Climate anxiety: what it is and 30 ways to manage it

What is climate anxiety?

You know the crushing feeling of knowing climate change is getting worse but feeling like you're too small to do anything about it? Yup, that's climate anxiety, also known as eco-anxiety. Alex Goldman from Reply All calls this feeling "impotent rage" and it cracked me up because it was so true.

As someone who's quite literally too small to do a lot of things, I'd like to offer solutions and optimism! I wish I could wave a magic wand and make this problem go away for you, but until then, here's 100 things that may be able to help.

If any of these resonate with you or if you have suggestions, please reach out. I promise I'll reply.

Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

💌 Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 7,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar,
Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter." - Meghan Mehta, Google

30 ways to cope with climate anxiety

  1. Take action by signing up for Changeletter (that's our newsletter)!

    Of course, I have to start by encouraging you to join our Changeletter. Every week, we send you bite-sized action plans to be more sustainable. The most common feedback we get from our lovely readers is that it makes them feel like part of a solution and it balances serious subjects with lighthearted and fun writing. Join us here!

  2. Alleviate your fears with The Climate Journal Project

    The Climate Journal Project provides a space, practice and journal to help alleviate environmental anxiety & fears. They provided guided reflections and challenges and it's a wonderful community if you're looking for support, quiet introspection, and healing. Just looking at their worksheets and journals makes me feel better already.

  3. Read All We Can Save and join a Circle

    We need optimism and solutions, and that's what All We Can Save offers. The book offers "provocative and illuminating essays from women at the forefront of the climate movement who are harnessing truth, courage, and solutions to lead humanity forward."

    I haven't joined one of their Circles yet, but I've only heard good things on community-building and finding a path forward. Put it on your reading list!

  4. Join a community that only requires one hour of action

    You can be a part of Climate Changemakers and take part in their weekly hour of action. That's all it takes to make lasting policy change! I'll see you there — I'm part of the group too.

  5. Join a community that helps you work on climate solutions

    If you're looking for a new job or trying to understand the climate space better, join Work on Climate. Industry professionals, activists, organizers, and people newer to the space all hang out there and share their journeys and resources! I'll see you there as well. I'm addicted to meaningful online communities, as you can tell.

  6. Plan your meals every week

    Solving food waste/loss is arguably the most impactful climate solution. It's also something we have a lot of control over! If you're optimizing for convenience, Ends+Stems can help you out.

  7. Stop wasting food

    Seriously. Start noticing what you throw out. I used to think I was pretty good about not wasting food, but then I started realizing that I never ate my bread butts. I never finished the whole bag of arugula. And I'd forget about my milk!

    We have some tips on food waste including a calendar reminder to organize your fridge every two weeks here. We usually eat what we see, so my first step is keeping all my groceries visible.

  8. Compost

    I love composting because I feel like I'm connected to the solution — I can see how many veggie peels go in the compost instead of ending up in landfill.

    If you live in an urban city with a composting service, USE IT! All you need is a little compost bin to get started, and if you get one with a charcoal filter, it won't stink up your place. (I just moved cities so I actually don't even have a little compost bin — I just grab handfuls of produce and throw them in my municipal bin. Wouldn't really recommend that, though.)

    You can also start a backyard compost if that's an option.

    Finally, if your city doesn't have a municipal composting program, contact an official to see if you can get one started — that can be one of the highest-impact changes you make!

  9. Join your local Buy Nothing group

    I can't believe I didn't know about this till 2020, but the Buy Nothing project is AMAZING! It's a hyperlocal network of neighbors giving stuff they no longer need. I've taken <15 minute walks around my neighborhood and picked up chairs, coffee tables, a nice bookshelf, a desk, kitchenware and more for free! Fighting climate anxiety, for me, has to include fun and joy. That's what Buy Nothing has given me.

    You could also try FreeCycle, Craigslist, FB marketplace, OfferUp, and more to get secondhand stuff for cheap/free.

