Last Updated: 27 September, 2020
Through my job I have learnt how to help businesses reduce their negative environmental impact by minimising their resource use, and through my implementation of concepts from Getting Things Done I have learnt how to do things! By combining this knowledge I have developed a method of using GTD to help reduce personal negative environmental impact (or increase positive impacts).
For a business to improve its environmental performance, it is beneficial for it to develop an Environmental Management System (EMS) as this provides a structured approach to taking action. The key stages of an EMS are shown below and enable the business to understand its impacts on the environment and then easily identify how to improve efficiency. In case you don’t know the Getting Things Done workflow I have also included that. I’m not going to explain each stage of either diagram so if you want to read up about the topics I would recommend Envirowise for EMS and Get Rich Slowly for GTD.
So how would it work combining these two systems for the benefit of personal environmental improvement
Commitment – It is important that everyone who will be impacted by any actions is committed to the changes (the group), this maybe just you or it could be your whole family. Each person needs to understand why changes are going to be made, the benefits to them and why they should be involved.
Initial Review / Stuff In – This is the stage to write down a list of all the environmental issues the group are concerned about and feel they should take action on e.g. carbon, water, plastic usage, waste produced. Each topic should be researched to learn more about it and to decide if there are actions you can undertake. If there are no actions the topic should be rejected or added to a list to reconsider in the future if the situation changes e.g. installing rainwater harvesting on an existing house maybe too difficult, but it could be reconsidered as part of a house extension. All actionable items are likely to involve more than one action so they will become projects under GTD.
Policy – For the topic or topics you decide to progress, the group should develop goals for each one, providing something to work towards. It is likely to be easier to use a percentage reduction goal e.g. reduce water use by 5%. The goals need to be agreed by the whole group and should be on display where they can be seen as an ongoing reminder.
Planning / Project Plans – It is important to take an initial measurement of current performance before you take action e.g. taking meter readings to calculate the water usage in a week, as this will provide the level to compare future performance. Plus the group needs to generate ideas on how they can meet the goal. For instance, if the goal was to reduce water use you could start with listing all the places in the house that use water e.g. bathroom, kitchen, laundry, garden and then list possible projects for each area e.g. use less bath water, use less water in the garden.
Implement and Operate / What’s the next action? – By the reviewing the projects, the next actions for each one, for example
- use less water could be take showers instead of baths, fill the bath to a lower height, buy a smaller volume bath
- use less water in the garden could be water in the evenings, apply mulch, plant drought resistant flowers
For each action you may need to delegate it to someone else e.g. gardener or defer to a particular date e.g. when you go shopping or to the ASAP list. As many of the actions are repeating tasks and depend on individual behaviours it may be beneficial to develop checklists or reminders for each task, e.g. a sign by the bath saying only fill me half full. It may also be helpful to the group to introduce only one action at a time and therefore enabling it to become a habit.
Checking and Corrective Action / Weekly Review – By monitoring progress weekly it will be clear whether you are reducing your impact e.g. volume of water used, number of plastic bags used. If usage has increased then the group needs to consider what happened to increase the usage and suggest corrective action for the following week. If the usage has stayed the same then the actions taken are probably having a small impact and some additional actions need to be implemented. The project plans should be reviewed to ensure the next actions for the following week are identified.
Management review / High Altitude– The group should sit down and review progress together; have they each undertaken the agreed actions, has it impacted their lives in a negative way and if so is there an alternative method which will still reduce impact, but have less effect on their lifestyle, have they achieved the goal? If so should the goal be made tougher or should a goal for a new topic be implemented? Are there any items on the someday list that are now relevant? Are there any additional projects that could fit in to the implementation?
So combining the two you get (GTD stages in red):
By combining environmental actions in a systematic approach like EMS or GTD the actions taken are more likely to have an impact as they are being implemented within a framework that incorporates commitment as well as regular reviews that will highlight the progress being made, which will lead to greater behavioural change.
This post has been written as part of Blog Action Day