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Creatures of habit - remembering our reusables

Are you a creature of habit?

Perhaps you commute to work on your bike, keep your shopping bags in your car or have a water bottle in your bag at all times.

Habits are things we do automatically, without too much thinking. They help us save cognitive energy (which we have a very limited amount of) so we can focus on more complex things like performing our work duties or cooking a meal following a recipe.

Whether you consider yourself a creature of habit or a ‘go with the flow’ type of person, we can all benefit from forming good habits.

Let’s say that you want to ensure you bring your reusable cup with you every time you leave the house. Here's how best to form this new habit:

1. Every habit starts with a cue, something that reminds you to do what you want to do. With the case of a reusable cup, it’s a good idea to put it somewhere where you can see it. Maybe it’s on the kitchen bench, next to your keys, backpack or front door, or a post-it note on your fridge. It’s important to find what works for you. Keeping it in the back of the cupboard, unfortunately, will not do the trick.

2. The next step (or more precisely steps) is repetition. Keep at it! They say that habit forms in 21 days – that's not entirely true, but the principle is right. The more you do it, the more habitual it becomes.

3. The third step is reward. It can be anything that feels rewarding to you - getting a thank you from your barista, a warm feeling of saving that single-use cup from landfill or even getting yourself a cookie to go with that cup of coffee. If it makes you feel good after bringing your reusable cup, it works. The more you do the habit, the less reward is going to be needed – so don’t worry about spending a fortune on cookies.

4. The environment around us also plays a big role. If the cafés you're frequenting do not accept reusables, you're unlikely to keep using your cup. If you support businesses that encourage your BYO cup, have reusable systems and mug libraries, it will definitely help you on your journey to habit land.

If you are a business that wants to encourage your community to build more eco-friendly habits, we also have tips for you:

  • Put some signs up that encourage reusable cups. The more often customers see them – the more likely the message is to stick.

  • Offer rewards. How about a loyalty card, where if a customer brings their reusable cup 10 times, they get a free coffee? Or charge extra for single-use, as opposed to providing a discount on reusable cups (but discounts are also great!).

  • Sell reusable cups. If there is a variety, they are attractive and branded, the customer who forgot their cup is more likely to buy one. Throw in a free coffee!

  • Remind the customer to bring their reusable cup next time – maybe that’s just the cue they needed.

  • Set up a mug library or implement a reusable cup network, so that if they forgot their own reusable cup, they can still access one.

  • If you are ready, ditch single-use altogether! Nothing breaks a bad habit better than just not to have the option – remember what happened to free plastic shopping bags?

These simple principles can help you introduce more good, healthy and eco-friendly habits into your life. Remember, you're not aiming to be 100% perfect, so if you forget one day, keep going, you are doing the best you can!

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