It’s the start of the new year, and unsurprisingly it’s often associated with a time for new beginnings and fresh starts. But sometimes when you want to move forward and make positive changes, looking backwards can actually be really helpful.
And this is as true for helping people, animals and the planet as it is for other aspects of life.
Recognise, review and reflect
So what are the benefits of looking back, specifically when it comes to making positive changes for the planet?
Firstly, it’s always good to recognise the positive steps and achievements that have been made. Did you reduce your energy consumption at home? Perhaps you and your friends did a litter pick? Maybe your group encouraged your school to embrace meat free Mondays? Give yourself a pat on the back and feel good about the fact that you have already done things that help make the world a better place.
Next, review some of the things that did – and didn’t – work. You might like to write down a list, or just spend some time thinking about them.
And finally, take a little time to reflect on them. For the things that worked, can you identify the factors that led to success? Perhaps it was a small, achievable goal that you were able to fit in around doing other things like school and activities? Perhaps it was that you found a group of people to work together and share the load? These factors might be useful if you’re planning on making more positive change this year.
It can also be just as useful to look at things that didn’t work, because if you can work out why they didn’t succeed as you’d hoped, you’ll have a better idea of what might work next time. Maybe it was that you needed more help, time or resources to make it happen, or perhaps it just wasn’t the right time, and if you try again this year it’ll be more successful.
Look forward and plan
The next step is to have a think about what kind of action you want to take in the year ahead. This doesn’t have to be something new: if you’ve successfully developed something – like a habit for recycling or turning off unnessary electrical items, or a great event that engages lots of people – then keeping it going as it is is still incredibly positive.
If you do want to try something new, or do something more, then have a think about what inspires you, what resources you’ll need, and any constraints you might have.
Feeling inspired and motivated is really important. It’s easier to keep going and have an impact if you’re working on something that you’re passionate about.
For the resources, this means things like how much time you might need, whether you need any equipment (such as litter picking tongs) and where you might be able to get it from, and whether you need a few people to be involved or whether it’s something you can do on your own.
Constraints might be things like the weather if your action is planned for the outdoors, or needing permission if it’s something that takes place in school or work.
Once you’ve got all of these thoughts together, you can plan what you’d like to do, when, and what you need to do to make it happen!
Ideas and inspiration
Not sure what action to take? There are so many things you could do, large and small, that it can be hard to know where to start.
The good news is that any action, no matter how seemingly small, can make a big difference. And more good news is that the positive interactions you have with others can inspire them to make changes too, who in turn inspire others, so you can have an impact beyond yourself and your immediate friends and family.
If you have access to resources, whether that’s a class full of people who are inspired to act together, or time you can spend taking action, then you might want to plan something big. Here are a few ideas of bigger projects you could take on:
- Campaign for your school to make some positive environmental changes, like more recycling, creating space for wildlife outside, or introducing meat-free Mondays.
- Organise a big litter pick, or a series of litter picks, in your local area such as park, beach or woodlands.
- Arrange for some talks by local environmental champions or conservationists, to help inspire people.
- Organise an event to raise money for a good cause, such as a trashion show, school concert, or sporting event like a swim, walk or run.
- Get a group, like your class, friends or colleagues, together to write letters to a business or politician, lending your voice to campaigns or calls for positive change for the environment.
Actions you can take on your own, or with a smaller group of people, are equally valuable. You could do one of these regularly, a few of these, or do some as well as a larger project
- Switch to fresh food and vegetables grown as locally as possible, without packaging and wrapping.
- Go vegan, or reduce your intake of animal-based foods like meat, eggs and dairy.
- Try to recycle as much as possible, separating out your waste.
- Aim to buy second-hand and vintage clothing, and avoid fast fashion choices.
Remember: every positive action makes a difference, and lots of people taking action adds up. Always have hope, because we CAN make this world a better place for people, animals and the environment, all thriving and living together.
Don’t forget to celebrate and inspire!
It’s really important to celebrate and be happy about the action you’ve taken. Positive, happy feelings have the power to inspire others, and of course make you feel good about what you’ve done.
Also share what you’ve done and how, as you might give other people ideas on things they can do themselves, and also how you’ve done it, which will make it easier for other people to follow in your footsteps. You might do this through speaking at school, college or work, sharing it through social media, or by posting an update right here on the Roots & Shoots website!
Don’t forget to tag Roots & Shoots UK and Jane Goodall UK so we can celebrate your achievement with you!