Are You an Eco-Warrior or Eco-Worrier?
I needed some new clothes; I try to avoid fast fashion and buy second hand a lot but this time I wanted something new to wear. I thought H&M Conscious would be a good bet — I mean, it has ‘conscious’ in the name so it must be ethical. But a quick google search told me I was wrong, and another shop was crossed off my eco-friendly list.
According to Norway’s consumer watchdog, it turns out H&M Conscious range makes unsupported and vague claims about the manufacturing of their products, and their promotional material misleads buyers — it isn’t nearly as environmentally friendly as the brand comes across.
This is an example of ‘green-washing’, something more and more brands are doing. They attract consumers by making unsubstantiated and misleading claims about the environmental benefits of their products.
I felt like I couldn’t win; being eco-friendly and sustainable is getting more and more confusing as a consumer. We’re bombarded with labels, slogans, and advice telling us to shop here or do that to help the environment, but it’s all so contradictory, expensive, and inaccessible! It seems it’s almost impossible to be a perfect eco-warrior.
I care deeply about sustainability and I try to be environmentally friendly when I can; I eat a plant-based diet, I try to shop ethically, and I buy second hand most of the time. But, like most people, I often get it wrong. Sometimes I forget to recycle or get transport somewhere I could have walked. I can’t always resist the sales or the temptation of take-out food in lots of packaging.
I’ve found myself resisting talking about the topic of sustainability more and more in fear of being seen as a hypocrite, or finding out more ways I’ve got it wrong. And whenever I do talk to about sustainability, I hedge it with a disclaimer of the non-eco-friendly choices I’ve made that day. I feel guilty and like nothing I am doing is good enough.
In short, I’m an eco-worrier.
I’m using the term someone who cares deeply about environmental issues but constantly feels like they just can’t get it right. And I’m not the only one. Psychology Today describes the feelings of guilt over our own carbon footprint, and the sense of dread and helplessness over the current climate crisis. This fear of getting it wrong is stopping us from learning more ways to get it right and demotivates people from caring for the planet when every option seems hopeless.
When the shops aren’t selling us what they’re telling us, and the information we’re receiving doesn’t add up, we need more than ever to support each other and motivate ourselves to continue doing our bit. We need to praise people for making the effort to be eco-friendlier, and advise each other rather than cause more confusion. Let’s remember that every individual action does have an impact, and use newfound knowledge about how to help the environment as a source for action, rather than guilt.
Eco-worriers, we’re not guilty — we’re just learning.