Atomic Baby Steps

In 2018, James Clear changed the world with his bestselling book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. Or at least he changed mine.  As just one of the over 4 million people who’ve read the book, I can attest firsthand to the difficulty I have in breaking bad habits. If you doubt that, just ask my wife.

Of all the take aways from Atomic Habits, the single most profound is probably the change in my view that implementing small, incremental improvements really can lead to long-term transformation. Or as Clear lays out in the book, making small changes repeatedly over anextended period creates new habits which in turneventually become part of our everyday lives.

In other words, we’ve all got to start somewhere and nowhere does it say baby steps don’t count.

Incremental steps were part and parcel of the process taken by what I like to call one of our campus customers.  By campus customer, I mean their church and school buildings occupy a 2-block area.  They also operate a bustling food pantry complete with community garden directly across the street.  

We’ve been working with these folks since 2018 and in that time frame, they’ve moved from throwing almost all their waste away, to recycling over 50%.  And yes, it’s been done step, by gradually increasing, step.

One of the steps we use is a waste audit. Two things always jump out for our customers when we audit and track their waste.  The first being the sheer amount of pure waste they produce.

In the case of our campus customer, this amounted to well over 100 tons annually.  Yes that’s a huge number but that’s in large part due to the fact it’s so easy to throw things away. Either way, customers are amazed at the volume of their waste. 

The second thing that comes as a surprise, is the amount of recyclable materials we find that still end up in land fill bins even after recycling collection has begun.  This is mainly comprised of cardboard but is still often over 50% of what’s been thrown out.

With our scorecard results in hand, we went to our campus customer with our 3Q recommendations for improvements that included—you guessed it—several small steps.

1) Train staff at all three campus locations to ensure all recyclable materials are identified and in fact are being recycled.
2) Come up with a specific plan for each location and update regularly.
3) Share results with staff and community.
4) Set goals for next quarter’s improvements.

Is our campus customer bullet proof at this point?  You know the answer to that but the more important point—the far more important point—is they are consciously working toward getting there.

Our disposable society was not created overnight.  It will take time, planning, and more than likely a whole bunch of baby steps to change habits so as to transform our world in terms of how we view and deal with waste.

Or to quote James Clear, All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision.”

If you’re ready to start making small changes—or expanding on the changes you’ve already started—check us out at


Tom Rohr, Founder & CEO