Hurricanes, forest fires, wild storms, hottest summers on record, melting ice caps, animal extinction and scientists giving us just 12 years to turn this all around—there is a lot feel anxious about when it comes to the future of our planet. And you wouldn’t be alone in feeling like this. A report released in 2017 called ‘Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance’ shows that more and more people are experiencing stress and worry about climate change, particularly if they have been directly impacted by an extreme weather event.
This eco-anxiety, as it’s been dubbed, is definitely something I can relate to. I read and write about the global climate crisis a lot as part of my job and it often feels completely overwhelming. The threats our environment is facing are so complex and woven into the way the world works its hard to see how the acts of one individual person can make the slightest bit of difference.
However, burying our head in the sand won’t do our planet or our mental health any good. There is still a huge amount we can do to protect the environment and committing to small changes in our daily lives can accumulate to make a huge difference. There are lots of positive steps we can take to not only make our lives, communities and planet a little greener, but also help us to feel more empowered, less helpless and channel this anxiety, frustration and anger into a force for change. Also, a lot of the sustainable actions we can take can be directly beneficial for our mental and physical health (and our bank balance) too!
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” — Jane Goodall
Inspired by the recent Climate Strikes and initiatives such as Plastic-Free July, ECBC has decided to declare this month #EcoOctober! Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some of the ideas, exchanges and lessons I’ve learnt whilst trying to live more sustainably. This does not mean I think I am perfect in any way. I am definitely learning as I go, but hopefully I can share something useful!
How can I begin to make changes without getting overwhelmed?
1. Make small, sustainable changes (that are right for you)
There are millions of blogs, articles, videos and whatever else which can give you advice on lots of changes you can make, and it’s easy to start to feel like you absolutely MUST do all of them otherwise the world will burn and it WILL BE ALL YOUR FAULT. This pressure often either makes us feel like we can’t live up to these standards so what’s the point, or so overwhelmed trying to do everything that we just can’t keep it up.
But you really don’t have to change everything all at once. Start small and simple. Focus on one thing at a time and gradually keep trying new things and seeing what works for you and your lifestyle. For example, one of the first things I changed was toilet roll. One of my Facebook friends shared a post from a company called Who Gives a Crap, who sell environmentally-friendly loo roll and donate 50% of their profits to build toilets for those in need. When I moved into my flat, I decided to give them a go as it didn’t seem that much more expensive than buying loo roll every week. Now I get them on subscription every six-ish months (you get a lot and they last forever!), I don’t even have to really think about it, and I haven’t had to resort to digging out a pocket packet of tissues since!
There will of course be things that don’t work out the first time you try them or that just don’t fit in with your lifestyle but be curious and enjoy discovering new alternatives! This leads nicely on to…
2. Remember, it is not about being perfect!
I’ll say it again, I am not in any way a perfect eco-goddess, living my best green life. I forget my shopping bags. I over-rely on the car. I buy things I don’t really need. I forget to eat the yoghurt at the back of the fridge. I have booked long-haul flights. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of guilt when I do these things. However, it really isn’t about getting it right all the time. We are all human and we have to live our lives. The fact that we are willing to make changes to live more sustainability is a huge step, and it is important to celebrate and sustain that positive mindset, rather than punishing ourselves to the point of giving up.
3. Educate yourself
My interest in the environment started by watching a lot of David Attenborough! It can be quite tough going and it won’t be ideal for everyone but for me, learning about our planet, the challenges it faces and why we should save it has been fundamental to making me more climate aware and inspiring me to take positive action. In addition to watching Attenborough (if for nothing else than his soothing voice!), I’d recommend following a few charities such as WWF or Friends of the Earth on social or signing up to their mailing list.
4. Share what you discover!
Find a great zero waste shop? Got a great deal with a green energy provider? Tell your friends, family, colleagues, people on the bus, anybody! Connecting with people and sharing our knowledge and feelings about this anxious topic is not only very important for maintaining our mental well-being, but it also might inspire them to make some changes themselves, creating a gorgeous community of green-minded people ready to stand up for our planet!
Next week’s #EcoOctober blog will focus on some of the actions we can take, from energy-saving actions we can do around the home, some ideas about shopping sustainably and how we can help to urge political action. What did you think of this week’s blog? Was it helpful? Let us know in the comments below or get in touch on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.