  10. Support your local Tool Library or get one started near you

    I actually didn't know about tool libraries until 2021, but many cities have neighborhood hubs where you can borrow tools like pressure washers and more! I found out that there's one only a few blocks from me supported entirely through donations and city grants.

    There's a lot of documentation on how to start one and I think it's a wonderful way to reduce waste while participating in your community.

  11. Buy a reusable water bottle

    If you have climate anxiety, you probably do this already, but I know so many folks in my own life that care deeply about the environment while their families binge single-use water bottle Costco packs.

    If that's you and your fam, buy them a reusable water bottle as a gift. People don't always like talking about climate change, but they love getting gifts!

  12. Cut out single-use plastic as much as you can

    Identify the #1 thing you use single-use plastic for. Mine was saran wrap. Now, eliminate or substitute it. I started using Tupperware and realized I barely needed food wrap for anything!

    If you need more ideas on cutting out plastic, here's a list of 18 facts and tips.

  13. Electrify your hometown

    According to Rewiring America, ~40% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from what's in our homes and garages. Right now, it can be costly and tedious, but it doesn't have to be! All you have to do right now is share a story or take a survey about your efforts to go green, and they'll help you from there. Check it out.

  14. Participate in local government

    Global problems like climate change often require local solutions. Things like plastic bag bans, electrification, water management, and more happen on a local level. Check if your city has a sustainability committee and show up to meetings. If not, show up to general city council meetings — even once a month is great!

    This is one of the MOST high-leverage ways you can make a difference since you'll affect so many folks outside your household. The first step for me was following my city officials on Twitter, and now I know which meetings I need to show up to so I can make my voice heard.

  15. Book ProPublica's tracker on environmental bills

    You can use ProPublica's tracker to see environmental legislation relevant to your area. I check it monthly to see if there's anything I should know about/contact my rep about.

  16. Divest from Big Oil

    If you invest in the stock market, go through your portfolio and pull out money from big banks and oil companies.

  17. Invest sustainably with Carbon Collective

    Navigating the stock market can be difficult especially if, like me, you rely on robo-advisors that care about portfolio growth and not the planet. Thankfully, Carbon Collective does both! Their investment calculator shows that they can outperform traditional funds while putting your money into stuff that makes the earth happy. I really like their transparency - you can see their portfolio and methodology on their website and decide for yourself.

    I also interviewed their co-founder, Zach Stein, because I had a bunch of questions for them — if you're not sure how you feel about new investment tools, check out our interview. Like me, you'll probably be convinced to make the switch.

  18. Switch your bank with Mighty Deposits

    I personally still rely on Chase for my credit card, but I'm optimistic every day that there'll be a better alternative. I have my bank accounts in non-corporate institutions, though, and I used Mighty to find a bank that aligned with my values. I settled on NCB Coop because it had a 1% APY, which made me MORE money than I was making with my existing savings plan and it invests funds into community housing. It's a win-win!

    The whole thing took ~10 min from research to setting up an account.

  19. Help out with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at your company

    Does your company have a social responsibility program? Ask how you can get involved or start an initiative yourself. Here's what you could copy + paste in an email: "Hi, my name is X and I'm interested in making [our company] more sustainable. Do we have any sustainability targets for the next few years? I'd love to learn how I can get involved!"

  20. Hold your company accountable

    Companies often make sweeping claims for PR that they hope won't get fact checked (see Emily Atkin's thoughts on Jeff Bezos's $10M climate pledge that later came true). If your company promised change, follow up.

    Email your head of HR with something like this after introducing yourself: "In [X month], our company committed [$Y] to combatting [issue]. I was proud of our pledge for a better world and I wanted to follow up to see what steps we've taken and how I can help out. Can I get an update on our progress and what still needs to get done?"

    If you work for a large corporation, it's also worth digging into your PAC (political action committees). My old company had one and I had no idea it funneled money into backing Ted Cruz and other anti-climate legislators! I followed up and learned these contributions were individually funded, not funded through employee revenue, but it made me realize I could have asked about how to do something similar for candidates I cared about. Especially since our company had ~500,000 employees I could lean on!

