Hey Parents! 3 ways to make sustainable habits part of back-to-school

September 4, 2014
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With school back in session, this is a great time to incorporate new sustainable habits into your family’s schedule and routine. Research shows that upwards of 36% of successful habit changes are associated with a major change, like moving to a new home, or perhaps starting school.


My Green Montgomery challenges you to add one of these new sustainability actions into your family’s regular routine this fall. Let us know which of these you’re going to do!

  • Turning the heating or cooling down when you leave the house. Tip: Put a sticky note at eye level on the door to remind you!
  • Turning off your home computer at night (not just letting it sleep). Tip: Make it part of your bedtime routine and place the power strip in a place that’s easy to reach (bonus if it’s on your desk!)
Image of power strip with switch

Start with achievable goals (like using power strips) and then move to more intensive goals.

  • Bringing a bottle of fresh tap water to work or school every day to resist the need for bottled water. Tip: Fill your bottles and put it in your bags after dinnertime.
  • Come up with your own! Maybe it’s an environmental action, or maybe your action is for a more organized or healthy self.


Image of a baby's feet

Success happens by taking baby steps towards your goals!                   Copyright soaress, Flickr

How to Make these Back-to-School Habits Stick

Habits are hard to break and routines are “routine” because it helps us go through our day without having to think about every little decision. By incorporating some new sustainable habits into your routine now, you can reap the benefits every day.

Here are some strategies to help make new habits stick:

  1. Breakdown your goals into small steps. One program to encourage physical activity shows that focusing on small and easy steps (for example, a 5-minute walk around the block once a day), helps build a record of success versus taking on a significant new habit (like running a mile every day). Trying picking one goal and break it down into a few achievable steps.
  2. Anchor it in your routine. You already have habits and routines that you rely on to get through your day. B.J. Fogg’s lab suggests that we tie new habits to something we already do. If you want to do something at the end of the day, like turn off a powerstrip in your home office, maybe it’s something you do while you brush your teeth or right after. If you want to add something to the morning, maybe it’s tied to that first cup of coffee or tea.
  3. Give yourself a break. Allow yourself some “free passes” so that a single lapse doesn’t derail your longer-term efforts. Research shows that successful resolutions do lapse, upwards of 71% of them. The key is to recognize, “I shouldn’t have this ice cream today, so I’ll stop after one more spoonful,” rather than giving up and eating the whole carton. Recognize that change is a process and keep your eye on the prize!

Let us know what your new habit goal is and how you’re making it part of your family’s new back-to-school routine!


By Michelle Vigen, Senior Energy Planner, Department of Environmental Protection

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