How long do UK adults keep up sustainable habits?

So-called ‘meat-free days’ are apparently the first thing to go

Richard Jenkins
Wednesday 12 January 2022 16:52
<p>Many said they feel disheartened because the climate emergency isn’t improving no matter what they do </p>

Many said they feel disheartened because the climate emergency isn’t improving no matter what they do

It takes adults an average of 13 days to give up sustainable habits - with ‘meat-free days’ being the first to go, research has discovered.

A poll of 2,000 adults found carnivorous Britons usually only manage to ditch their favourite foods for a plant-based diet for 12 days in total.

Using eco-friendly products is a behaviour people can keep longest, but even that starts to wane after 15 days.

While measures such as using the food waste bin, using eco settings in the home, and only boiling the water required, last for just two weeks.

It emerged 55 per cent of people have not seen positive changes following their actions, while more than half feel disheartened because it seems no matter what they do, the climate emergency isn’t improving.

The survey was commissioned by Utilita, as part of its Planet Pledge campaign which invites people to take part in a 66 day pledge to do something good for the environment - the time it takes to form a new habit effectively.

Sustainability Lead, Archie Lasseter, said: “While it can feel like we’re fighting a losing battle, it’s so important to remember that even the smallest changes can have a massive impact, and will.

“There are 67 million people living in the UK, and if each person made a small change, the impact would be huge.

“It is sad to see how quickly us Brits give up on our attempts at being green, lasting a little under two weeks for most of us – but it’s reassuring to see that some people are winning, and are able to carry them on indefinitely.”

The study found 24 per cent of adults have been inspired to live a greener lifestyle and take on new habits because someone they knew was doing so.

However, those who decide to get into composting will pack in the new habit after just 14-and-a-half days on average, but will last a little longer before going back to buying non-sustainable fashion.

Other green goals that fall by the wayside early include walking short distances rather than driving and cutting down on using the tumble dryer.

While 22 per cent of adults don’t believe they will reduce the amount they fly despite the climate crisis.

More than one fifth of respondents have been told a green habit they were trying to maintain was ‘pointless’.

And another 21 per cent confess they don’t really live a sustainable lifestyle at all, according to the OnePoll figures.

Three in 10 say it’s simply too expensive to live as sustainably as they would like, and when it comes to winter, 27 per cent can’t resist taking the car instead of walking.

Another quarter found that ‘green alternatives’ to things they were used to were simply not good enough to switch to full-time.

And of the 24 per cent who do believe they’ve seen a tangible benefit to their new green lifestyle, some of the top changes have been noticeably putting less into landfill and an improvement in health.

Four in 10 have seen their energy bills go down, and 31 per cent feel their personal energy levels have gone up since their reliance on unsustainable food decreased.

Just under half believe they need ‘help’ when it comes to being motivated to live more sustainably.

In fact, on a scale of one to five, the average adult only rates their motivation for green-ness at a fairly low 3.2.

But 47 per cent feel they don’t live as green as they could because they’re just not sure how to turn their passion for sustainability into tangible changes.

Dr Pippa Lally, a behaviour scientist from University College London, said: “Utilita’s study confirms that some people are giving up on their new behaviours before they have had a chance to form into strong habits.

“The time it takes to form a habit varies for different people and different behaviours but in our research the average time it took to form a habit was 66 days, and this can be a useful target for people to aim for.”

The Planet Pledge campaign is designed to help people in every household in the UK to form as many as nine new eco-friendly behaviours.

Each new behaviour comes with an annual carbon saving and cost saving, as well as prizes, which, together, should incentivise people to make some pro-planet habits.


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