Running a One-Day-a-Week Challenge

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A few years ago I came up with the idea of a “one-day-a-week-challenge” which gives people an opportunity to make small but (hopefully) lasting behavioural changes in the way they do things, to live more sustainably. I had made the members of our permaculture group (Permaculture Sydney West Inc) aware of the idea so they could use it if they wanted to, but after thinking about it for a couple of years, I decided I wanted to do something a bit more formal.

I wrote up my idea and discussed it with the PSW committee and they were behind it, basically what we came up with was this;

Aim and Objectives

Aims and objectives had to be developed first so everyone understood what we were trying to achieve by doing this:


To encourage people to make and maintain small behavioural changes to help the environment.


1. Stimulate behavioural change by providing easy meaningful steps anyone can take.

2. Set up a collaborative challenge structure where people can support each other’s efforts and not feel they are doing this alone.

3. Use the one-day-a-week challenge to start off movement of members towards sustainable behaviour.

The Set Up Process

I was starting mid-year, mainly because that’s when I dreamed up the idea, and we would finish things off at the December general meeting. The December meeting is also our Annual General Meeting (AGM) so it would make a great end to the year. What I did, once the idea was ratified by the committee of course, was –

  1. I developed three alternative activities under each one of five headings: food, energy, water, waste/consumption and transport.
  2. I discussed the idea at the next general Monday night meeting, spending 5 minutes going through a presentation which provided information about the challenge and invited people to take part, starting at the next (monthly) meeting after the idea was ratified so they had time to think about it.
  3. At the second meeting after the idea was ratified I re-ran the presentation and then invited members to participate. I organised for someone to be at a table ready with forms to take details of the persons wishing to take up a challenge, who was available at the end of the meeting (a copy of the form may be downloaded here). They could choose one challenge as worked out below, or come up with their own if it was more doable for them, provided it sat within the intent of the challenge.
  4. Monitor at monthly meetings – the idea was that any of the participants could stand up at one of our regular (first Monday of the month) meetings and talk about how they were finding the challenge.
  5. At the last meeting of the year, prizes were awarded.

1-Day-a-Week-Challenge Specific Challenges

After some thought and discussion I came up with 5 topics for the challenge, with 3 challenges within each topic. The ones we settled on are laid out below.

Topic 1 – Food

  • No meat day
  • Organic only day
  • Made from scratch day

Topic 2 – Energy

  • Cook with alternative fuel day (solar, stored heat, biomass)
  • Cook with low energy techniques day
  • Lights off day (you can use solar appliances)

Topic 3 - Water

  • If it’s yellow let it mellow day
  • Use only rainwater day
  • Shower in a bucket day

Topic 4 – Waste/Consumption

  • No buy day
  • No packaging day
  • Shop from local retailers (no national chains)

Topic 5 – Transportation

  • Bike to work day
  • Public transport to work day
  • Walk to the shops day


While I wanted the challenge to be fairly self-explanatory and simple to run, I figured we would need a few basic rules to ensure fairness –

  • The participant must select at least one challenge from at least one category,
  • The challenge they select cannot be something they are already doing – it must be new,
  • They must complete the challenge every week to be in the running for the prizes at the end of the year,
  • Each participant would nominate a “challenge partner” to help support them through the challenge and keep them participating.


We selected three prizes, and since it was not a “first, second and third” type of challenge, all participants completing the challenge would have their names placed in a hat, and three drawn out. Also, because everyone was equal, all the prizes would be worth about the same in monetary terms (about $40) with the costs covered from the group bank account. Accordingly the prizes we came up with were:

  • A Bokashi bin and a supply of bokashi material,
  • A $40 Book gift card from Florilegium (a gardening/permaculture bookshop in Sydney), and
  • A Good quality garden tool, spade or fork etc which in the event was a spade.

We also decided to award a selection of seeds for every person/family that entered, from our seed bank.

So……….. How did it go?

Bearing in mind that this is the first year it ran, not too bad, although I was hoping for better!

While the announcement resulted in much interest and a considerable amount of discussion, only four people actually filled out a registration/entry form so that we only had four bona fide participants. Of those four participants only two actually attended the December meeting to go into the prize draw.

During the meetings between the announcement of the challenge and the prize giving, a couple of people did talk briefly but in general terms there wasn’t much to catch up on. This was partly due to the small number of participants.

What we did do was to stimulate discussion and get people thinking about their behaviour around sustainability related subjects.

What about next year?

We will definitely be running the challenge again in 2018.

After some thought, the changes I would make are –

  • Start the publicity earlier. We talked about it for two months and ran it for three, but I will start the communication sessions and build up sooner, probably with a focus on why behaviour is important in improving sustainability and reducing environmental damage.
  • Have a number of people at the meeting with registration sheets and immediately sign up anyone who is interested rather than waiting to the end of the meeting and letting the interested parties find the person with the sign-up sheets.
  • Make sure that participants understand that at least one report back over the time the challenge runs will be required.


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