Suffering with ‘Environmental Guilt’

Do you feel it? That overwhelming weight of guilt that falls through your stomach? The guilt I’ve accidentally trained myself to feel every time I knowingly act against the environment. It’s a horrible moment, watching the plastic wrapper of my empty crisp packet flutter to the bottom of the general waste bin in my office. ‘Eco-Anxiety’ is the talk of the town in many places at the moment, so what is it that makes us feel this way? Along with my own, I asked the world of Instagram for their thoughts…

1. ‘Taking Flight’

How can we resist the urge to jump on-board of a budget airline ticket to some sun soaked paradise outside of our homes? Especially when Ryanair offer £5 flights on cyber Monday. Taking to the skies for holidays has got to be one of the hardest guilt’s to deal with and @titterly_ knows all about it. There is no way we can deny the fact that we all ‘need a holiday’ at some point or other and the likes of Ryan Air and EasyJet have made that more than easy for us. Yet flying is one of the biggest global CO2 producers, and according to the Guardian, ‘taking one long-haul flight generates more carbon emissions than the average person in dozens of countries around the world produces in a whole year’. I don’t know about you, but walking down the boarding bridge feels like a walk of shame to me.

Solution: For those of you who can’t avoid the big wings for work, how about encouraging your employer to sign up to a fee pilot scheme; offering the employee to take two extra ‘travel days’ for trains, busses and ferry’s instead of flying!

2. ‘The Excessive Soak’

Again, we’ve all been there, sodden and damp from the winter walk home with only the thought of a warm shower in our head. Five more minutes won’t hurt, right? Along with @Katannephotography’s tooth-brushing-tap-running dilemma, @rachaelreid came up with this one and I couldn’t agree more. These may not seem like much but a study myself and a group of classmates did at University discovered that running the shower for just five minutes wasted 60 litres of water; that’s 106 pints of beer worth. Perhaps a more legitimate study found that a 10 minute power shower uses 180 litres of water.

Solution: Turn the tap of while your brushing your teeth; it saves more water than you’d think. As for showers, maybe think about setting a timer so you know your cut off point.

3. ‘The Kettle Conundrum ‘

If I had a pound for every time I have witnessed myself or someone else re-boil the kettle for their heart warming brew, I would likely have enough money to solve climate change by now. Being English, I know all about the genuine need for a cup of tea; it may even trump the ‘need for a holiday’ from time to time. But the kettle is a surprising dark horse in the world of energy use. In fact, watching your TV for 12 hours could use less energy than boiling a full kettle just once. Seems crazy right? Even after the kettle has reached its 100°C it continues to boil for a short time, wasting yet more finite energy.

Solution: It’s an easy one guys, keep an eye on your kettle, don’t over fill it and if you’re really advanced, turn it off before it’s even finished boiling.

4. ‘Wheels over Heels’

@levi_privatexo pled guilty to charges of driving a 15 minute walk to the shops. But honestly, I feel like half the country is guilty of this. I don’t think I need to remind you of how much driving contributes to global CO2 levels, but let’s just also weigh in how fantastic walking is for the soul and mental health. Plus… it saves money and that seems to be the deal maker these days.

Solution: Try and cap yourself at a certain distance. For example, only let yourself drive if it takes longer than 30 minutes to walk.

5. ‘Office Blues’

Offices are unfortunate hubs for environmental issues, from single use plastic to constant computer use and excessive paper hoarding. It’s hard to keep track of things when there are so many heads to count. @levi_privatexo owned up to sometimes printing more copies than they need, whilst @emily.fuller.14 admitted she struggles to read through a document unless it’s printed.

Honestly, having been a student, I get this. One minute we’re told screens are damaging and should be avoided as much as possible, and the next that printing is severely damaging to our precious forests and biodiversity; both of which could not be truer. But did you know that paper use not only affects our forests and carbon sinks, it also actually takes 1/2 a litre of water to produce just one sheet of A4 paper, meaning that paper use covers almost all bases of environmental issues.

Solution: I am fortunate to work in the Environment and Sustainability Institute, meaning that I rarely witness paper-over use from my desk, but if your guilt is becoming too heavy the WWF offers some great ways to save paper in your office here.

