For me, a lot of what I do comes down to systems and habits. That is, putting in place what I need to be able to do something and/or making a concerted effort to do it for long enough that it becomes part of my routine.
A simple example would be our bin set up in the kitchen which is the 'system' to ensure our waste gets disposed of in our preferred ways - compost/chooks/worms; recyclables; general rubbish. There are any number of ways this system could be configured - what's important is that it works for us. So, it needs to be unobtrusive, hold organic waste without odour between empties, fit in our small kitchen and so on. It overcomes the barrier that the alternative - taking individual items to the desired outside location every time – is too much hassle so you don’t do it, or throw everything in the rubbish instead.
Of course I also tweak the systems to keep improving them. And, at a rather magic point (the research says it's after doing something around 21 times) it becomes a habit and incorporated into 'what you do' rather than being something you have to work at. I'm sure you can think of plenty examples - an amazing amount of the things we do are habit-based. We do them virtually on auto-pilot. The trick is to keep updating the software for the auto-pilot (sorry, poor analogy). I have lots of good habits, I'm sure you do too. In fact, it can be interesting when you come across someone who doesn't have a system or habit that you do and you wonder why! But there's also always room to improve or to add more good habits.
So I'm trying to schedule time and energy to regularly review and improve my systems and habits. I am often tempted to think I'll get to it some other time, when I'm less busy, but the reality is that left until 'later', it just won't happen. I'm also inspired by the many people, blogs and websites out there with ideas, tools and stories of others' efforts. It's not necessarily about inventing the wheel, it's choosing the right wheel for you!
Indeed, there are whole campaigns that encourage people to try some of these things. A favorite at the moment is 'Slow Sunday'. It encourages families to do things that are less fossil fuel-reliant, together, one day of the week. Picnics, cycling, and board games are all in. Madly dashing from sports events to play dates and the shopping centre, all by car, and turning to junk food for sustenance is out. Read more about it here (Australian Conservation Foundation) or here (Resurgence in the UK, who have had different themes for their Slow Sundays).
If scheduling a slow down once a week (or having a vegetarian day once a week for carnivores - see Meatless Monday; or taking part in St Vinnie's 'Buy Nothing New' month in October) doesn't sound serious enough for you, you probably aren't someone these ideas are aimed at. Indeed, perhaps you already do all these things, and more, almost always!?. But for many of us, there seems to be just so much going on it's hard to find the time to understand the issues let alone incorporate change into our ways. These types of 'challenges' if you will, are a way to introduce yourself to the issues, pick some areas to change, and incorporate them into your life, rather than give up before you even start because it's all too hard. As ever, sustainability is an ongoing journey. There are plenty of good habits we each already have, there are more we can try, and when they become the norm, we'll move on the next ones.
So, step one at the Little House on the Hill, is reintroducing some of those would-be habits that have fallen by the wayside with recent busy-ness. Hmm, which systems and habits can help me spend more time in the veg patch and on the bike in spring? Gee those will be tough – I reckon I'm up for those 'challenges'!