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Eco-Guilt Taught Me There’s no Such Thing as Perfect

Here’s how to deal with it

With climate change threats becoming more and more urgent, everyone is preaching the importance of sustainability. We rarely discuss how difficult it is to live sustainably though. 

Trying to ditch single-use plastic while every product we buy is packaged is no picnic, and giving up gas powered transportation while living in a big city is a real struggle. 

I can admit that I have made one or two bad choices on the way. I have given into the temptation of fast fashion and purchased a piece or two that I couldn’t find in thrift shops or sustainable brands. I felt the guilt creeping up on me every time, and apparently, I’m not alone.

The self-reproach we feel whenever we do something bad towards the environment is called eco-guilt and it “can lead people to avoiding the topic of climate change altogether” says Dr. Ganga Shreedhar. “Because you’re made to feel like a bad person anytime you’re exposed to any issue about the environment,”, the assistant professor in behavioural science at the London School of Economics explained in an interview with British Vogue.

As it turns out, eco-guilt can stem from the modern world’s obsessive chase of perfection. It’s unfathomable to think that we can become completely sustainable overnight, but it certainly cannot become a reason for us to stop trying to reduce our carbon footprint and live as sustainably as possible.

So for this Mother Earth Day, we’ve rounded up a few things you can do to deal with your eco-guilt.

Accept the feeling
Eco-guilt can only mean that you actually do care about the environment and want to make change. Embrace it and harness its power to move forward.

Don’t be afraid to start small
We need less people who are trying to be perfect and more who are trying to make change. Small actions multiplied by a collective can be earth-shaking so don’t aim for perfect, and take things step by step.

Join a community
Like any other mental challenge, eco-guilt should never be dealt with alone. Joining a community of like-minded people that can help you with sustainable practices and provide some valuable advice is vital.

Don’t give in to the guilt
While it’s very easy for us to fall into the illusion of thinking we’re the only ones responsible for climate issues, it’s important to remember that this is a collective problem with polluting industries and companies playing a key role in turning things around. As individuals, what can be a real game changer is to hold these companies and governments accountable and push them to take action through collective force.

Don’t give up
As Dr. Shreedhar mentioned, eco-guilt can cause people to avoid the topic of climate change and thus can result in them not trying at all. We shouldn’t let the difficulty of this challenge overwhelm us and stop us from taking action. 

Don’t compare yourself with others
It’s easy to look at people on Instagram who are growing their own whole foods garden or buying all of the sustainable products out there, and think that you’re not doing enough or you’re financially unable to live sustainably. But it’s important to focus on the now and what you can do with whatever little or big resources you have. Again, small changes can leave a huge impact.

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