Thursday, June 9, 2016

How to deal with Eco-Guilt

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | |
All of us who are trying to live more eco-friendly, may from time to time experience that we're not doing enough for the environment or that we have failed in some way. That's when the eco-guilt kicks in ;-)
How to deal with environmental guilt
How to deal with environmental guilt.1

What exactly is eco guilt?

Guess what, the psychologists have a definition :-)
"Eco guilt is a negative affective state or feeling that occurs when people perceive they have failed to meet personal or social standards for environmentally friendly behavior".2
This type of guilt is very common and goes by many names; 'environmental guilt', 'green guilt' and sometimes I call it the eco-social guilt. Because you not only feel that you've failed the environment, but also failed the people who made the product you bought. Like the other day I chose ordinary coffee over fairtrade.

Not because I wasn't aware, but it was just easier to get normal coffee this particular day.

My closest friends and family remind me that I read too much and care too much. I carry the environmental guilt pretty much all the time. When I read articles and news about animals on the verge of extinction or massive waste dumps in the ocean, I often think that I have failed, and that humanity in general has failed to protect these animals from harm.

The environmental guilt also occurs when I deviate from my recycling routine, and when I buy something without checking if it was ethically made. Whenever I buy flight tickets the guilt of not choosing public transportation or refraining from traveling, weighs down my head.

Eco-guilt can be motivational but also quite overwhelming.

So, how do we handle the green guilt?

The easiest thing would be to shield yourself from what's happening in the world and be totally ignorant. But where's the fun in that? :-) Knowledge is power, but too much knowledge and dedication can also be paralyzing if you allow them to cloud your mind. 

Accepting reality

Accepting that we can't do everything for the environment is in my opinion, an important step in dealing with the eco-guilt. The reality is: We can't do everything, but we can do something.

Minimizing our carbon prints drastically, would likely require opting out of modern society, becoming vegans and moving outdoors. Say goodbye to electricity, social media and travel. I find it impressive that some people have managed to pull this off, but realistically, this type of living is not for everyone.

Choose your fights

Balancing modern living and the concerns for the environment, can be quite challenging. Lack of resources and time are two limiting factors, but to me, it's also about the emotional capacity. I don't have the capacity to care for every environmental cause that exist. I have to choose. You have to choose.

What do you care about the most? Animal welfare? Plastic pollution? Organic farming? Rainforest deforestation? Choose and focus on these. When we find the "middle way", we might also find peace with not having the solution to every environmental issue on this planet.
Urban farming in Oslo
Urban farming in Oslo

Give yourself a pat on the back

The worst critic is yourself. It's easier to point out what we are not doing, instead of acknowledging what we have already accomplished and continue to advocate.

So, why not recognize the green changes we've already made in our lives? You actually care about sustainability and doing something about it. You should be proud of yourself! It's time to give ourselves some slack :)

This doesn't mean that we shouldn't strive to do better.

But the point is: we should stop for a moment and think about the dedication put into making greener changes in our lives. These green changes have required willpower and stamina to implement (especially when 'everyone' around you doesn't seem to care as much as you do).

Take it to the next level

If you feel that the green changes you've already made isn't enough, then go bigger! If you're a pescetarian, take the leap and try the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet. If you're already enjoying growing your own food, then start an urban farming project in your local area. You can also take it to the next level by making your own non-toxic products.

You can sign campaigns, donate money to crowdfunding projects you believe in, become political active or go on a volunteer vacation. Through you can give micro loans to small businesses in developing countries.

The possibilities are endless. Do what feels right for you :-)

Continue to read:
Preparing for a plastic-free month - part 1.

The Climate Change summit: 6 things you probably didn't know.

  • 1 Copyright: aleshyn / 123RF Stock Photo.
  • 2 Robyn K. Mallett, Patrick R. Harrison and Kala J. Melchiori (Department of Psychology). Guilt and Environmental behavior.

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