Changing our habits

In the early part of the last century, the deliveries from the ice wagon to cool our food along with visits to the local market, or in Cayman, the local fish stalls, were part of the essential rhythms of life. Now it is the multiple refrigerators that cool and preserve our food and the visits to the supermarket that are the norm, while a visit to a farmers market is a special outing, writes Michael Ryan.

Cheese wrapped in waxed paper became transformed into individual slices cocooned in special plastic wraps – so secure from the day to day world that they seemed more fit for hospital use than consumption, but they were the norm for most children.
The move to ‘eco conscious” approaches to living is in essence this same sort of adjustment – getting people to make daily choices based on a common understanding of what is the right and sensible thing to do. For a better behavioral pattern to truly take hold, it has to be so clearly the way things should be done that it becomes unconscious.
A good example is the change to wearing seat belts many years ago – although it feels like yesterday. There was a big campaign to get people to wear seatbelts, to change their behaviour.
Never mind that it was so self-evidently logical that wearing a seat belt could save your life or prevent serious injury from a minor fender bender, logic was not going to win over habit until habit was changed. Now if you climb in a car without putting on your seat belt, you feel something is not right – like you are stepping out the door and forgot to put your pants on. Such is the power of habits once they get ingrained.
The move to a more sustainable and eco appropriate lifestyle is essentially the same effort, how to move to something that is so logically compelling but goes against old habits. Whether it is something as mundane as using plastic bags, plastic water bottles, throwing away your batteries or the way you design your homes, businesses and communities it will only take hold when the new habits become ingrained.
At Dragon Bay, we recognise this and we are working to make the default choice the right one. When the easiest thing to do is the one you want to, and should, do the change in habit happens faster. The more reward you get, emotional and financial from doing the right thing, the more often you are going to do it.
Reusable bags, reusable water bottles, battery recycling, lower energy designs, better water flow, lower impact materials and a conscious priority on not just sustaining but improving the environment in Dragon Bay and all of Cayman are some steps we have started. Far from the end, these are just some steps in the direction of recognising that we are not changing our destination but how we travel.
I think one of the best summaries of this adaptation of viewpoint was when I was dealing with lower back pain from an injury for the first time, and recognising that the damage was likely permanent.  As a result, there was a series of exercises and approaches that needed to be adopted – e.g. changes in my habits.
I was reading a book about Jack Nicklaus, the golfer, who suffered similar challenges. He said, and I am paraphrasing, it was a hard until it occurred to me that doing the exercises was like brushing my teeth, something I did a couple times a day every day as a normal part of looking after myself. If I got up and did not brush my teeth then my day felt wrong, and the same with the back exercises.
Whether it is brushing your teeth, wearing a seatbelt, or making the choice to use less plastic bags – when habit can be brought into alignment with logic, the world becomes a better place.

Dragon Bay observes Earth Day with coastline clean-up
In observance of Earth Day 2010, Dragon Bay developer Michael Ryan is sponsoring a waterfront clean-up on Dragon Bay’s North Sound coastline to encourage eco-friendly practices throughout the 360-acre luxury resort community.
Scheduled for Saturday, 24 April, the clean-up is open to all Dragon Bay staff and residents, as well as the wider community, and will take place from 8:00am through 11:00am. The first 200 volunteers will receive a commemorative Dragon Bay Earth Day 2010 T-shirt.
In continuing this green ethos, the ‘Dragon Bay Foundation’ will be established later this year to allow Cayman residents, Dragon Bay owners and guests at Dragon Bay to support projects aimed at maintaining a healthy environment throughout the Cayman Islands.

For more information or to register for the Dragon Bay Earth Day 2010 Clean-up, e-mail [email protected]


“Life is about change and adaptation. Things that seemed normal and essential give way to new habits that, in turn, become the pillars of normality”. Michael Ryan, Owner, developer – Dragon Bay.