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A few years ago when I first went to college, I had a cute little apartment in San Antonio, Texas. While I was there I ended up watching this documentary on Netflix called “Tapped.”

It talked about the bottled water industry and basically how conniving it was. From that point on I vowed to stop using disposable water bottles and start carrying a reusable one instead.

Have I slipped up? Absolutely. Nobody’s perfect, you live and you learn it.

I even went through a phase about six months ago where I became hooked on Propel water. It started out one day when I was incredibly thirsty and wouldn’t be home for a good minute. I stopped at a gas station, and I entered a Propel black hole. After that, everything became a reason for why I had to get a bottle of Propel.

It started to occur to me that I was creating a lot of waste, and I realized had I allowed myself to slip out of a really good habit.

And this brings me to the point of this blog post: habits.

They’re hard as hell to create.

For whatever reason though, when I was living in San Antonio, it was easy for me to form habits that were conducive to whatever new lifestyle I was taking on at the moment. 

I imagine that since we’re all on a zero waste journey here, most of us have adopted a lifestyle different to the one we grew up with. This means that we probably wanna form new habits that would allow us to create less waste. Am I right?

But we’re hUmAnS. And like I said, it’s hard as hell for us to form a new habit. Sometimes we forget things, or sometimes we just don’t want to put in the effort. I know for a fact that both of those have been applying to me a lot lately, and because of that, I’ve been creating more waste than I’m comfortable with. 

Now it’s time I put on my big girl panties and revert back to my San Antonio, habit-forming ways. I figured it would be a good idea to share my process with you juuuuust in case it helps you progress along your journey.

Throughout this post, I will refer to three of my real life habits that I either created or am working on, and this is what it will look like:

  • Step One
    • Step Two
      • Step three

The bolded text is new text, and it’s the only part relevant to that section. I wanted to do it this way so you can see how all the steps work together.

 

STEP ONE: DECIDE WHAT HABIT YOU WANT TO CREATE

This is a very important step. You can’t create new habits without first knowing which ones you want to create, right? That’s like getting in your car to go somewhere without knowing where you’re going. That wouldn’t make for a very productive trip. Well, it could be therapeutic, so maybe that’s not the best example, but you know what I mean.

When you’re thinking of what habits you want to create, look into your journey (or your trash can) to see what you’re struggling with. If it were me, I’d limit myself to working on no more than five habits at a time. I think that when you try to give yourself too many tasks at once, you can get overwhelmed, and we don’t want that.

 

The three habits I’m choosing are:

  • Carry a reusable water bottle
  • Bring reusable bags with me to the grocery store
  • Cook my own meals instead of grabbing fast food 
  • (This is my problem area. This also inspired me to write this post. Don’t judge me. I’m working on it 😫)

 

STEP TWO: MAKE THE HABIT EASIER TO REMEMBER

The easiest way to remember to do something is to constantly be reminded of it. From being in a few zero waste Facebook groups, I’ve noticed that most zero waste fails are due to being unprepared. My answer to this is plan ahead, and find a way to make this new habit memorable. Make sure that your new habit can’t go unnoticed and be forgotten.

 

How I made my habits easier to remember:

  • Carry a reusable water bottle

    • I bought a water bottle I’d be happy to use all the time. I went for an insulated one, and it’s now the only vessel I drink out of #bae. By me drinking out of it all day, it’s easier to remember to grab it and bring it with me.
  • Bring reusable bags with me to the grocery store
    • I keep my reusable bags in my car. As soon as I’m finished unloading my groceries, I take the bags right back out to my car. This way, I don’t have to think about it the next time I leave the house. It also saves me during those impromptu grocery trips.
  • Cook my own meals instead of grabbing fast food
    • I seek Pinterest and plan my meals well before I need them. I also schedule cooking. Yes, I put cooking…into my planner. If I don’t, there’s a chance I’ll forget to do it. At one point I didn’t have to do this anymore because it became a part of everyday life, but I’ve fallen off the wagon. So, into my planner it goes.

 

STEP THREE: GIVE YOURSELF A CONSEQUENCE

I know at first glance this may seem a little drastic, but it’s the only thing that works for me. Have you ever heard of that saying about how the negative outweighs the positive? Like how you could have a million people tell you you’re beautiful, but let one person call you ugly. It suddenly becomes all you think about.

It’s kind of like that. When I give myself a consequence, I usually feel some type of way when I have to do it. This is typically good enough to keep me in check. I think it’s the aftereffect and me remembering what it felt like that allows me to turn something into a habit.

 

My consequences for not sticking to my habit:

  • Carry a reusable water bottle
    • I bought a water bottle I’d be happy to use all the time. I went for an insulated one, and it’s now the only vessel I drink out of. By me drinking out of it all day, it’s easier to remember to grab it and bring it with me.
      • If I forget my reusable water bottle at home, and I stop to get something to drink, I have to get something that’s not water. I do this because I’m not too big of a sugary drinks person, and when I’m really thirsty I’m not exactly here for that. So I tell myself that if I really want something to drink I can get it, but if I want water, I have to wait ‘till I get home. So far it’s been working, and I’ve been waiting until I get home to quench my thirst.
  • Bring reusable bags with me to the grocery store
    • I keep my reusable bags in my car. As soon as I’m finished unloading my groceries, I take the bags right back out to my car. This way, I don’t have to think about it before I leave. It also saves me during those impromptu grocery trips.
      • This one I hate, because I feel like I look like a crazy person doing it. If I forget my reusable grocery bags, I have to leave the store without any bags at all. This works because I have to deal with the cashier giving me the side eye, and I have to load and unload each individual item from my car. This process. Is the absolute. WORST. The solution? Remember to bring those dang reusable bags.
  • Cook my own meals instead of grabbing fast food
    • I seek Pinterest and plan my meals well before I need them. I also schedule cooking. Yes, I put cooking…into my planner. If I don’t, there’s a chance I’ll forget to do it. At one point I didn’t have to do this anymore because it became a part of everyday life, but I’ve fallen off the wagon. So, into my planner it goes.
      • This is one that’s new to me so I haven’t really had a chance to do it yet. But the consequence of not packing my lunch (or packing but forgetting to bring it), is to get a salad or some other “healthy” item. I do this because I don’t like “healthy” fast food. I’m a degreed nutrition person, so I like healthy food, but fast food salads and “healthy” options? No thanks! The taste of these foods alone is enough to keep me on track. They’re wretched.

Going zero waste is a huge lifestyle change that basically requires you to rewire your brain. At some point, we all want this zero waste stuff to become second nature, and that’s why I shared my way of creating habits.

To recap, I first figure out what habit I want to create. Then I find a way to make it easier to remember. Lastly, if for whatever reason I don’t stick to my habit, I know I can look forward to there being a consequence.

Are there any zero waste habits you’re working on creating?

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It can be hard to remember to do things the right way when going zero waste. That's why I wanted to share with you how I turn these "hard to do" things into "easy to do" habits!
 
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