Everything you do has an impact! Even breathing. The challenge for setting environmental goals is to be sustainable and aim for a net neutral impact on the environment - or at least reducing the impact as much as possible.
It doesn’t mean you can’t do the things you enjoy, but it’s about recognising that what we do has an environmental impact. And the biggest impact if from the consumption of resources.
There is a ‘warning on consumerism’ under the ‘Success Secrets’ tab on the NavBar. As well as the societal impacts of consumerism that are discussed in this ‘warning’, consumerism has a massive impact on the environment.
We consume water, power [mostly through fossil fuels] and forests. As a product of this consumption, we create millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases and waste to landfill every year. And not only are we doing very little to mitigate the effects of this, the poor old planet is losing its ability to soak up the mess as we continue to pollute waterways and destroy forests – the natural environmental filters that have kept mankind alive so far.
Some simple facts if I haven’t depressed you already:
- For every kWh of energy you use (you can find this on your electricity bill), you produce 1.5 kg of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
- If you use natural or bottled gas, you will produce 1.6 kg of carbon dioxide for every litre of gas you burn.
- For every litre of petrol you use in your car, you produce 2.4 kg of carbon dioxide – or 2.7 kg/L for diesel and 1.6 kg/L for LPG.
- Every kg of rubbish you send to landfill will produce 2 kg of methane, another greenhouse gas.
- A single tree will only mop up about 1 tonne of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.
There are some surprising ones too: Did you know that every meal of beef you eat has resulted in 6 kg of carbon dioxide being emitted and consumed 200 L of water? Meat and processed products in general have a large environmental footprint.
And did you know that most household cleaning products are based on petroleum and other harsh and toxic chemicals? Using traditional cleaning methods for general household cleaning can therefore be a lot letter for the environment – not to mention your own health!
So it’s not just what YOU do, but what has happened to a product before it even gets to you – the whole product lifecycle from cradle to grave has the potential to cause environmental harm, and some products are worse than others. As a general rule, the more ‘processed’ a product, the mode environmental harm it’s done along the way.
Mankind has immense power to destroy the environment [which we are doing very well at the moment], and we have the power to save it - if we chose to. I challenge you to chose to save the environment by setting your own personal environmental goals.
How? Many people around the world are making small lifestyle changes to save the environment – while these changes are small, when everyone does it – the impact is BIG.
You can do your part too:
- Get your head out of the sand and discover what impact you’re having on the environment. A huge part of environmental goal setting is making informed choices on how you live your life.
- Reduce your consumption of resources – the big ones are car fuel, electricity, water and materials. Not only will you help save the planet, you’ll save money too!
- Chose resources with the least environmental footprint – chose clean energy, local water harvesting (rain water tanks and greywater reuse), products with no un-necessary packaging, food with minimal processing, natural products (wool, linen, cotton, hemp), low phosphorus and low salt detergents, locally grown and manufactured products, etc.
- Don’t be tempted by over-packaged products that offer ‘miracle’ results when the good-old remedies will do the job! Cleaning and beauty products are one of the biggest culprits here – they are mostly ‘water’ and often do no better than the old fashioned remedies!
- Reuse products were possible – eg plastic shopping bags becomes bin liners, reuse boxes and packaging, etc. Avoid disposable items.
- Recycle – compost, make your own paper, use soap savers, recycle cans and bottles, etc – and chose products that are recycled or recyclable
- Compensate for the things you can’t change, or don’t want to sacrifice – plant a tree, join a conservation group, donate to a conservation fund.
- Look after the environment – pick up litter, adopt a spot to look after, report environmental damage so it can be repaired.
- Spread the word – encourage as many other people as possible to do the right thing by the environment.
- Get out and enjoy nature! Appreciate what you’re trying to save.
Helping to save the planet has synergies with other goals you may have for other life aspects, as environmental goals may also enhance:
- Your ‘Finance’ life aspect, by saving resources such as power and water, walking to work, selective purchasing, etc you will also save money.
- Your ‘Health and Well-being’ life aspect, by walking or cycling instead of driving.
- Your ‘Recreation’ life aspect, if your environmental activities become like a ‘hobby’ to you.
- Your ‘Spiritual’ life aspect, by appreciating that there is something bigger than all of us.
If you join a conservation group, you may even meet some new friends or a partner!
Take these synergies into account during your goal-setting journey to kill 2 birds (or 2 goals) with the same stone! In other words, get the most out of your experience.
How to set environmental goals?
The ‘How to Set Goals’ tab on the NavBar goes through the goal setting process in detail – and that process applies to environmental goals too. Here are some more pointers specific to environmental goals.
Know your starting point: As with all goal-setting, to set environmental goals you need to know your starting point. You can define your starting point by asking:
- What do you currently do for the environment – recycle? Walk rather than drive? Buy environmentally responsible products? Conserve power and water? Plant trees?
- Are you part of a conservation group or do you give your time to help with environmental activities such as picking up litter? How much time and how often?
- Do you donate money to an environmental fund or alternative energy source? How much and how often?
- Do you feel that you are have a positive or negative impact on the environment? Don’t know?
There is an environmental audit checklist in the ToolBOX [under ‘Environmental Tools’] to help you with this part of the process.
Research sustainable living: Like all good goals, you need to ‘research’ the goal before you commit to it and to enable you to prepare suitable Action Plans for achieving it.
So what do you need to know about ‘environmental’ goals?
Well the important thing to find out is how YOU can make a difference with how you live your life – at home, at work and at play.
Use the environmental audit checklist in the ToolBOX [under ‘Environmental Goals’] as a guide to see where you can make improvements and check out other websites on environmentally smart living.
Most of these environmental improvements simply involve a small change in the way we do things and, while they may only have a small impact on their own, in combination with many other small changes in the way we do things, can have a large total impact on the environment.
Of course, making all these changes at the one time can be difficult, so set your environmental goals as a series of mini goals, tackling one environmental aspect at a time – you may start with one room of your house and get on top of that one before progressing to the next – or perhaps you may start by focusing on reducing energy use before looking at water and car fuel.
Anything you do to save resources will make a difference – and will make a difference straight away.
Monitoring Environmental Goals
Being able to measure progress towards a goal is critical for achieving goal setting success. To do this you need to know ‘how’ to measure goal progress and how to set realistic timeframes for your goal.
Because environmental goals focus on reducing consumption, measuring environmental goals can be done by measuring consumption [or rather, the reduction in consumption] such as:
- Energy use – from your power bill, how many kWh do you use? How much has this reduced?
- Fuel use – tally your fuel receipts. How much fuel do you use? How much has this reduced?
- Keep track of how many bags of garbage you put out each day - How much has this reduced?
- Water use – from your water bill, how many kL of water do you use? How much has this reduced?
- General consumption – tally your receipts for ‘goods purchase’. How much has this reduced?
- How much money or time have you donated to an environmental or conservation fund?
There are also some more subjective measurements for environmental goals. Perhaps you still feel ‘empty’ after volunteering your time or making donations to worthwhile conservation funds or environmental organisations. A better measure for you may be a ranking type system based on a feeling of environmental contribution.
A template for monitoring environmental ‘consumption’ is available in the ToolBOX [under ‘Environmental Tools'].
Do YOU contribute to the environment? Tell YOUR story and inspire others to contribute to the environment…