Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Carbon Clear Resolutions

The UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) reports that only 15% of Britons resolved to reduce their carbon footprint in 2008. That number seems surprisingly low; perhaps many people simply felt this resolution - like most - would be difficult to keep.

One reason that New Year's resolutions are hard to keep is that they are often phrased as overall goals instead of specific, easy to accomplish tasks. I recommend taking a relatively vague resolution like "reduce my carbon footprint", and breaking it up into easy-to-accomplish physical actions.

Defra provides a laundry list of typical lower-carbon measures that can reduce your carbon impact. These include riding your bike to work instead of driving, installing low-energy lightbulbs, and turning the thermostat down by one degree. This list is a good start, but may not be enough to help everyone keep those resolutions.

The problem is that we often face a series of barriers that must be overcome before we can do the thing we want. In other words, that action (ride bike to work), is actually an entire project. In order to ride my bike to work, I may need to:
  1. Take the bike to the local shop for a tune-up;
  2. Buy a rain jacket, waterproof gloves, and a bike light;
  3. Identify a safe cycling route between home and work; and
  4. Find a secure place to lock the bike during the day.
And "ride my bike to work" was not even the main New Year's resolution! No wonder these resolutions are so hard to keep.

In order to make progress on the transition to a low-carbon future, we have to set realistic and creative goals, and then lay out the specific steps to achieve that goal.

So here's a challenge: look at Defra's list of suggestions for a low-carbon New Year's Resolution and break it into manageable chunks. Sketch out the specific, tangible steps that you will need to take in order to make each one happen.

Next, take out a calendar and write each of those steps in for a specific date. Before you know it, you'll be ticking off those steps and making real progress towards keeping your New Year's Resolution.

At Carbon Clear, we're dedicated to helping you control your carbon impact, in 2008 and beyond. Visit our website to learn what else you can do at home and at work.