Opinion: New year gets off to fiery start and that fuels eco-anxiety

You could say we are roaring into the 2020s. The new year has been marked by the catastrophic bush fires currently raging in Australia. The images coming from down under look like the apocalypse, with fire tornadoes, thick smoke, burnt orange skies, children in gas masks, and heartbreaking images of dead and burnt animals. 

The images are surreal, it’s like a bad movie, and if we believe the climate experts, this is a wake-up call for the future. The delta is not immune to climate change and we see evidence of drought and flooding in our own community every summer.

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The Australian bushfire crisis is fuelling something else, our eco-anxiety. Yes, that is a real, albeit somewhat new, psychological condition that focuses on the fear of the environmental destruction of our planet. Like any anxiety disorder, it’s traumatic for those who suffer from it.

Eco-anxiety is more than choosing between paper and plastic, it’s the worry that everything we do is contributing to the demise of our world.

I have anxiety too. How do I change old habits and reduce my waste in an attempt to do my part for the planet? Experts say we don’t need a few people reducing their carbon footprint perfectly, we need a lot of people making small changes.

I am increasingly conscious of my choices but I have a confession: I have a Ziploc sandwich bag addiction that I don’t want to give up. It began when my children started school. Preparing daily lunches was easier when you could put everything in a convenient Ziploc bag. They’re the perfect size for carrot sticks, goldfish crackers, money, anything you can imagine. And that green and blue seal, well, it never lets you down.

I am slowly weaning myself off plastic, because we all have to, given our oceans will soon have more plastic in them than fish. I use beeswax wrappers, lily pads, reusable silicone food bags, cloth produce bags and glass. I try not use tin foil but failed miserably over the holidays.

I grew up in a time when shockingly we threw everything into one garbage can.  The only recycling I did was to return a few pop cans at the corner store for some Double Bubble. Thankfully we are no longer a throw-away society but we must consume less and reuse more.

Ease some of that eco-anxiety by getting educated. Start with learning what we can and can’t put in our blue boxes as it might dictate your shopping choices. Whenever I reach for a plastic product, I try to justify it, like my green dog poop bags, I just can’t imagine using paper.

Some good advice I got from an environmentalist: “Celebrate the wins, don’t be hard on yourself and try not to stress when you fail.” That’s a good new year’s resolution for everything in life.

Ingrid Abbott is a freelance broadcaster and writer who will miss funny paper hats and tiny toys at Christmas dinner after her family decided not to buy waste-producing Christmas crackers anymore.

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