ABA + Sustainability

Reducing waste is a personal goal. I’m very conscious of how much I actually waste, and though I have a long way to go, I know I also have come a long way.

This year, I have very slowly been becoming more aware of the amount of waste I produce. Rubbish, recycling, food scraps – they all add up. Take-away coffees, plastic water bottles, even brushing my teeth – the packaging the toothbrush and toothpaste come in, and then the containers themselves.

So much waste!

So, as any good behaviour analyst would, I thought about how I could change my behaviour.

Recently I read a post about behaviour analysis in environmental sustainability, and the ever-present issue of climate change, and specifically, how ABA can help. It was a fascinating read, and yet another example, on a wider-level, of how ABA can help “save the world!”

In the meantime, I was thinking about how I could make small changes, that may have longer lasting impacts. Turning off lights and power points when I’m not using them. Using travel coffee mugs and reusable drink bottles. Separating all my recycling.

In regards to not using my car, that would be very difficult. My clients are all over Sydney, and, apart from our public transportation system being completely unreliable, Sydney is so vast, it would not be feasible. However I also recently found some websites that allow you to purchase carbon emissions offsets, and even plant some trees, to somewhat make up for that!

In order to make these changes, I had to take small steps. Nothing too drastic, otherwise, I probably wouldn’t stick with. Staring small, and reminding myself every time I leave a room, or take some rubbish downstairs to the bins. I have about 15 “green” bags in my car that I use when I go to the supermarket! I carry reusable straws in my handbag, so when I’m out and about, I can say “no thanks” to a straw in my drink.

I also had to think of reinforcers. Fortunately, my bright pink kate spade glass water bottle, has been highly reinforcing (and encouraging me to drink more water, which is another benefit).

Drink Pink!

The next step is food scraps. Up to 40% of our food is wasted before it even gets to us! And up to 20% of our food is thrown out from our fridges and cupboards! Although I live in an apartment, with no composting facilities within walking distance (I really don’t want to put compost in my car!), I’m sure there is an apartment solution I just haven’t found yet.

Penrith City Council, in Sydney’s West, provides each home with a small compost bin. Since 2009, they have managed to increase their landfill diversion rate from 21% to 65%, due to their composting and recycling strategies. This is a great example of #EverydayABA and encouraging small behaviour change strategies.

A lot of other Sydney councils follow similar systems, including having a smaller “waste” bin, and bigger “recycling” bins. While it is difficult at first to maintain (any change is scary and different!), over time, it becomes easier. In order to ensure your “waste” bin doesn’t overflow and smell, you figure out what percentage of your waste could actually become recycling material!

Three different bins – different sizes, for different waste products.

More recently, a new TV show on the ABC, called “War on Waste“, has a lot of people talking, and actively thinking about just how much we waste each day. Hopefully it is ‘planting the seed’, to make people more aware and try to reduce their waste.

We are very lucky to have such beautiful country in Australia. We want to ensure it remains as beautiful, for centuries to come. Sustainability is possible, and it starts with small steps from each of us.

And if you want to start somewhere, “Plastic Free July” may be the way to go! Check out the website for ideas, and sign up to use less plastic, this July.

PS – Remember to ‘set yourself up for success’ – start small, don’t go too big, too soon!

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