustainability goals for your household, it’s helpful to get a clear picture of how your current lifestyle impacts the environment. Try using a carbon footprint calculator and a water usage calculator, both of which are great tools to picture the true costs of your lifestyle choices. Just input details about your daily habits, and these sites will give you an estimation of your impact as well as suggestions for how to reduce it.


Do some quick research

Research what you can about how your habits’ impact the environment and how you can change. For example, if you're cutting back on meat, you might search what types of meat are the most carbon-intensive and commit to reducing your consumption of those meats first — while not being hard on yourself for continuing to enjoy the meats on the lower end of the impact spectrum. For example, beef has a much bigger environmental footprint that chicken or pork does. If you want, you can always choose to avoid those other meats once you have become accustomed to your new diet.


To supplement a lower-meat diet, look up some new vegetarian recipes, and expand your culinary horizons in the process! You may find you have some favorite foods you otherwise would not have discovered. Try out new cuisines from around the world to spice up your eating options!


Tackle one thing at a time

Don’t try to tackle everything at once. It can be tempting to try to revolutionize your whole life in one sitting, but trying this approach will likely leave you feeling overwhelmed, since there's so much you can possibly do. Instead, try to make one change at a time. Once you've mastered that, you can add on something new and up the stakes.


Compare the things in your life that have the biggest footprint with those that seem the most doable in the short term. Remember: Start small. What are one or two ways that you can make steps toward being more sustainable this week? Go from there.


Make your goals SMART

You may have heard about SMART goals, a goal-setting concept that was first described in the journal Management Review in 1981. Since then, the concept has taken off, and for good reason — because it works. Here are the elements of a SMART goal:



Instead of something vague like "living more sustainably," name something concrete that you will do.



Monitoring your progress can inspire you to stay on track. Try using the information from the carbon-footprint calculator to see how much you're reducing your footprint. Use your progress to inspire yourself to further action.



Make sure you can reasonably achieve your goals. Stretch goals are good, but only setting goals that are hard to reach can leave you feeling discouraged.



Make sure the goal is something that matters to you. Learning more about the impacts of the habit you want to change can give you motivation.



Give yourself a timeline for your goals. This will help you track your progress and keep you going when you’re “not feeling like doing it.”



Build in accountability

If you have someone holding you accountable for reaching your goal, you're much more likely to achieve it. Eighty percent of people abandon their New Year's resolutions by February, but research suggests that simply making a commitment to someone about your goal puts your chances of meeting it at 65 percent, and having ongoing check-ins about your progress ups your chances of success to 95 percent!


Commit to the process

Remember that living a more sustainable life is a process. You'll have challenges and setbacks, but you just have to keep moving forward. You'll never be "done" with this process. Although you'll hit certain milestones, living a more environmentally friendly life requires some effort and is full of rewards. Luckily, as with most things in life, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. You will make progress and have accomplishments you can be proud of, if you persist.



What are your new year’s eco-living goals? Share and inspire others in the comments!

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About the Author
Emily Folk
Emily Folk
Emily Folk covers topics in zero-waste living, sustainability, and eco-friendly lifestyle. She is the creator of Conservation Folks, and you... more
  • Carrie P. 4 months ago
    Great ideas! Thank you!
  • S C. 1 year ago
    I like the suggestion of sculpting out as best as possible - one thing at a time. Helps me to narrow down what is important for the time being and to focus on that one thing within the demands of daily life. Helps me to foster self control and accomplishing that one thing at a time-to be proud of doing. A yaay! moment. Looking to build up my sustainability activities and improvements. Anticipating a fun, warm and busy 2019 spring and summer! This site is encouraging with many positive ideas and suggestions. Have a great day everyone.
  • Lynne H. 1 year ago
    Please do NOT throw away your mascara wands. Instead, clean JUST THE WAND with dawn soap, place them in a ziploc bag and mail them to a Wildlife Refuge accepting donations. These little wands are able to be upcycled to clean away oil, larvae, fly eggs, mites, infections, mud and other contaminants from wildlife. Works great for medical care and wound treatment

    Pick your refuge to mail to:

    Appalachian Wild
    P.O. Box 1211
    Skyland NC 28776


    Wildlife Wands
    P.O. Box 1586
    Southwick, MA 01077.
  • Gail F. 1 year ago
    Thanks for the links for the carbon footprint and water usage calculators. I will definitely use those to help plan my goals. Gail F.
  • Linda W. 1 year ago
    Recently started a compost pile, and while it certainly isn't a work of art, it works, and I'm kind of happy about it! This will be the first full year it has been used, I'm impressed with how much material is NOT going into my trash can!
    • BenD@Recyclebank 1 year ago

      Congrats on your first compost pile, Linda! Thank you for doing your part to reduce landfill waste, and thus, greenhouse gases!

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