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How Do You Deal With Eco-Anxiety?

morale and green living

For something a bit different today, let’s talk about eco-anxiety.

For those interested in green living it can be challenging at the best of times to have to keep your morale up.  There’s always a bad news story about climate change doing the rounds.  Sometimes there are good news stories but you really have to seek these out.  But the bad ones?  It seems like they fly right at you as soon as your switch on your computer. And sometimes it feels like although you’ve made some environmentally friendly changes in your life, that it’s just not enough. Eco-anxiety is a very real condition.

Sustainability & Nuance

It’s also tricky to keep your eco-anxiety in check when green living has so so many grey areas.  For example, is buying a fairtrade bag made from recycled materials in Guatemala better than buying a locally made bag made from non recycled materials that have zero air miles?  Is criticising people who aren’t vegan or vegetarian ok when you holiday abroad three times a year?

Trying to find an absolute answer to the imponderable is nigh on impossible. It would drive you to a pit of despair if you contemplated them for too long.

No Perfect Way to Live Greenly

The truth is there is no perfect way to live greenly.  I firmly believe it simply is not humanly possible for a person to be 100% green in every single aspect of their life.

But if that’s the case then shouldn’t we just give up the quest, and just live our lives recklessly without any regard for the environment?  My answer is no – we keep trying to be as green as we can specific to our circumstances.  So how can you keep your eco-anxiety in check when you can’t be 100% green?

How I Keep My Eco-Anxiety In Check

Let me let you into my secret as to how I keep my eco-anxiety in check.

eco-anxiety, morale and green living

While I write here on Moral Fibres on a regular basis on green living, as much as I try to be upbeat and positive, it’s not all sunshine and roses.  I’ve always been upfront and honest about my struggles and challenges with green living.  One of my first posts in 2013 was about eco-perfectionism and why it’s counterproductive.  I’ve mentioned briefly my struggles with veganism on my about page and about my struggles with avoiding palm oil.  So yes, I happily put my hands up and admit there are things that I don’t do so well at.

Think About The Things You Do Well At

At the same time, there are things that I think I do really well at, mostly because of certain privileges I possess.  Not perfectly by any means, but pretty well.  

Despite living semi-rurally (not through choice, we were completely priced out of city living) and having two kids, I have lived car-free for 10 years now.  I have been a long-term vegetarian for over 10 years, and I consider myself to be an eBay master at procuring secondhand clothes.   I am trying to clean my home as greenly as possible.  In short, I try my best. I also acknowledge that some of these activities aren’t accessible to everyone, so I would never berate someone who isn’t doing exactly as I’m doing.

And do you know what?  It certainly 100% improves my eco-anxiety when I know I can’t possibly be THE best at every single aspect of green living, but I can do MY best specific to MY individual circumstances.  That’s what keeps me going.  Knowing I’m doing what I can, and the fact that where and when I can do more, I will.

Of course, not everyone shares the same view. And I sometimes get emails from people who are disappointed in me when my best doesn’t match up to their own standards and values and circumstances and privileges.

The most recent one was from a vegan who was angry and disappointed because in my sidebar was a link to a post on how to test egg freshness to help reduce food waste.   She said I should be vegan and should be urging all readers to go vegan.  

Acknowledge Our Own Privileges and Barriers That Make Eco Actions Tricky or Easy

I explained that I have tried to go vegan in the past (most recently just last year) and really really struggled with it, both in terms of the cost of vegan products and the accessibility of vegan products where I live, which both act as a real barrier for me.

Instead, I explained that I have cut my dairy consumption where possible as a compromise.  She didn’t agree this was an acceptable compromise and did not acknowledge the privileges in her life that made it easy for her to be a vegan. Perhaps, to her, my actions might not be the best, but right now it’s my best specific to my circumstances.

Sometimes people get angry at me because some items I recommend don’t match up to their own personal purchasing criteria.  For example, if I’m wearing or recommending clothes that can’t be composted.  I personally don’t have the facility to compost clothes at home. And as far as I’m aware my local council doesn’t compost clothes. Therefore, it’s not something I factor into purchasing decisions.

Instead, I wash my clothes appropriately to help prolong their lifespan; repair where possible; donate or sell second-hand clothes when I’m done with them. Or, when they are too far gone, donate to charity in a bag marked as rags.  Almost all charity shops which sell clothing have an arrangement with a textile recycler, who buys any unsold items from them for recycling.  Maybe it’s not the best, but right now it’s my best according to my circumstances.

Constructive Criticism Vs. Criticism for Criticism’s Sake

I’m not against criticism when it’s constructive.  However, criticism for criticism’s sake serves no purpose other than to sap morale.  Who knows, maybe one day I’ll manage a successful transition to veganism.  Maybe one day I’ll successfully be able to compost my old clothes.  In the meantime, I’m not going to get too down about the things I’m not doing perfectly.

Not everyone has such thick skin though.  Not everyone believes that their best is, right now, the best.  For another person getting this kind of criticism may make them think they should stop doing what they are doing because they’re not good enough. When really they are doing a great job.  

