I had been thinking about what to write for this blog, and since I shared what I do for a living in my last blog, I thought I’d share something else about me in this blog. I’m not going to say that this is personal, because to me, this is real, and I am certainly not alone with feeling this way. My name is Chris, and I have eco-anxiety.
What is eco-anxiety? “Eco-anxiety refers to a fear of environmental damage or ecological disaster. This sense of anxiety is largely based on the current and predicted future state of the environment and human-induced climate change.” ¹ Yup, I am 100% willing to admit that I definitely have this fear. Yet, this fear is also what drives me to want to do more to make a more positive impact on our planet.
Why do I have eco-anxiety? In my opinion, I feel that I have this because of the amount of environmental education I have. Not just college education, but also the amount of environmental related articles I read, documentaries I watch, YouTube videos I become immersed with, and media stories I consume. Additionally, while I try not to let it bother me, the number of people who seem to detest environmentalism makes me bewildered. Who can honestly not care for the little blue spec where we live? Where all history, both natural and human has happened. To me, every person shares a responsibility that we need to treat this planet with more respect than we do.
What do I do about my eco-anxiety? I do what I can.
I remove as many invasive vegetation species as I can and plant many native vegetation species.
I volunteer for environmental improvement projects and environmental assessments.
- Regarding the climate, I pay $20 per month to a nonprofit which puts that money towards planting trees. This $20 per month lowers my personal carbon footprint by one ton per year, which isn’t much, but it’s something. I have investigated, (and will honestly probably start sometime this year) giving $50 monthly to another carbon offset program. Honestly, if you can afford it, I encourage everyone to participate in carbon offset programs. Start off by calculating your carbon footprint based on the vehicle you drive and the number of miles you average in a year and see if you can financially offset your carbon emissions from that. If you can afford to offset only a percentage of that, great! Something is better than nothing! As I mentioned, I too am only offsetting a portion of my annual carbon footprint… with a goal in mind that in hopefully five years I will be offsetting 100% of my carbon footprint. If you frequently fly, consider calculating your carbon footprint from your flights and pay to offset that. I completely understand that tree plantings are only a small portion of the answer to carbon offsetting. Investing in carbon offsetting programs that use mechanical trees which can sequester carbon dioxide is going to be a very huge piece of the puzzle to make sure our planet doesn’t go into the climate catastrophe where I fear we are headed.
- Additionally, regarding the climate, I also minimize the amount of beef and pork that I consume. I am not a vegetarian; however, I genuinely try to limit myself to only one meal of either of these meats a month. I was once successful over a period of a year of having beef only at four meals throughout the year and am absolutely going to try to aim to do this again for the remainder of my life. This too is quite tricky, specifically because I am not a vegetarian, and therefore don’t announce I am a vegetarian, therefore, at events where meat (for whatever reason) is expected to be a main part of the meal, people assume I am part of the population who wants to consume meat. Holidays such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Easter, Christmas, typically all involve Americans cooking up lots of meat. Not only is meat production very carbon dioxide intense, but the animals themselves contribute to high amounts of methane production – which “pound for pound, methane contributes 21 times the impact of carbon dioxide to global warming.” ²
Regarding minimizing plastic, this one has been tough, since it seems like everything comes in plastic. Since the beginning of 2022, I have been working towards minimizing my single-use plastic. I first started at the grocery store. I make sure to have my reusable bags in my car so when I make a run to a store, I am ready to say no to the single-use plastic bags. The easiest trick with this is, once you’re done putting your groceries or shopping items away, immediately put the reusable bags back into your car. It doesn’t matter if that’s an additional trip back to your car, because you will never have that feeling of “oh, I’m at the grocery store, but forgot my reusable bags at home” ever again! I also have been very diligent this year with using bar soap (that isn’t delivered wrapped in plastic) while in the shower and have been [mostly] using bar shampoo and conditioner. Additionally, I found an aftershave lotion which comes in a tin which can be recycled.
Regarding minimizing the use of palm oil is something else I do, however has also proven to be tricky because palm oil is in so many things. If you ever get a chance, hop on Google Earth and search or scroll to Borneo. Zoom in on the southwestern portion of the island. If you see rows and rows of planted trees, you’re looking at palm trees. These palm trees are grown for farming for the purpose of palm oil. “Palm oil is literally everywhere – in our foods, cosmetics, cleaning products and fuels. It’s a source of huge profits for multinational corporations, while at the same time destroying the livelihoods of smallholders. Displacement of indigenous peoples, deforestation and loss of biodiversity are all consequences of our palm oil consumption.” ³ Ultimately, do your best to not buy products that contain palm oil. This does take a lot of reading of ingredients, or just searching through the internet to find replacement products for things that do contain palm oil.
In any case, these are just a few of the things I do to help relieve me of my personal eco-anxiety. There is so much more that I can do to be a better steward of the planet. I am working to continue to find areas in my life where I can live a lifestyle that is more of an asset to the planet rather than one that degrades it.
Blog Author: Chris Vasco, Stormwater Specialist
1. Huizen, J. (2019, December 19). Eco-anxiety: What it is and how to manage it. Medical News Today. Retrieved June 13, 2022
2. Massey, R., & Ulmer, A. (2010, April 9). Pork production and greenhouse gas emissions. Retrieved June 13, 2022
3. Rainforest Rescue. (n.d.). Palm oil – deforestation for everyday products. Retrieved June 13, 2022