Feeling Eco-Anxious?

I’ve written in the past about the intersection between naturopathic medicine and environmentalism. Specifically, about the importance of honouring sustainability as – without a healthy ecosystem – we truly have no medicine. As you may have noticed if you have read any of my other blogs, I value sustainability in naturopathic medicine and lifestyle. Perhaps a little too much. Let me explain.
When I lived in Vancouver, I was pleased by the infrastructure that allowed citizens to make more environmentally-sound choices: Soft plastic recycling, minimal packaging in the produce aisles, composting (oh, the composting!), textile recycling, freecycle groups in every neighbourhood, and of course the pedestrian lifestyle that they are well-known for. When the zero waste stores started to pop up, I was in all of my glory. Between the composting, soft plastic recycling and the capacity to refill my home goods thereby skipping unnecessary plastic containers, we produced one tiny bag of garbage every 3 weeks. You know that feeling when you’re in alignment with one of your values? Yeah, that.
When I had moved back to Regina, I will openly tell you all that I had a melt down at the grocery store. Everything was either in a net bag or wrapped in plastic that cannot be recycled in this city. And while this seems like a completely trivial thing to be concerned about (especially in a pandemic), those sweet potatoes in a netted bag were simply a symbol of the real problem: I was eco-anxious.
Eco-anxiety refers to persistent worries about the future of Earth and the life it shelters and it is becoming more and more common. It is near impossible to watch the news or listen to the radio without hearing of yet another natural disaster. From Greta Thunberg to fast fashion to the documentaries on Netflix opening our eyes to the drastic decline of diversity in the ecosystem, the message is clear: Our collective footprint is much, much too large. The consequences of our actions (or inaction) weighs heavily not only on the environment but also on each other both locally and globally.
It can be easy to disengage, numb or to bow out because you recycle especially if you are not in the eye of the next storm. Truthfully, looking closely at our damage to the earth is a difficult thing to do. Many folks are holding big questions and big feelings regarding reproduction, recycling and the impact of starting their car every day. And, so, the question becomes: What do we do about it?
Outside of all of the other ways that we can support the body as it experiences anxiety, the antidote is action. Although challenging, if we can shift our focus ever so slightly from the mass destruction on a global scale, we can make some space for our actions locally. Perhaps we can begin to acknowledge that less waste produced here makes a difference elsewhere. If you’re new to recycling, refilling, rehoming and rewilding, it can be daunting to know where to start. However, know that one small step is always enough. Little changes and big changes are all radical in the end. Here are some ways in which you can step into caring for this earth:
  •  Consider your own personal Buy Nothing [except food and necessities!] project for 30 days, 60 days, 1 year. These types of projects encourage you to ask the question “do I really need it?” and to get creative all while establishing a community built on sharing.
  • Lobby for city-wide composting and soft plastic recycling.
  • Skip unnecessary plastic bottles and refill your home cleaning goods and body care products at our local refill stores.
  • Do your best to find produce that is not packaged. Once the Farmer’s Market is back up and running, find your produce there; support local and skip the plastic.
  • Purchase meat wrapped in paper vs. cartons wrapped in plastic
  • Make your own milk and/or juice to avoid tetrapaks
  •  For menstruating folx, opt for diva cups, period underwear and/or biodegradable period products
  • Host clothing swaps
And if you’re feeling doom and gloom about the future, that is okay. In fact, it is a completely valid feeling. The take away from this blog cannot be “folks, it’s going to be okay!” because I think we all know by now, we’ve long surpassed that idealistic notion. However, I take deep peace in knowing this: Mother nature was totally fine long before us and she will be fine long after us. What happens to humankind in the process…well, that’s up to us.
Places to go for more support:
A Guide to Eco-Anxiety: How to Protect the Planet and Your Mental Health – Anouchka Grose
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