How to deal with eco-anxiety

Gemma Styles spoke to PRUDENCE WADE about eco-perfectionism and the small changes she’s made in her own life
How to deal with eco-anxiety

Gemma Styles. Picture:PA Photo/Georgia Furness

PODCAST host Gemma Styles is well aware of the dopamine rush you can get from buying something new.

“It’s the reward system in our brain – sometimes you think, ‘Oh, I feel a bit sad today, I’ll buy something’ – you feel those wires ticking in your brain,” she said.

Styles – whose younger brother is pop star and former One Direction singer Harry Styles – now calls herself “a recovered fast fashion buyer”.

She said: “Several years ago, I would have been that person who [when] you’ve got a wedding to go to, you panic and don’t know what to wear, so you order seven dresses off ASOS, pick one and send the rest back. Now I’m like, absolutely not.”

The way she engages with fashion has “completely changed over the last few years”, and this is just one of the small changes Styles has made in her life to be more environmentally friendly.

Styles called these moves “empowering”, and added: “I feel like I’ve taken a lot more control over what I’m doing, and I can feel good about the choices that I’m making – as opposed to being in the dark about it, because I really didn’t know about a lot of this stuff, and a lot of the issues in fashion particularly.”

London-based Styles is best known for her podcast Good Influence – which has over 900k downloads – where she and her guests cover important topics such as mental health and feminism, and now she’s lending her voice to the first episode in a new environmental-focused series for Curio, called Planet For Tomorrow.

Gemma Styles. Picture: PA Photo/Georgia Furness
Gemma Styles. Picture: PA Photo/Georgia Furness

One of the topics she covers in her episode is eco-perfectionism. This is “the idea that you have to be a perfect environmentalist”, she explained, “And every decision you make has to be the best possible version of that decision at all times.”

Styles warns against the “gatekeep-y” nature of eco-perfectionism, as it doesn’t necessarily take into account personal circumstances – things like where you live, income, physical ability and more.

“It’s not very helpful for most people, because it’s a way of pushing people out of the movement and making them feel they’re not good enough – and that’s the absolute opposite of what we need to do.”

For Styles, “All good progress is good progress. You can only come to know things when you learn them – we don’t fall into the world knowing all of this stuff. So if you’re someone who’s just coming across this information, you don’t need to waste a whole heap of your time feeling super guilty about what you’ve done in the past.

“But what you can do is look now and think, OK, maybe that’s one thing I could change. And then when that thing sticks, maybe you’ll add something else, and add something else.

“Doing a complete lifestyle overhaul overnight, transforming into the absolute vision of the perfect person – that’s not really something I think is particularly possible for most people.”

Styles said she “for sure” suffers from eco-anxiety, particularly when she sees things like natural disasters on the news.

“It’s quite difficult to be an aware human being and participating in the world today and not feel at least a level of background worry or concern.”

These anxieties can revolve around different things: “Worrying whether you’re doing enough or whether you’re doing the right things, or whether the steps you’re taking are actually making a difference or not.”

When she experiences eco-anxiety, Styles said she looks to her community for help.

“Social media is an obvious place to start with that, because there are so many people doing such great work in this area, and things like podcasts,” she explained.

“Leaning into information, but in a positive way, rather than looking to add things that are going to overwhelm.

“Community and realising other people feel the same way, and listening to people who know what they’re talking about and can give you good information, [that will help you realise] there is still a lot of hope out there.”

Gemma Styles on eco-perfectionism is the first episode of four-part podcast series – Planet For Tomorrow, on Curio.

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