Article by Centre for Sustainable Fashion | Monica Buchan-Ng | 04.22.2022

Earth Day: Fighting Eco-Anxiety

It’s Earth Day. An opportunity for pausing and reflecting on our relationship with the planet. How is Mother Nature?

The most recent report from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paints a distressing picture. They’re reiterating – in the strongest possible terms – that it’s now or never. We must change gears, radically shifting to a low-carbon economy to give ourselves the best possible chance for limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed in the face of this call to action. Eco-anxiety (“anxiety and distress about the ecological crisis”1) can be paralysing. What can we, as individuals or fashion businesses, do in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds? How can we make change to our own lives, to our work, to our creative practices? And how can we keep moving when we can see dishearteningly slow progress – or no progress at all – on the part of our governments and our wider industry?

University of Helsinki researcher Dr Panu Pihkala’s article Eco-Anxiety and Environmental Education argues that “finding ways to participate in problem-solving in relation to the ecological crisis”2 is one way to cope with climate anxiety. He argues that education has an important role to play in alleviating eco-anxiety, offering opportunities to turn it into a motivator for action.

And we completely agree.

The ambition of the Fashion Values programme is to transform the future of fashion through education, enabling the next generation and current professionals to create sustainably. That’s why we’ve created a set of open-access, free online courses focusing on four key agendas – how fashion can better value nature, economy, society and culture. The agendas each address a vital element of fashion and sustainability: a regenerative relationship with our environment; an industry that provides social good; a culture of sustainable mindsets [MBN1] and behaviour; and an economy built to value people and planet before profit.

Today provides a chance for both reflection and action. How are you feeling in the face of the climate crisis? Guilty? Angry? Hopeful? What changes will you make this Earth Day? What is the commitment you will make to our planet?

And can you make a start on this commitment through educating yourself? If so, here are three ways to channel your eco-anxiety into a motivating force and fight feelings of paralysis:

  1. Need an inspirational pick-me-up? Browse through our quick-read Voices focusing on fashion and the planet, including “Small brands are setting goalposts for sustainable fashion” and “Fashion’s sustainability agenda: Where to start” by Vogue Business’s Rachel Cernansky. We also recommend following the work of Vogue’s Sustainability Editor Emily Chan – check out her analysis of the latest IPCC Report here.

  2. Interested in how you can channel your expertise in media and communications, technology or design to benefit the planet? Check out our introductory 30-minute Methods: Fashion, Nature and Media; Fashion, Nature and Technology; and Fashion and Biodiversity.

  3. Looking to dive deeper into fashion that truly values nature, economy or society? Take our 4-week online courses, now available on Futurelearn: Fashion Values Nature; Fashion Values Economy; and Fashion Values Society.

As Dr Panu Pihkala states in his paper, “Now is the time to build more understanding about the related phenomena and to try to establish practices that enable compassionate relations between various people and the more-than-human world.”

We’d love to hear how you’re committing to our planet this Earth Day – reach out to us on Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter to tell us what you’re doing.


1 – Pihkala, Panu. 2020. "Eco-Anxiety and Environmental Education" Sustainability 12, no. 23: 10149. Ibid.3 Ibid.