Recently my family and I went to a festival for the first time since 2019. As big festival fans this was a huge deal; the atmosphere was electric, the weather was uncharacteristically good, the music started playing, it was time to get a cold beverage!
Now it’s not the overpriced pint that shocks me, it’s the plastic glass placed into my hand. Like in the movies, there’s that slow motion realisation which prompts me to look around, through the dancing and bucket hats, I see it, plastic glasses everywhere.
That feeling right there, is eco-guilt. Be it a conscious or unconscious decision, even with no other alternative, that mental and physical affect of environmental impact can lead to eco-anxiety.
Anxiety is defined as “a mental condition characterized by excessive apprehensiveness about real or perceived threats”, so we can translate that into defining eco-anxiety as “worry and concern for the real or perceived threats to the planet”.
There’s no wonder the term eco-anxiety is gaining traction, as we’re constantly reminded of the effects of human behaviour especially in first world countries that are known for contributing most to the shocking statistics we hear, read or even see with our own eyes more and more often. Watching the devastation of the Australian bushfires, which have since been connected to human-caused changes in climate temperatures, would pull on the hearts of many but especially those who actively pay attention to their own environmental impact.
The doubts creep in; can one person really make a difference? Are we all just doomed? Is it too little too late? Could I be doing better? Is what I am doing just not enough?
Eco-anxiety and eco-guilt vary with social factors such as age, gender, economic status, social support, relationships, family factors and not just whether you are more prone to mental illnesses, certain personality types or even if you’ve had prior exposure to distress.
The truth is obsessing over changes you can’t help does absolutely no good; not to the planet and definitely not to yourself.
Its simply impossible to be perfect in an imperfect world. In the UK alone it is estimated that five million tonnes of plastic are used every year, nearly half of which is packaging, which places a large amount of responsibility with big companies producing and using such materials when alternatives are available. Use the energy you would waste on feeling guilty to spread the word, pressurise these companies to make real change and make it fast!
The most effective way to initiate and continue change is with encouragement, whether that’s encouraging yourself or others.
You can absolutely pat yourself on the back and feel ‘eco-smug’ much more often than feeling eco-guilty with small changes. Yes, one day we are bound to forget our reusable bags, or be handed a plastic water bottle to drink, or in my case, a cold crisp cider.
Living an eco-friendly lifestyle already comes with its false views of difficulty and expense. Lets not add anxiety or guilt to that list.
Love, Light and Green Vibes,