5 Ways to avoid "eco-guilt"

Katie Wheatley 5 August 2022

Are you making changes to be more eco-friendly but still feel like you're not doing enough? Here are five ways to stave off eco-guilt and focus on the progress you're making 

Eco-guilt is rife, and who can be surprised when comparing yourself to others is so difficult to avoid. You may be doing everything you can to be more conscious of the environment, but all it takes is one social media post or conversation to make you feel like you are doing nothing at all.

If you are looking to minimise that feeling and realign your focus back to the progress you are making, look no further than these five tips.

Businesses and organisations have the power

Although our individual efforts amount to difference, we need to remember tackling climate change is rooted in the actions of those who have the largest impact—like businesses and organisations. Take your fashion consumption, for example. Yes, completely cutting out fast fashion, shopping second hand, and limiting how many items you purchase each month is worthwhile—and if we were all to do this, it would incite positive change. However, no matter how little you purchase from these fast fashion brands, they are still going to overproduce garments to meet the needs of those who over-consume and there will always be clothing that ends up in landfill.

Rather than beating yourself up for purchasing an item from a fast fashion house when you said you would not, turn this on its head and question why brands are churning out hundreds, if not thousands, of new items a day to keep up with the trends.

Consider the factors you cannot control

The accessibility and cost of sustainability is something we all need to consider. In a 2021 poll of 2,000 adults, The Independent found 64 per cent wanted to be eco-friendly, but were fearful the increasing cost of living will make such a thing impossible.

Reusable products are typically more expensive than their plastic counterparts, but they last longer and will not need to be replaced as frequently. Having said this, the initial cost may mean you need to spread the swaps out over a long period of time—and contrary to what you may have been conditioned to believe by the voice of eco-guilt in your mind, this is OK.

Making all these changes at once will soon add up and if you cannot justify the total cost, why not break this down to one or two products a month to make it more manageable? As we know, life is becoming more expensive by the day and you need to be realistic with how far you can stretch your disposable income.

Do not base your actions off everything you read

It can be very easy to fall into the trap of assuming all statistics about leading a sustainable lifestyle are true, but misinformation is rife in this sphere. Doing your own research and digging deeper than you usually would will help you uncover the truth, and allow you to inform your actions based on fact.

There are easy ways to see whether something you have read is a myth, as there are individuals who are dedicated to setting the record straight. One of these organisations is Climate Feedback, a worldwide network of scientists who sort fact from fiction in climate change news coverage. From reviewing articles to providing their insights on the latest happenings in the world of sustainability, their site is worth a visit.

Knowing the truth will help to reduce your eco-guilt as you will know what to prioritise, and come to realise it is impossible to adapt everything at once.

Look at how far you have come, rather than how much you still have to do

Although looking to the future and the progress you plan to make is important, it is very easy to get bogged down by focusing on the changes you are yet to make. If ever you find yourself comparing what you have achieved to someone else, pause and ask yourself: what are you most proud to have achieved since the start of your journey to being more sustainable, and what challenges have you overcome to get to where you are today?

Adapt your social media following on your terms

Social media may be great to gain inspiration from others who are making a difference, but there is a fine line between admiration and falling into a hole of self-comparison.

If those you are following are adding extra pressure and making you experience eco-guilt about what you have achieved, it is time to unfollow—that does not mean it has to be forever, but you are justified to only consume their content when you mentally feel ready to.

We see everything at surface value on social media—it is a highlight reel, after all. Behind their eco-friendly actions may be a life of privilege, where they can afford to do everything you would like to do but are not in the position to.

Read more: 10 Ways to improve the environment locally

Read more: The young climate activists shaking things up 

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