How to Deal With Climate Change Anxiety
Recently, my anxious late night thoughts have been consumed by a single, pressing topic: climate change.
It started one night in bed, when I came across the Instagram account of a friend of a friend, focusing on her journey as a zero-waste college student. She posted pictures of her reusable silverware, mason jars, canvas produce bags, and a jar dedicated to all the trash she accumulated each month. To my surprise, it all fit.
I became fascinated with the idea of “zero waste”, and dove into countless social media accounts explaining how, exactly, the concept can be executed. I scrolled past hundreds of posts featuring these non-plastic alternatives. Panicking over the inevitable destruction of the earth and how we’re likely to end up in a real-life version of WALL-E, I ordered some non-plastic alternatives at 1 in the morning.
Since then, I’ve become hyper-aware of my carbon footprint and impact on the planet.
Now, I notice every single time I come in contact with a single-use plastic. I notice how wasteful it is to order food to-go or use a disposable coffee cup. My bathroom routine consists of plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner, makeup from big retailers, and non-refillable deodorant, lotion, and perfume. While not often, I still eat meat. I still reach for plastic produce bags at the grocery store, and online shop for products smothered in plastic packaging.
These actions have become habit out of pure convenience, and I never stopped to think about the repercussions.
I’m part of the system.
I am by no means a climate change expert. But I do know that something needs to be done.
When disposable, non-compostable waste is not only socially acceptable, but encouraged, how on earth are we supposed to make a difference?
Every time my mind spirals into this world-ending fervor, I try to remind myself of a few things.
It’s not all your fault
While I have been conforming to a damaging system all my life, it’s statistically impossible for me, an average person, to have caused the burning of fossil fuels that have damaged the ozone.
Though I have conformed to a system that perpetuates the earth’s destruction, I wasn’t involved in its formation.
It’s been in the works for decades, and until recently, mainstream media has failed to properly educate the public on the magnitude of climate change.
You, alone, didn’t cause it.
You didn’t know
For the majority of my life, I assumed global warming/climate change was one of those big-picture issues that were larger than life. I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was and how much it would impact me.
I figured climate change was a problem for government officials who actually had power to change it. I figured they would do something about it, so I didn’t have to.
I never thought about how many to-go coffee or boba tea cups I must discard every month. How many times I’ve failed to recycle a can or a box just because it was more convenient to toss it in the trash.
Those things may seem small and insignificant in the moment, but they add up over a lifetime.
Do what you can
Now that I know that conforming to a plastic-wrapped consumerist society leads to major destruction of the planet and a waste of earth’s resources, I can try to make a difference.
This can mean any number of simple actions:
Taking a reusable water bottle or coffee cup with you wherever you go. Switching from ziploc bags to reusable tupperware. Eating less takeout and packaged fast food. Taking canvas bags to the grocery store or forgoing a bag altogether if it’s a quick trip. Buying your produce without the individual plastic bags. Switching to solid soap and shampoo. Packing reusable silverware or straws. Eating less red meat. Reducing the consumption of fast fashion by instead buying secondhand or thrifted clothing.
They’re little things. They don’t take too much effort. And even if they do, it will all be worth it in the end.
I understand that going zero waste is impossible for many people due to financial reasons. Alternatives tend to cost more, and millions of people rely on cheaper, convenient options. As a college student, it’s hard to shell out extra money for sustainable brands when I could easily buy the cheaper option and use the money for tuition and rent.
But I know my impact is necessary, even if it’s only executed when I can afford it.
The actions of one person may be minuscule in comparison to the billions of people still unaware, uninterested, or in denial. Every day I feel as though what I’m doing will never be enough.
But one by one, more people can help alter the culture we are in and inspire others to do the same.
These simple changes may not seem impactful, but it helps to use the same attitude used for years to reconcile the mass consumption of plastic. For years, I convinced myself that my plastic usage was insignificant because it was “just one cup” or “just one bag”. I said this to myself every week for years, and so did billions of others. It’s more than just one bag.
Over a lifetime, it adds up. It happened with plastic, and it can happen with the alternative.
Just as I saw a zero waste Instagram account and thought, “Wow, maybe I should change my actions too”, I hope you read this and think the same.
Maybe you’re already doing it. Maybe you’re doing more.
Wherever your mindset is at, I hope we can all gradually move towards a society that is considerate of the world we live in, and compassionate towards the place we have been lucky enough to live in.
Our earth has given us not only a place to live, but the resources to survive and thrive in it. It’s given us nearly everything it has, and now it’s our turn to give back.
It’s our turn to show the earth some of the love it’s shown us every day of our lives.