Why don’t we try harder to change our habits?

Fasten your seatbelt sign
Have you ever tried to break or change a habit? Whether it’s quitting smoking, doing more exercise, eating more healthily, writing every day, it’s hard, isn’t it?

I’ve been thinking a lot about behaviour change recently. That’s fundamentally what habits are – they’re ways we behave, and the best (or sometimes worst) habits are ingrained in our daily routines.

Take brushing your teeth. The vast majority of people automatically clean their teeth twice a day – once in the morning and once before they go to bed. OK, you might miss the odd one, but it’s simple to get back on track. Why is that? Well, it’s partly because we’ve grown up doing it – it’s a natural habit. And as we get older and learn a bit more about the world, we understand that cleaning our teeth is an important part of staying healthy (and hopefully avoiding enormous dentist bills!)

Charles Duhigg’s excellent The Power Of Habit is definitely worth a read

Changing your behaviour is slightly different, but not necessarily any easier or more difficult. With my work hat on, I think a lot about how to encourage people to adopt healthier habits that will reduce their risk of cancer. 2 in 5 cases are preventable through a combination of not smoking, eating healthily and not being overweight, moving more, cutting back on alcohol and avoiding the sun unprotected.

Few people would disagree with that sort of list, but those measures rely on you being disciplined and having willpower. Other external forces might be stronger and more prevalent, making your good intentions very hard to keep to. The ideal is that, even if you fall off the proverbial wagon, you can easily get back on (like the teeth brushing example above). Continue reading “Why don’t we try harder to change our habits?”

The carrier bag law: what happens next?

Plastic bagsIt won’t have escaped anyone’s attention that a levy on plastic carrier bags has finally been introduced in England (way behind Scotland and Wales), requiring customers to pay 5p if they don’t bring their own bag (except in mildly obscure circumstances – flowers or prescription medicines, anyone?).

As a sandal-wearing, Guardian-reading leftie I’m very pleased – long overdue and it won’t take long for it to totally change our daily mindset.

However, I’ve had a couple of additional thoughts about what happens next…

Will supermarkets replace plastic bags with anything?

Anyone who has watched US TV will know that across the Atlantic, paper grocery bags have long been used for shopping. Obviously, many Americans drive to out-of-town stores and dump their bags in the boot of the car, but I wonder if any British supermarkets might consider this.
Continue reading “The carrier bag law: what happens next?”

Bags? Great! Now for the free DVDs

Turtle and a plastic bagLast week the Daily Mail launched a large campaign to ban plastic bags in the UK.

Now it pains me to say this, but for once I’m in agreement with the Daily Mail. I usually read the paper just to discover what I shouldn’t be thinking, rather than what I should, but this is a campaign that, for once, is spot on.

But not wanting to let the Daily Mail off the hook, I had a little think about their contribution to the UK’s rubbish mountain and I thought about CDs & DVDs.

The Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday, you may have noticed, are quite keen on giving away CDs and DVDs to promote their newspapers.

Now, I know that many of the titles do this, but the Mail has the largest marketing budget of all the UK newspapers.

In fact, the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday have been recognised as the largest buyer and distributor of silver discs in the whole of Europe. Yup, more than the likes of HMV and Amazon.

And, pray tell, what do most people do with these free CDs or DVDs? Well, many probably go onto a shelf to gather dust, while many tens of thousands go straight into the bin – creating yet more landfill.

Anyone who heard the infamous Prince album giveaway last year would have probably decided that was the best thing for it, once they’d heard the whole thing through.

And this is where the Daily Mail’s ‘holier than thou’ attitude falls down, in my eyes. Just imagine the amount of rubbish they produce with all these bloody DVDs they give away.

I mean who seriously buys any paper simply for the freebie? With the odd exception of the Prince album, do they really have that much of an impact on sales?

Clearly they do, otherwise the papers wouldn’t keep ‘flogging’ them, but there must come a point where they’ll run out of appropriate films or TV shows to sell.

So this is a plea. Please stop giving away crap with your newspaper that most people simply chuck in the bin and think about the sort of freebies you accompany with your product.

It takes more than one crusading bandwagon-jumping campaign to become a ‘green’ newspaper.