In 2012, it was reported that ‘green fatigue’ was the suspected cause of plummeting concerns surrounding industrial pollution, climate change, renewable energy, and the depletion of energy sources. A year later it was reported that green fatigue had officially set in, and that important green messages were being ignored. Another year later, in 2014, it was reported that green fatigue was the suspected cause for the lowest recycling rates in ten years.
What is green fatigue?
It can be tiring hearing the constant tales of impending global doom, and the actions you should be taking to reverse the damage. When people feel that their environmental efforts are irrelevant against the enormity of global climate change, it can obviously have a disheartening effect. The scale of actions you’re asked to take by green consumerism groups and businesses can sometimes seem so small that they appear meaningless. And as a result, it’s easy to turn your once active practices into a ‘why bother?’ attitude.
But these efforts aren’t meaningless. Every effort you make towards building a greener world makes some level of difference! It doesn’t matter what others are doing around you, it doesn’t matter what messages of doom are out there. What matters is that you trust that you are doing the right thing.
Still, we know it’s not always easy to stay motivated. So we’ve reached out to some great personalities in the environmental sustainability and social activism community, and asked them how they keep themselves motivated in times of green burnout.
So keep these words in mind next time you’re wondering whether there really is a point to your recycling and composting efforts.
“How do you manage to stay positive and enthused about living your ethical lifestyle?”
Tim Silverwood, co-founder at Take 3
“If I get overwhelmed I get straight back to the source of my inspiration… the ocean. It’s my mentor, my playground, and the reason I do what I do. I quickly remember why I’m doing all in my power to revert our polluting, wasteful ways. Without a healthy ocean there is no healthy ‘us’”.
“It is really hard to answer this, as this is exactly what it is – VERY HARD – to stay positive and enthused about living an ethical lifestyle! Running a not-for-profit organisation with all volunteers who mostly have regular jobs too, is super difficult. But on the upside we do manage, and – somehow – we keep going.
What motivates me is my incredible love for animals and my desire to relieve suffering and abuse to animals. I have lived and witnessed first-hand the very difficult lives many hundreds of animals endure in developing countries. After witnessing this, the images and experience stays with you for life . I also have daily contact by email with our partner groups so the stories and updates from them allows my desire to help keep going”.
Jon Dee, co-founder of DoSomething, host of Smart Money on Sky News Business Channel and Sky News Money, and 2010 Australian of the Year. Download his Energy Cut book for free here.
“Every day, 7 billion people on the planet make decisions that impact on the ability of the Earth to look after us all. At the moment, the decisions we collectively make lead to us using more resources than the Earth can spare.
As a result, whether we’re at home or at work, it’s vitally important that every decision we make as individuals is one that contributes to a more sustainable way of doing things. If we don’t, we will leave a world to our kids where they will not have the same quality of life that we currently enjoy.
That is what drives me to make my decisions as sustainable as possible. Every day I think about the impact our family will make and the impact it will have on my two daughters. What also excites and drives me is the ability to educate other people along the way as to how they can also reduce their impact”.
Justin Bonsey, founding director of Responsible Action Network, and currently driving Compost Revolution.
“After years of hard-fought campaigns, it’s essential to avoid burnout, as it’s very hard to recover once you’ve fallen off the edge, and it’s a short ride from there to nervous breakdown. No campaign is ever truly won or lost as political leaders are always changing.
While you get so much satisfaction from making the right decision for society and the planet, to avoid burnout it’s very important to celebrate the small victories along the way, do your research before buying into fads, learn to say no to overcommitment, and maintain a healthy life balance with enough sleep and exercise.
Living an ethical life isn’t always easy, but we really don’t have a choice. Every revolution needs leaders – we are those leaders for future generations”.
“Use all the passion you can muster, channel that into your cause, and collaborate with the best like-minded people you can while you have the energy… After that, sit back and assess if you still have the passion. If it’s yes, then keep going, but if the passion isn’t there then move on to something else… Passion is the key!”
What have we learned?
If you feel that you’re becoming overloaded with information, suggestions, and encouragement on how to make your lifestyle more environmentally friendly, prevent yourself from becoming disillusioned by considering the above advice and:
- Think about the long term;
- Understand that changing habits takes time;
- Don’t expect instant results;
- Celebrate the small (& big!) victories; and
- Get outdoors and enjoy nature whenever you can!
Polar explorer and environmentalist Robert Swan sums it up well:
“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”