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Eco-guilt: What is it and how to overcome it?

Eco-guilt, Eco-anxiety or Eco-grief, and few other names that are associated with the emerging “psychoterratic” syndromes that are affecting people's mental health and well-being more severely.

Eco-anxiety could be understood as a special type of stress and worry related to the ecological crisis, and can be interpreted in the framework of existential and psychodynamic psychology as well as social sciences. Eco-guilt occurs when people realise they have violated personal or social standards of behaviour. Eco-grief is a response to ecological loss that can be related to the loss of physical environment, anticipated future losses and the disruptions to environmental knowledge systems, which leads to the feeling of loss of identity.

So how do you know that you are negatively affected emotionally because of your care for the environment?

  • When you have to buy some bottled drinks (because you have no other choices), but you are fighting inside, having negative self-talk as you keep thinking about the negative environmental impacts of your bottles once used.

  • You feel shame or embarrassed when you go out with your family or friends, and they have some non-environmental friendly acts like trashing or consuming single-used plastic.

  • You feel guilty that you cannot purchase more environmental-friendly products because of your financial situation.

  • You feel like a fraud because you understand and read so much about zero-waste lifestyle, sustainable fashion or organic food, but you just simply cannot follow it strictly.

You start feeling familiar here? Yes, I do tick all the boxes here (and many more if I list all of them out). Truly, it IS affecting my mental health as I am living in a not-so-eco-friendly community, hence I witness actions that to me are unacceptable on a daily basis.

Some people are getting over this guilt by purchasing eco-friendly items, many of which are more expensive and less convenient than the usual ones that we have always been used to. Shopping with big eco-friendly brands like eco-friendly products Seventh Generation (acquired by Unilever in 2016 for $700 million) or natural toothpaste Tom's of Maine (84% owned by Colgate for $100 million), meaning that we are just making top plastic polluters richer!

At the end of the day, it is important to know that it is only your responsibility to save the world. Having millions of people following a more eco-friendly lifestyle days to days, rather than some people having a zero-waste lifestyle perfectly. Moreover, it is a great idea to join communities of people sharing the same awareness and interest as you, encouraging each other to overcome this guilt and pursue more great works for our one and only planet.

Give yourself a pat on the back! You are doing great!


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