More than ever before, the start of 2021 has got me (and I believe most of us) wondering : How can I be better, do better, for the planet and for those around me?
At the same time, in a world where a COVID pandemic runs rampant, facing yet another global crisis – such as climate change – can feel vastly overwhelming.
Thinking about the state of our environment can be stressful even on a good year – a 2019 research by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) showed that 4 in every 5 young people were worried about climate change.
According to participants, the worst part about the situation was the sense of helplessness it elicited.
Feeling helpless is something we can all relate to after 2020.
And yet, it is exactly in hard times like these that environmentalism can help us feel better.
While eco activism can feel like yet another thing to worry about, research shows that the benefits of being environmentally active can outweigh the negative impact of eco-anxiety.
In other words, by facing the problem we can help not only the planet, but also ourselves.
This is an idea that has plenty of not only scientific, but anecdotal evidence as well. I have experienced it first-hand, and have seen it change the lives of those around me.
It’s one of the core principles behind our work at TBYW – which is why I reached out to members of our community to ask about their experience.
From inspiration to healthy eating to socializing, here are some of the ways in which environmentalism has changed their lives – and how it might improve yours, too.
It gives you more agency
Research shows that activist behaviors – such as protesting against climate change – can help you feel more motivated and in control.
This is something that Alena Wagner, a Humanities student at the Amsterdam University College, knows from personal experience. Prior to the COVID pandemic, Alena frequently participated in climate marches.
Reflecting on her experience, she says: “Bigger actions like protest give you a sense of purpose and, if it works well, less of a feeling of powerlessness.”
Luckily for anyone who isn’t ready to go out protesting just yet (or for those of us stuck at home during lockdown), these benefits can apply to non-activist behavior as well.
You can get a similar sense of empowerment by simply making more eco-friendly choices in your everyday life. These can vary from recycling to sustainable shopping to following a plant-based diet.
“No matter how I feel at a certain moment in time, being vegan is always there to make me feel better about that one part of my life that is environmentalism,” 19-year-old UvA student Miriam Idris says.