What is eco guilt?
Eco guilt is a very real sensation. No matter how hard you try to be a good global citizen, there are little practices, or habits, that you know are ecologically harmful, but you carry on regardless. You don’t feel good about yourself for doing it, but perhaps the habit in question is just too hard to break, or it’s just too inconvenient to do so.
And it’s no surprise that this is now a thing. After all, most of us are good people who don’t like to think that our own actions are harmful to others: we wouldn’t blow smoke in someone’s face even if we did smoke, for example. But the fact is that many of the daily activities that we partake in leave a damaging environmental footprint. It may be very small in the grand scheme of things, but it’s just adding to the problem.
Combined with this is the increase in awareness surrounding our activities.
“Environmental awareness is a good thing, of course, because we can now identify the problems that our actions are causing, but included in the inevitable consequences of this fact is the recognition of our own culpability, even if we are a green warrior. No one can be perfect when it comes to such things,” points out Tina Bastion, an eco blogger analyst at BritStudent and WritemyX.
Do you suffer from eco guilt? If so, what are the activities that make you feel this way. Here are just some of the most frequently cited examples of ecological harmful behaviors that leave perpetrators feeling guilt-ridden.
So how eco-friendly are you?
Without wishing to increase the feelings of guilt, tackling such issues as plastic waste, climate change and rainforest destruction starts right at home. Of course, buy-in is needed from governments around the world for a real legacy to form, but we must all take a long, hard look at ourselves and consider the changes that we can make to leave less of an ecological footprint. Here are just some of the simple considerations which make a very real difference.
This one is obvious, and is clearly linked to the efficiency of practices where you live, but recycling home waste is the place to start. Do you have a compost bin as well as one for all dry recyclables? How can you do better? That second question is one you should ask regarding all of these practices listed.
Around the home and in the office there are countless little changes that you can make to really have an impact. From switching of all lights that are not necessary to have on, to ceasing to use stand-by mode for devices such as the television. Can you use less heating or air conditioning, take shorter or cooler showers? What else?
Water is a vital resource, yet we still continue to waste it. Once again, can you take shorter showers? Do you leave the faucet running when you are brushing your teeth? Do you use water-guzzling dishwashers? Once again it really all comes down to habits, which can be difficult to break. Make that change today.
Do you rely on the car for every single journey you make? Could you walk a little more, cycle, or use public transport? Even think about the way that you vacation: commercial airlines make one of the most significant environmental impacts of all.
Does everything you buy have to be new? Do you ever donate old clothes? Could you upcycle pieces that you currently don’t wear very often? These are just some of the questions you should be asking yourself when it comes to the clothes you wear.
Do you have a bag for life? This is one of the easiest new habits to adopt, and can immediately impact upon the number of bags that you pick up at the store to carry your shopping. There is just no need to carry on this way.
Think carefully about the way you shop, beyond bags. Do you use ecologically responsible outlets? Do you buy local, thus helping to reduce the amount of transportation required in getting the food you eat to your table? Do you buy organic? As with many of the habits on this list, price can be a factor: often people just go with the cheaper option.
“Organic food is rapidly coming down in price, while there are plenty of reasonably priced retailers who employ green practices to produce the goods and services they sell. Just be aware of what you are buying and who you are buying it from as much as you possibly can,” suggests Brian Palmer, a journalist at Australia2write and NextCoursework.
How can we deal with the guilt?
Perhaps you cannot entirely. But do your very best every day to do as much as you can. Never take the eco damaging path just because it’s easier and more convenient to do so. Finances will always be a restriction, so don’t beat yourself up about that, but do as much as you can, and let the positivity of your actions outweigh the guilty feeling.