6. ‘Lights, action & turn them off…’

Leaving lights on has got to be one of my biggest pet hates- but we can all forget every now and again if we’re not ‘switched on’. The fact is, something as small as leaving a light on for longer than you need it not only adds up in money, but can also equate to a large environmental impact. Scarily, if you are using 60-Watt light bulbs, only 10% of their energy outage produces light whilst the other 90% is wasted on heat. That’s a lot of unnecessary energy and money use if you ask me. Thanks for this one @levi_privatexo, a lot of people are guilty of this but don’t know it!

Solution: Two easy solutions folks; turn them off and use energy saving bulbs.

7. ‘Not-so-pretty-packaging’

You’re not alone @pyneography, so much of our shopping is done online now that packaging is becoming one of the biggest problems for the world of single us plastic. Many brands try and squish this issue by using recyclable or re-usable packing. Yet there are still many retail giants avoiding the problem all together. But how can we resist when the click of a button can offer us free next day delivery on our not-so-needed favourite clothes and gadgets?

Solution: Until companies change their ways, boycott them and let your money do the talking; buy local or in charity shops and avoid packaging all together, or research your consumption and chose sustainable brands. I might be bias, but Passenger Clothing are a pretty excellent choice…

8. ‘A Guilt ridden Google’

Ok, here’s one you may not have heard of. Processing the on-average 3.5 billion global Google searches a day equates to 40% of all internet emissions. Confusing right? How does the ‘imaginary cloud’ end up producing physical emissions? @vickcornock brought this one up and it definitely needs to be spoken about as so many of us Google our way through the day! To process your data and searches, Google uses mass industrial equipment burning piles of fossil fuels to do so. According to the Guardian, emissions produced by Google are ‘slightly higher than the country of Laos in south-east Asia and equivalent to the UN’s operational footprint’. Artists Joana Moll has created a Google-carbon calculator to highlight its impact and it’s well worth a visit.

Solution: To avoid your Google guilt, try tapping out and use websites such as Ecosia the ‘tree planting search engine’ instead.

9. ‘The curse of the plastic bottle’

The icon of single use plastic imagery; the plastic bottle, followed closely by the similarly sinister plastic straw and cotton bud. Quite honestly, I’m not even sure how plastic bottles are still able to exist with the impact that they are having on our marine life. @james_hooper_photography and @amelia._louise were brave enough to admit something we’ve all done… the dreaded ‘I forgot my water bottle and now I need to buy one’ moment. I feel horrendous every time I dispose of a plastic item, with thoughts of plastic filled tropical sanctities and Justin Hofman’s famous seahorse image running through my mind. How can we avoid this? When the world offers no other option, it’s hard to avoid a guilty purchase. Surfers Against Sewage revealed that ‘In 1950, the world’s population of 2.5 billion produced 1.5 million tons of plastic; in 2016, a global population of more than 7 billion people produced over 320 million tons of plastic. This is set to double by 2034’. We are part of that population and part of the statistic. Yet it is still so easy to forget.

Solution: We can do our best to make sure we carry our own bottle and invest in our re-usable coffee cups, but like so many of our problems, the solution is found within the producer; take away the plastic bottle entirely and we have no choice but to remember our own.

10. ‘Hope for Hobbies’

Now hobby guilt definitely varies entirely between different people, but I was interested to see @wayfarer_kat describe her guilt when using artist’s equipment and ozone damaging chemicals. While @jake_watershed_brand showed his guilt in his love for cars. No one should have to feel guilty about their passion, but I can understand why. With my passion lying with travel, it is so difficult to avoid transport emissions. So what have you done to help? I want to hear your ideas… what have you done to change the way you enjoy your time?

All in all, I hope that it has been useful and made you realise that you are not alone in your environmental guilt; those of us who are aware all prick our ears up at the same things. It is often about the small actions, turning the light off, not filling up the kettle too full or choosing to walk over driving that will help our world keep ticking round within its ecological boundaries. To know that we are guilty is something to be proud of; change starts with knowledge and we are moving in the right direction.

One Reply to “Suffering with ‘Environmental Guilt’”

  1. I use wrapping paper again, I do not buy any plastic bags or bottles. We recycle all we can but we need to live, so us as individuals who do our best should not feel bad. We don’t waste any food, I only buy what we really need. It is materialistic people, & corporates who should be shamed. The governments who do not act. Excellent article Lydia xx

    Liked by 1 person

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