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Change is Gradual: The Lifestyle Project – Introduction
By Kathryn Stofer   View more articles by this author
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May 05

Change for the better might often sound simple, but it isn't always easy. Habitual change can take a lot longer than the simplicity of the necessary actions might imply. You know you can save money and have a smaller environmental footprint by turning the thermostat down five or even ten degrees, but an abrupt change might be too painful to maintain. People grow frustrated and give up if the “simple” change doesn't work immediately.


The Lifestyle Project, developed as part of an undergraduate class at Montana State University and Skidmore College, takes these “simple” changes and helps people implement them step-by-step, gradually easing into bigger changes by taking it a little at a time. When training a new puppy, you can't immediately go to “roll over” - you have to teach it to “stay,” “sit,” and “lie down” first. Even just “stay” can take longer than expected, with several small steps and reinforcement. Sometimes it takes experimentation to find the right incentive, too. There can be setbacks along the way, of course, but a step-wise approach means you just go back a step or two and start again from there, rather than all the way back to the beginning.


It's the same with reducing your environmental impact. It doesn't happen all at once, and if you try it that way, you'll likely feel overwhelmed and as if you're “failing.” Buying a reusable bag doesn't mean you immediately remember it each trip, but if you keep trying different strategies to remember it, eventually, gradually, you'll hit on one that works. Gradual changes also help the whole household adjust. 

This series of articles will guide you through the process of gradually shifting some habits that eventually will have a big savings on the environment and often, your wallet. Each step will take several weeks or months to fully incorporate into your routine, and the process won't be smooth (you'll leave your shopping bags in the car more than once). Don't beat yourself up – just see if you can make it easier and work better the next time by storing those bags in the car once you've put the groceries away, or by putting the shopping list in one of the bags.

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