  21. Use gifting as a way to heal the climate

    For family and friends who care less about climate change than I do, I've been sneakily buying them stuff that makes their lives easier, keeping my mouth shut about sustainability and talking instead about aesthetics or cost. I'll throw in sustainability as a perk at the end, and I've found it's a good way to start off on common ground.

    Some ideas are cute compost bins, bamboo utensils, reusable straws, and food storage containers. We also have a list of 50 eco-friendly gifts here. If you're leaning towards something more gift-y than kitchen stuff, you can check out the GlobeIn Mavens Community where people swap second-hand artisan items that are ethically made.

  22. Bike more

    And fight for bicycle infrastructure in your city. Biking was SUCH a good way to cope with COVID while getting exercise and not driving. If you already have a bike, you can get a trainer and make your own fake Peloton!

  23. Eliminate or reduce meat from your diet

    I'm vegetarian, but I love my daily avocado toast with egg. And I love cheese.

    On days when my climate anxiety flares up extra, I'll pass on my dairy products. Over time, I've replaced milk and much of my whole-milk ice cream, and it makes me feel like I'm part of the solution.

    I know that meat-eating is a not-so-fun topic because the climate movement has been associated with obnoxious vegans, but I encourage you to give it a chance and offset your anxiety. A small way you can start is by cutting out beef, since the top 10 highest emitting foods are all cuts of beef. Baby steps, baby.

  24. Fight factory farming

    Set up recurring donations to Compassion in World Farming to end factory farming. They're one of the most impact-for-dollar causes you can donate to — not just in climate change, but in general.

  25. Offset your carbon emissions

    There are so many tools that do this, but one I got to learn more about by talking to one of its founders is Creol. They transparently verify their carbon offsets and have a much simpler emissions calculator than most of the ones I've seen.

  26. Start a backyard garden

    Alleviating your eco-anxiety can be a joyful pursuit. Try gardening, even if you just have a little space! Here's a simple beginner's guide.

  27. Change when you do your laundry and dishes

    This is an easy peasy way to feel a little better about your environmental impact, especially during COVID. Do energy-intensive activities when the sun is shining — there tends to be more renewable energy on the grid. You can learn more by brushing up on our renewable energy modules.

  28. Talk about it with your community

    I've linked a few communities earlier on, and I strongly believe that the only way to continue this fight without letting climate grief bog us down is by having people we can lean on. At Soapbox, we're going to do more community-focused things like events and digital spaces. Find something that works for you.

    You could try chatting about it with your kids or parents or finding (and talking about) fun DIY projects that make the earth a little better. And if you're not there yet, you can listen to Gimlet's How to Save a Planet podcast to keep you company until you're ready.

  29. Talk about it with a professional

    I've been putting off therapy for a while now, but pandemic anxiety/life anxiety/climate change anxiety are all related and we can all do ourselves some good by committing our whole selves to our mental health.

    Therapy is an important and often under-utilized tool. It's basically a shortcut to figuring out your problems, so let's do it!

  30. Remind yourself that this is a systemic challenge, not an individual one

    I'll remind you too. We haven't gotten here because YOU threw away an extra cabbage. We've gotten here because of mass production and extractive capitalism. We need to put pressure on corporations and the government to rethink the exploitative systems that have led us here — we can't simultaneously prioritize profit over planet and hope to fight climate change.

    It's easy to feel guilty and overwhelmed about the size of our challenge, but don't take it on yourself. Yes, you and I can do better, but it's not our fault.

    We will continue to build resiliency and fight climate change by learning about structural ways to make a difference. And then we'll get it done.

    I believe in all of us. We'll figure out how to balance our energy between changes in our household and changes in our companies, communities, and cities. Together, we'll be part of the solution.

Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

💌 Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 7,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar,
Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter." - Meghan Mehta, Google

We're ready when you are.

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