Moving towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle is all about introducing manageable and sustainable changes. Jo Becker, better known as Treesnpeace, shares her advice on the best low-impact hobbies to take up in 2020.
In 2019, we saw environmental awareness skyrocket. Minimalism, zero-waste and second-hand shopping seemed to become buzzwords as more books, media and science reports advocated for a rethinking of consumerism in order to reduce our carbon footprints.
Looking at our everyday lifestyles, many more people can now see that common activities have significantly negative impacts on the planet – whether it’s a shopping trip to the mall or a cheap return flight for a weekend getaway. Even scrolling through your phone has environmental and social implications, and promotes individualism rather than community.
So, while it’s easy to point out problematic consumerism, unless we offer alternatives to replace those habits we will get stuck in the current consumer and climate crisis. But what activities actually have a low-impact or even positively benefit the planet? And are they fun, or will we get bored living an ‘eco-friendly’ lifestyle?
The simple answer is that there are many non-consumerist activities, and they are far from boring. There are so many opportunities, and most of them are best done collaboratively with friends, family or with your local community. This can also strengthen human connections while co-benefitting the earth. It’s time to reclain our lives from the grasp of commercialism, starting with our hobbies.
To get back on track, first you need to consider how you currently spend your time. Too often we say time has flown by without really knowing what we actually did in the duration. I suggest writing a diary for a week or two about your day-to-day activities. Based on this, you can see where most of your free time goes. Then you can evaluate to see if it serves you, the planet and the people around you well, and if there is a particular area that you would like to change.
Here are a few ideas to get your started.
Spend more time outdoors
Challenges like climbing a mountain once a month, undertaking a challenge such as the three peaks or three Munroes in a day, or plogging (jogging while litter picking) are good ways to get outdoors and do it with a purpose. Another option is to go camping more often. A low budget activity, camping gives you the perfect opportunity to explore your local areas and appreciate natural beauty. If you don’t own the right gear, borrow it from friends or local sharing groups.
If you’re thinking about joining a gym, opt for activities such as running, wild swimming, climbing or bootcamp sessions in your local park instead. Not only will it be a breath of fresh air (quite literally), but it can also save you money. It’s climate-friendly and you can meet new people from many backgrounds, ages and interests when joining a local sports club.
You could also trying joining community forest walks, learning how to identify trees and birds.
Not only is gardening said to steadily increase happiness the more you do it, but it actively benefits the earth by increasing soil health and biodiversity. Digging your hands into the ground, planting and harvesting, and exchanging gardening tips with others can also be beneficial for your personal wellbeing. If you don’t have your own space to grow, join a local allotment group as an affordable option that enhances the local community too. For courses on regenerative agriculture and foraging, check out the Permaculture Association.
Lend your wardrobe some love
Learn to mend your clothes or try your hand at knitting a new item. Starting embroidery is also a fun, easy option and gives you loads of new ways to repair or upcycle your clothes.
Reclaim the kitchen
Whether you sign up to a vegetable box scheme to support local and regenerative farming or opt for seasonal and local foods, there are endless possibilities to embrace new ways of eating in a more climate-friendly way. You could also start regular cookouts with friends and families to share recipes. Consider exploring different cuisines and traditions around food as an opportunity to learn more about different cultures – taking a Migrateful cookery course is the perfect way to do this.
Start volunteering for a good cause
If you have the time to commit to regular volunteering sessions, then start by speaking to second-hand shops, local sharing groups, or local NGOs that are looking out for volunteers. If you have less time, you could save up a few days or even use your holidays to lend a hand somewhere for a good cause. Check out charities like Help Refugees or sites like Wwoofing for starters, or get in touch with food banks and animal shelters.
Last year, I noticed that I spent too much time on my phone. Being outdoors is a huge passion of mine, and I wanted to make this time more meaningful by connecting to my local environment. So, I am putting more work into learning about tree identification and will join community forest walks to also learn from the people around me. I have also signed up for monthly crafting sessions at a local repair shop, each with a different theme so I can test out a diversity of creative ideas, before hopefully picking up one area and experimenting more in this field.
If 2019 was the year of raising awareness about our carbon footprints, let’s make 2020 where we reclaim our relationship to the planet. Let’s focus on activities that (re)connect us to our local community, so we can spend our time more memorably.