The headline on the front page of the Albuquerque Journal screamed, “Eco-Anxiety May Be Getting You Down.” The article went on to describe the symptoms of anxiety experienced by many people as they contemplate the fate of the environment and the resulting specialty of a Santa Fe therapist who is specializing in eco-therapy.
If I think about the political will to make significant policy changes to protect the planet, I feel hopeless and can become depressed. However, if I focus on what I can do, I become energized.
It seemed a good time to take stock of my ‘resolutions to save the earth.’ As the year rolled into 2007, I pledged to take two steps to do my part to combat greenhouse emissions: 1) Reduce my use of plastic bags and 2) Use less gasoline and natural gas.
While I have been religious about combining errands to limit my driving, I have been less successful with walking. I have walked the three blocks to Staples when I needed a new printer cartridge rather than waiting for my next trip out; however, it has been easier to just postpone most trips until another day.
I got through the winter with my daytime thermostat set at 65 degrees, and have replaced my dishwasher and refrigerator with energy efficient models. In addition, prompted by one of my readers, I have replaced incandescent bulbs with low-energy fluorescents ones.
My attack on plastic bags has been rather successful. I have been using my cloth bags more consistently. When purchasing items that I can easily carry out without a bag, I am quick to educate the shocked clerk when I request no bag. When I pick up my Los Poblanos produce, I can put most items in my cloth bag just they way they are. However, when I shop for produce at a grocery store, there doesn’t seem to be a way to purchase 2 lemons or 6 apples without using a plastic bag. When I scoop my bulk rice, nuts and granola into recyclable plastic bags, I reason that it is using fewer resources than purchasing them in a package.
What frosts me is that I must take the bags to Wal-Mart to be recycled. If I shopped at Wal-Mart, it wouldn’t be so bad; however, shopping at most big box stores goes against my eco-grain. In California, legislation went into effect July 1 that requires all grocery stores to accept and recycle plastic bags and encourage the use of reusable bags. While most cities do not accept plastic bags in their curbside recycling, there are a handful of communities, including Seattle, WA that have added this item to their list of recyclables.
In a recent article, “Paper, Plastic or Prada?,” Time Magazine reported on a recent trend in designer shopping totes, including a $15 one by Anya Hindmarch that announces, “I’m NOT a Plastic Bag.” The article goes on to state that when they were released worldwide, they were so popular that shoppers in Hong Kong created a near-riot in their attempt to purchase the limited edition tote – ironically causing the store to “triple-wrap them in plastic bags in an effort to keep their new owners from being mugged on their way home.” Shoppers in Ireland, which instituted a 20 cent a bag “plastax,” camped out to get a Hindmarch bag.
In a side bar, Time provided plastic bag statistics. The average family of four in the United States uses approximately 1,460 bags in a year. It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce the 88.5 billion plastic bags consumed in the U.S. each year. Less than 1% of these bags are recycled.
Santa Fe therapist, Melissa Pickett recommends dealing with eco-anxiety through meditation “or carrying a rock in your pocket – to remind you of a connection with nature…”
I prefer the view of Mardy Murie, the ‘mother’ of the environmental movement, as reported by Terry Tempest Williams in her book The Open Space of Democracy. “Give yourself the adventure of doing what you can do, with what you have, even if you have nothing but the adventure of trying. How much better than standing in a corner with your back to the wall.”