Why you can't make progress in a sustainable lifestyle and how you manage it after all
Theory and practice have about as much in common with each other as tofu has with the Wiener Schnitzel. Many people are familiar with this from training or studies and it usually takes a while before the gap between them closes.
However, it becomes problematic if it takes longer than is good. This difference is very problematic for our environment.
Although almost everyone knows what the earth is like by now, far too many shoppers still pack their fruit and vegetables in small plastic bags. Everyone is talking about climate, environment and sustainability and some may already be over it, but many people still seem not to have been sensitized enough.
A representative survey on environmental awareness and behaviour in 2008 commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency clearly shows this:
"Two thirds of the population believe that climate change more or less threatens the existence of mankind. ... 80% are aware that human activity is essentially responsible for climate change. ... However, the personal impact of climate change is not considered to be so great. In each case less than 20 % of those questioned expect very large or large effects on their personal wealth or their own health or that of their family."
In other words, we are driving at full throttle towards an abyss, but we assume that something would happen only to the passengers, while we ourselves get away with a violet-framed eye.
This is a mistake that has comfortably settled in the gap between knowledge and practice. How does this discrepancy come about?
Ellen Matthies is an environmental psychologist at the University of Magdeburg; she explains: "Abstract attitudes and values are something quite different from everyday actions. Psychologically speaking, it is therefore quite normal to be convinced of something on the one hand, but to behave in the opposite way.
The so-called status quo error is the reason why many people find it difficult to live in a more environmentally friendly way: With many alternatives, people prefer to stay with the one they have chosen from the beginning. In other words, when the time comes to consider what should be done about a problem, people take action - nothing at all. The fear of contingencies and changes is too great after all.
And perhaps the mood between good intentions and the inner bastard also contributes to this. Because they don't get along so well either. It's a bit like with all good intentions (to do more sports, to eat healthier...) - they are postponed until they are completely repressed.
Good tips are provided by the book "Psychology in Environmental Protection: A Handbook to Promote Sustainable Action" (Karen Hamann, Anna Baumann, Daniel Löschinger). Environmental psychology investigates what leads us to our (missing) decisions and what motivates us. The handbook shows how we can better understand, implement and promote sustainable action and has practical tips, such as the following, ready to hand:
Vague ideas ("Actually I should do more sports") tend not to be implemented; clear goals, however, do ("Every Saturday I go jogging"). A self-imposed obligation we can better keep to. Set yourself such a concrete goal for environmental protection, for example: "This year I will reduce my energy consumption by 25%" or "I only eat meat once a week". Write down your goal and also possible milestones and above all - tell others about it. This will motivate you to actually implement the project. That's how it works with saving energy as well as with sport.
You have concrete goals? Very well. Now you have to pay attention to integrate them into your everyday life and instead of letting them get lost. To do this, we have to remind ourselves of them, for example with small pieces of paper or stickers. A "light off?" or "fabric bags with it?" on the front door work real wonders.
Make successes visible
What do housework and more sustainability in life have in common? They are only visible if they are not done. That's why it's important to make the positive effects of sustainable trade visible and to tell people about them.
Watch how you feel after cycling to work for a while; you're fitter, you save money and the stress of traffic jams and finding a parking space - and tell about it to make it visible to others.
Motivating, visible feedback is also provided by the green search engine Ecosia. It uses the revenue from wanted ads to plant trees. As you search, the number increases steadily. There's no better way to see it than that. Get active together, create opportunities for joint activities and exchange - organize a clothes-swapping party, a vegetarian cooking evening or try your hand at urban gardening with friends or neighbors. Or how about setting up a public bookshelf or saving food through foodsharing?
advice from environmental psychology: In such joint activities, one should allow mistakes to happen and at the same time create many feelings of success. That leaves a good feeling with everyone. And everyone would like to repeat positive experiences, or?
You can find additional inspiration from great, sustainable instagramer women. On the feed of "Naturlandkind" you can find simple instructions for natural cosmetics, simple recipes and tips for avoiding waste.
Also Franzi from "Oh wie cool" presents simple and ingenious tricks how to fight the plastic mania and avoid food waste, for example how to buy single bananas in the supermarket so that they are not thrown away. The beautiful flatlays of food, soaps, candles or natural cosmetics are the icing on the cake of i.
You can find great upcycling ideas at Marisa on "My Sustainable Me". A podcast about fair or waste-free products has recently been added to the site.
After so much environmental psychology and inspiration, only one thing remains: Roll up your sleeves and get ready for change!