How I’ve Come To Reconcile My Eco-Guilt

How I've Come To Reconcile My Eco-Guilt

Under Pressure

Adapting your life to live more sustainably isn’t always easy, and it’s certainly not always convenient. You’re not alone in the struggle! I can’t even calculate the amount of time I’ve spent at grocery stores trying to pick the lesser evil item. Mounting eco-guilt and the feeling that no matter the decision, it won’t be the “right” one is tough. It’s definitely a conversation worth having.

Even though I’ve tried to make a number of sustainable swaps at home, unfortunately the sustainable option isn’t always easily available. And contrary to what large-scale companies would have us believe, we can’t always blame the consumer for buying things that are destined for landfills.

We've all suffered from the horrors of too much packaging. Despite the eco-guilt, it's not your fault!
We’ve all suffered from the horrors of too much packaging. Despite the eco-guilt, it’s not your fault! [Image: Christian Erfurt/Unsplash].

Breaking Habits

At first, little changes like buying a reusable straw can seem super easy and effortless. After global attention on the plight of sea turtles, I was happy to see reusable straws as waste-free options all over the place. But not every sustainable option has its time to shine on TikTok or Instagram.

As a result, some sustainable options can go unnoticed and seem hard to find. It can be really daunting to have to track down a bunch of items online. Or to investigate obscure local shops to reduce your ecological footprint. It’s hard to be in a grocery store and not grab the essentials then and there. Especially when it’s all so conveniently available! “Paper towels? Might as well grab ‘em, they’re on my way to the pasta aisle anyway! Come to think of it, we’re out of cling film too!”. 

Turtles when the world joined forces to save their little noses from plastic straws.
Turtles when the world joined forces to save their little noses from plastic straws.

Reminder: It’s Okay That You’re Not Perfectly Zero-Waste

Frankly, there are times when I’m just feeling too tired or lazy to strive for low waste. It can be genuinely harder to motivate myself to make the extra trip to the zero-waste store. It does take more effort than simply grabbing the disposable version while I’m at the grocery store. I’m currently postponing refilling my dish soap and resisting the urge to buy a big bottle of Dawn.

But lately, whenever I buy single-use items or put anything in the garbage, I feel immensely guilty. I never thought a pack of sponges could make me doubt myself so much! Sometimes, I notice it really affects my mood when I don’t make the most sustainable choice. It shouldn’t be this way, but eco-guilt is real!

I have to remind myself that:

1) The weight of the world is not solely on my shoulders and,

2) It’s not our fault that sustainable options aren’t more accessible to us!

If every major grocery store were to start offering beeswax wraps right next to the cling film, and Swedish cloths next to the paper towels, it could make the switch to sustainability so much easier!

Eco-guilt can be a real downer, but only if you let it!
Eco-guilt can be a real downer, but only if you let it!

Accessibility is 🔑

Now, I’m not saying I don’t love smaller stores that offer a plethora of eco-friendly household items (♪ “Ooh, Heaven is a place on Earth” ♫). But, sometimes these smaller businesses can be harder to access and people either postpone their next visit, or, they never visit them in the first place. Imagine how many people would hop on board the sustainability movement if every sustainable product was offered as widely as reusable straws!

It can feel like we’re being set up for failure when grocery stores make non-sustainable objects so convenient (and affordable). I’ve experienced feeling like I’m never doing enough for the planet. It’s discouraging to feel like if I don’t eliminate every single-use item in my household, I’m somehow failing those sweet little turtles. But that’s the thing – we don’t need the whole world to be doing zero-waste perfectly.

Non-paper towels are a great way to reduce waste in the kitchen.
Non-paper towels are a great way to reduce waste in the kitchen! Click the pic for more sustainable kitchen tips. [Image: Marleys Monsters].

Small Switches Lead to Big Changes

What we need is a bunch of people making small changes in their lives. It adds up! Simply making the effort to reduce your own waste does have an effect. Imagine the positive environmental impact if every household were to choose one single-use item to eliminate from their routine. For example, switch paper towels, or synthetic sponges for a sustainable, reusable alternative! Collective action clearly makes a difference, but it does start with each of us.

Go easy on yourself. Whatever you do today, let it be enough.
Although the source for this expression is unknown (it’s been said countless times), it’s often equated with buddhism.

Give Yourself a Break

In our consumption-driven culture, we can’t blame ourselves for not making all of the “right” choices. Even if people want to make the switch, there is still the hurdle of access to sustainable choices. It’s up to large chain grocery stores to buy sustainable items from local vendors to offer to consumers.

One thing we can do is hold corporations responsible for causing this eco-guilt. Invest in companies that pledge to reduce their environmental impact. Sign petitions demanding that corporations be held responsible for their actions.

Don’t let eco-guilt discourage you from living a more sustainable life. It’s okay if you need to use disposable sponges, or if your toilet paper isn’t being traded for a bidet. You’re doing your best, and that’s enough.

Editing by Megan Fuller.

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