Gaining an understanding of the issues of resource depletion and sustainability is the crucial first step to seeing how issues we face in society affect us on an individual level. To make decisions and commit to change, it is essential to have an understanding of why this change is desired to inflict the necessary motivation.
While education is an important foundation, understanding a problem does not necessarily solve it. There are many barriers to adopting more sustainable lifestyles, and one of these is lack of clarity. Even those who are well educated and aware of the issues are often faced with 'decision paralysis' - an inability to act due to the inundation of information we are exposed to daily. However, as authors Chip and Dan Heath of 'Switch' describe, "Big problems are rarely solved with commensurately big solutions. Instead, they are most often solved by a sequence of small solutions, sometimes over weeks, sometimes over decades."
The threeACTIONS Project outlines many possible actions for change in our lifestyles, addressing issues of water, waste, energy, food, and transportation. Participants commit to changing three specific actions which they have a personal interest in. By choosing only a small number of actions to focus on over the course of a few months, these new habits have potential staying power that larger 'green lifestyle' efforts may not foster. While each individual is only focusing their energy on a few actions the threeACTIONS process connects participants to a large and diverse community of people who, together, pack a much bigger punch.
Although the baseline purpose of the project is to provide participants with a take-away experience that will help inform their individual lifestyle decisions, the potential to affect broader change exists. Each individual's experience will contribute to a body of knowledge, which has the opportunity to insightfully inform infrastructure issues, system deficiencies and policy opportunities targeting where individuals struggle. There is as much to be learned from the inability to maintain or change an action as there is from implementing it successfully. Changes such as this require actions by authorities beyond individual participants, such as city officials, policy makers, urban designers, and the like. Identifying these changes is a critically important step to creating more sustainable living options in our society.
To communicate these insights, participants are asked to convey their frustrations, successes and ideas in the form of personal testimonies throughout the project as well as a series of open forums at the conclusion of each project. These forums will host conversations between participants and individuals who stand in the position to authorize implementable change at a systems level. Individual experience is valuable information that professionals seek because when harvested properly, it can make systems easier, more cost effective and more sustainable.