Tuesday, 22 October 2013

21 Days to Break a Habit with One Simple Act

One Simple Act on Campus
Photo courtesy of the Office of Sustainability

It takes about 21 days to make or break a habit. Last September I decided to see if this was true. I decided to break my reliance on mac & cheese. Or looking at things from a slightly different perspective, I made my first commitment last September to buy more seasonal, local, organic and fair trade food. Although I made this commitment to break my KD habit, my greater motivator was to learn more about where my food came.

I had made my one simple act commitment for an entire academic year (two semesters), and not only did I end up keeping the commitment for that time frame, I still find myself going to the Strathcona Farmer Market every Saturday. By challenging myself to stay committed to my act, I have now become more conscious in terms of what I eat and where my food comes from.

And I’m not alone! I made this commitment as a part of the Office of Sustainability’s One Simple Act on Campus (OSAoC) program. The program is intended to encourage students, staff and faculty to take action and contribute to a more sustainable world by committing in making small changes in their daily lifestyle. 

Sustainable Transportation Committments
Photo courtesy of the Office of Sustainability

737 commitments have been made within the last year, including mine, and Program Lead, Outreach and Engagement - Emily Dietrich says that the office hopes to see another 1500 commitments made this year. Dietrich notes that they are well on their way to making this goal, as 276 commitments were made during just one day of Lister’s BaseCamp alone.  
So aside from changing where and what you buy, what else can you do?

Dean of Students Sustainable Committment
Photo courtesy of the Office of Sustainability

Vice Provost and Dean of Students, Frank Robinson, like many others, has chosen to break his bad transportation habits. “Personally, I used to drive to work every day. When the LRT opened at South Campus, I only drove about 50% of the time. After Trina Innes (Director of the Office of Sustainability) photographed me holding a sign saying that I would only drive to work 1 day per week, I can say that I have not driven to work since September 1, 2011. While this may not seem like much, it speaks to the quiet persuasive manner in which people are encouraged to embrace change. I would not likely have reacted as productively to pickets of people leaving parked cars, which has been the stance of some other sustainability groups.”

One Simple Act on Campus Commitment Card
Photo provided by the Office of Sustainability

Others have chosen to make changes to their water usage, their electricity usage, and even their reusable cutlery usage. To help make the pledge a little easier to make, the Office of Sustainability has created commitment cards that allow participants to select any one act that they would like to incorporate in their lifestyle, and also note down the time period for which they would like to make the commitment for. Students usually like making commitments for a semester or two, and also get to keep the card with them. The participant can then display their card high and proud and help inspire others in making a similar commitment.

BaseCamp Commitment
Photo courtesy of the Office of Sustainability

Apart from the personal commitment card, participants can also make a group commitment with their friends. A number of student groups across campus like Engineers without Borders (EWB) and Nutrition and Food Science Student’s Association (NuFSSA) have also made these commitments for their group/chapter in the past.

So, will you commit? Do you have an unsustainable habit that you’d like to break? It only takes 21 days to turn your pledge into a long term commitment.

To learn more about being sustainable, check out the great events taking place during Sustainability Awareness Week


About the Author

When I am not busy with engineering school, I love painting in abstracts. I am also a huge movie buff and will watch anything with zombies in it.

I would like to share stories that are personal and reflective of the great community we have built here at the U of A. My experience at the university so far has brought forward a tremendous amount of personal growth, and I can’t wait to help share the wonderful stories and student experiences of this amazing university.


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