Or for a blog reader reading these kinds of criticisms/comments it may, for example, stop them from trying to adopt more environmental behaviours because they feel like they’ll never get it right.

Spreading Morale & Keeping Eco-Anxiety In Check

So how can we spread morale amongst the green community and beyond, to help keep our collective eco-anxiety in check?  We could applaud and encourage people who are trying to do the right thing in the best way that they can.  We could tell them they’re doing a great job.  And where a person asks for help, we could offer constructive support and guidance where we can, but leave the negativity to the side.  

Telling people that they’re not doing enough, or that they’re not doing something correctly isn’t a great way to spread enthusiasm or morale. It simply engenders eco-anxiety. But surely someone trying to do something well is better than them doing nothing? As Anne-Marie Bonneau says, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

So let’s champion the small baby steps.  Let’s celebrate our trials and errors in trying to find greener ways that work for each of us.  We’re all human after all!

What are your thoughts on eco-anxiety?  How do you keep yours in check?

Life & Style

Alternative New Year’s Resolutions

new year's resolutions

Looking for inspiration on alternative New Year’s resolutions to make? I’ve got 10 for you!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you have had a good one!  We saw ours in, cosied up in front of the fire, with a few glasses of Prosecco.  Last of the big party animals over here!

As much as I love a cause for celebration, of course, now the bells have rung the new year in I’ve seen various resolutions and “new year, new me” mantras banded around the internet.  And the influx of adverts everywhere you look capitalising on these resolutions – weight loss products, weight loss classes, gym memberships, keep fit gear, and the ilk.

Are you as fed up as I am with all of these trite resolutions that invariably get abandoned a few weeks into the new year?  This year, think outside the box.  I’ve come up with some alternative New Year’s resolutions that instead focus on looking after yourself, others and the environment.

Here are ten ideas to get you started:

Alternative New Year’s Resolutions

alternative new year's resolutions

Get moving

Use your car less, if you can.  Walk more.  Cycle more.  Being outside is way more fun than being stuck inside a stuffy sweaty gym.  It’s free, it’s good for the environment, you can do it whenever you like, and mental health-wise, being out in nature has been proven to be fundamentally good for you

Cook more from scratch

It’s cheaper, healthier, and more rewarding, and you can use up leftovers.  This is my favourite cookbook*, and handily has some quick meals to whip up in under 20 minutes.  Struggle with time?  Pick a day and batch cook.

Put your phone, tablet or computer down

Spend more time with family, friends, and neighbours.  Get to know your neighbours if you don’t.  Spend time getting involved in your local community.  From joining a community council to simply turning up and supporting local events.  If you are religious and non-practicing then why not go to your place of worship more regularly.  If you aren’t religious, there are even atheist churches that you can attend.  These are secular congregations where people sing songs, listen to inspiring non-religious talks, and create community together.  I’m not religious and haven’t been to one, but I am intrigued.

Donate Regularly

To your local food bank (check first to see if they are any particular items they need), or to any other cause that resonates with you.  If money doesn’t allow, volunteer if time allows. Or alternatively see if any items you don’t need can be used by others.  For starters, homeless charities often need sleeping bags and blankets, and your bras can even help women and girls in the UK and beyond.

Get involved

Vote.  Join a political party and/or an activism group.  Lobby your local MPs for changes you want to see.  The Write To Them website is a good place to start to find your local MP if you aren’t sure who they are.

Read more

The news.  Alternative news.  Books – (affiliate links):  Soil and Soul.  Eating Animals.  No Logo.  The Establishment.  Stuffocation.  Feral.  To name but a few.

Watch more of the good stuff

Blackfish.  Before The Flood.  Cowspiracy.  The True Cost.  Food Inc.  Vegucated.  Again, to name but a few.  And less of the bad stuff – before having kids I’d never really watched Saturday night TV.  Now I know I was never missing out – Ed Balls dancing to Gangnam Style really is the lowest of the low.

Explore

For your next holiday you don’t have to go abroad.  Explore your own backyard.  Holiday at home.  Visit a part of the UK you’ve never been to before or an area near your home that you’re not too familiar with.  The UK is full of hidden treasures – you just have to find them.

Practice Kindness

Frustrated by train price rises?  Don’t take it out on the train conductor or sales clerk who has no influence over the price. Instead, write to your local MP or take it up with the train company.  Disappointed by a meal in a restaurant?  Don’t take it out on the waiting staff.  Check-in on elderly neighbours.  Offer conversation.  Embrace newcomers to your town/village/locality.  Help out refugees.

Embrace Green Cleaning

And for the last of my alternative New Year’s resolutions, ditch some of the more toxic chemicals in your home, and give green cleaning a go.  Start by ditching the fabric conditioner (it really is the worst) and then take it from there!  Need more help on green cleaning? I can help!

Do you have any alternative New Year’s resolutions?  Have you made any?  Do share, I’d love to hear!