This guest blog post was written by Hannah Moskowitz, Sustainability Director for RTS and Zero Waste. She is responsible for ensuring quality data; implementing new and refining existing processes; and overseeing the hiring, training, and managing of the data analysis team. Hannah has served as Sustainability Director since January 2022 and built her expertise of RTS’s technology and approach through her prior role as Sustainability and Sales Operations Manager. Hannah holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.A. in Environmental Resource Policy from The George Washington University, and participated in The Green Program at the Iceland School of Energy at Reykjavik University. She is also LEED AP O+M accredited and TRUE Advisor certified.
As Mother Nature continues to remind us that the environment is in danger, many people are beginning to suffer from stress and anxiety as they worry about the changing planet. The fear that humanity is not doing enough puts high levels of fear about the fact that Planet B does not exist.
Fortunately, eco-anxiety does not need to rule your life. Instead, you can calm your fears and make the world a better place to live. Practicing sustainable activities can help the planet and make a small dent in the climate crisis. Hopefully, your reaction to the environment will encourage others to do the same.
What Is Zero Waste Lifestyle?
One of the best ways to manage eco-anxiety is to live a zero waste lifestyle. While this isn’t an overnight project, knowing what is zero waste can help you feel in control of your home and the impact you have on the environment. Zero waste living does not harm, especially since you reuse everything and let nothing go to waste. Ideally, you’ll be able to remove all the trash cans from your home. Before you make lifestyle changes, learning about eco-anxiety is also helpful.
What Is Eco-Anxiety?
Anxiety is the sensation of unease and fear. You might experience dread that causes your heart rate to climb and sweat to build. The reaction is normal, especially in stressful situations. But anxiety can become a disorder when it impacts how you live your life.
If you are experiencing eco-anxiety, you get the same symptoms, but they pop up when you start to worry about the fate of the environment. The symptoms surrounding eco-anxiety include:
- Feeling on edge
- Struggling to focus
- Feeling irritable
- Avoiding social events
The physical responses to eco-anxiety are similar to those during anxiety attacks. Along with the racing heartbeat, you might also experience:
- Muscle aches
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach problems
Engaging in beneficial activities like moving to a zero-waste lifestyle can soothe your anxiety and help you relax more frequently. If you participate in eco-groups, you can share your experience of zero waste living with others to learn from and motivate each other. Sharing your way of life with others can make an impact that can further reduce your eco-anxiety symptoms.
Shifting to a Zero Waste Lifestyle
Impatience can increase your eco-anxiety, so you must be patient with yourself as you make the changes. Remember that each little step helps the environment. The small steps turn into large ones, but it takes time to accomplish these goals. Learning anything new takes time. Dramatically altering your lifestyle will involve successes and failures that could bring you down.
If you are struggling with more failures, take a small break to focus on something else. You don’t have to do everything perfectly (the desire for perfection is why so many people struggle with anxiety). Your goal is to achieve a zero waste lifestyle eventually, not overnight, not in a week, and probably not in a year. You’ll need time.
When you become frustrated, take a pause. There is nothing wrong with stepping away from environmental worries and enjoying something else. Eat healthy food, spend time with friends, or watch a favorite streaming show. After your break, you’ll feel better and more focused to continue making the world a better place.
Steps to Living a Zero Waste Lifestyle
The first steps to living a zero waste lifestyle include changing your mindset, then refraining from using single-use plastics. Once you’ve become comfortable using that, you can add more changes, especially when you go to the grocery store. Bring your bags and start buying food without packaging.
A benefit of living a zero waste lifestyle is eating healthier food. If you stop buying pre-packaged food in plastic, you will end up with more whole foods like produce and bulk items that you can put in your own storage containers. Bring reusable food wrap for your meat and fish. You can purchase eggs from local farmers so you don’t have to worry about throwing away egg cartons. However, you can reuse egg cartons from the grocery store, as the little cups make great containers for other items.
Zero Waste Clothing Changes
When you switch to a zero waste lifestyle, you’ve got to change your mindset about buying, wearing, and disposing your clothing as well. It’s best to stop buying fast fashion since it wears out quickly and often ends up in landfills. The best way to reduce your clothing waste is to wear the clothes you have and to repair them when they get holes.
Buying clothes from thrift stores is a fantastic way to reduce waste. You can also find a way to reuse your old clothes in new ways. The internet is full of great ideas for repairing and reusing clothing. You can also barter and trade with other people living zero waste lifestyles. Many communities have tool libraries so people don’t buy new items. When you purchase new clothing, choose brands that use sustainable practices and products that you can wear for many years. Finally, you can change your life by purchasing a sewing machine and learning how to use it to repair your clothing and turn old pieces into refashioned ones. This way, you’ll reduce waste while learning a valuable new skill.
Support Zero Waste Brands
As you make more zero waste changes, look for brands with zero waste or low waste policies. Try to support brands that do not use plastic in their packaging. You might find companies that do not use packaging, and you’ll find companies that use reusable glass jars or recyclable packaging like cardboard or paper. There are more of these types of businesses every year, and they are often small-scale and local.