In Japan, ‘forest bathing’ (spending time outdoors around trees) is a popular pastime, even becoming part of the nation’s public health program decades ago – and for good reason.
According to the UK Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST), green spaces can be hugely beneficial for our mental health and wellbeing. Spending time around nature can reduce stress and encourage tranquillity, whilst getting moving in clearer air quality benefits the body as well as the mind.
Unfortunately, our environment is under increasing strain. CO² emissions are rising, litter is piling up along our beaches and the number of bee species are declining.
Luckily, there are lots of ways we can involved to make a difference and spend time in the great outdoors. Giving is good for you, and giving to the ecosystem could help the planet give back for many more years to come.
Here are our top tips on how you can give back and get outdoors.
Adopted from Scandinavia, picking up litter while jogging (aka plogging) is the latest trend in eco-exercise. Not only are you getting out and about and improving your fitness, you’re also helping the planet by removing damaging litter from your local area.
Save the bees
David Attenborough recently warned that if bees were extinct, humans could follow within just four years. To counter this, the nation’s favourite naturalist recommended a mixture of sugar and water for bees to drink from. Just leave a teaspoon of the simple syrup in an outdoor space so that tired bees can refresh themselves and carry on the good work.
If you don’t have a garden or fancy straying a little further afield, there are plenty of ways to help out in your community. The Wildlife Trust have regional volunteers completing important tasks all over the country. Whether it’s clearing green spaces and footpaths or assisting in research and conservation, there are a whole range of volunteering opportunities to give back to your local outdoors.
Get on your bike
Take advantage of the summer months and steer yourself away from the car. Instead, get outdoors on your bike. You could travel to work, go on day trips out with the family or even change up your usual dog walk and get your pooch to run along with you. Not only is this a CO 2-saving way to get around, but you get the added bonus of vitamin D and exercise.
Sow wild seeds
Wild flowers can not only look beautiful in your garden but they are also great for creating a diverse environment for birds and bugs alike. A packet of seeds is inexpensive and they tend to grow quickly so don’t worry if you’re not naturally green-fingered, this could be the perfect way to ease into gardening.
Help the hedgehogs
Hedgehogs are our friendly garden neighbour. They feast on pests like slugs and beetles which could destroy some of our hard-grown plants. Like bees, they can also need a helping hand in the heat. Leaving a dish of water outside allows the hedgehogs to take a cooling sip and rehydrate in the summer months.
Grow your own
Fresh produce from supermarkets can accumulate a huge carbon footprint by the time it reaches our dinner table. Try growing your own vegetables or even herbs, which can be cultivated in pots on window-ledges if you don’t have lots of outdoor space. Being more self-sustaining is not only a great personal project, but also means a little less reliance on polluting convenience purchases.
Bring the outdoors indoors
Plants and trees are nature’s own air purifiers, as they absorb the CO² we exhale whilst omitting the oxygen we need to breathe. If you can, try to grow something of your own to give back a little of what we take. Surrounding yourself at home with living plants and natural objects like pine-cones and shells, can also help you feel calmer and closer to nature.
Go for a litter pick
The planet’s oceans, parks and beaches are increasingly filling with throwaway plastics from our single-use lifestyle. You can prevent even more plastic wastage by reusing shopping bags and ditching drinking straws. To tackle the rubbish that already exists, try to collect any pieces you see on a walk along the beach or during an afternoon at park. Better yet, why not join a litter-collection group or even start your own with friends, to keep your nearest natural spaces free and clear.