Trying to reduce our impact on the planet doesn’t begin and end with what we buy and how we travel – the things we do in our free time have an impact too.
There are so many ‘green’ ways we can spend our time – some obvious and others less so. Here are a few of my favourite hobbies, both eco-friendly and those which are less so, but I’ve included both in the interests of full disclosure and because there are ways to make a few of the ‘less good’ hobbies significantly greener.
This is a no-brainer in ‘green’ terms. What’s better than getting out into the world and enjoying the world around us, after all? We’re out every day with the dog, but more so in the late summer and autumn as this is the main foraging season – both for fruit and mushrooms. And who doesn’t love free food?!
If you need a little help to get over the ‘doorstep mile’, then taking a camera and indulging in a little photography can help. The cameras in most modern phones are great these days, so you don’t necessarily need special equiptment. I still have an old DSLR from my pre-children, pre-self-employment days and really enjoy just parking myself somewhere in the summer months to wait…
Eventually dog or child will oblige and I can snap a magical memory. Taking a picnic and a kite on a walk can turn it from a morning out into a whole day. We keep an ‘adventure kit’ in the back of the car – it contains the makings of tea and coffee, cous cous, cutlery, enamel plates, a change of clothes for everyone, some towels and our Ghillie Kettle – my 30th birthday gift from my dad and the best one ever!
Reading is possibly my favourite thing in the world to do. It can be 100% free, used for learning or just entertainment. In the day time, you don’t even need to switch on a light to do it so it’s really low-impact. And at night, all it really takes is that lamp – though a cup of tea makes it even better 😉
Signing up to the local library totally transformed how I read – it was like being given permission to order every book I’ve ever wanted and it costs nothing (unless I bring the books back late…) It’s a fantastic way of sharing resources and finding out about local events. Through our library – just one room, open three days a week for two hours a time – I’ve learned CPR, taken my kids to craft sessions, nursery-rhyme sessions and Lego clubs. I’ve checked out knitting books, sewing books, How-To books, cook books for the apocalypse and too many stories to count – all for free.
I realise that not everywhere is equipped with a library full of passionate staff, and if that’s the case, there are other ways to read for free/very cheap.
I was lucky enough to score one of the older models of Kindle on Freecycle, many years ago and use it now for things I find via BookBub. Basically, you sign up and once daily you’ll be sent a round-up of cheap/free e-books from the genres you expressed an interest in. Particularly of note was the time I got Naomi Klein’s ‘This Change’s Everything’ for all of £1.99. It was turbo amazing.
Another way of reading for free without a library is to check out Project Gutenburg. This is a collection of literature on which copyright has expired, so before you shell out on the classics, it’s totally worth looking here first.
Obviously, there’s the usual second-hand market – online and charity shops – but there is still some cost there, even if it is just a small one.
I don’t just mean video-games either – I play anything. I especially love a board game.
Board games are fairly kind to the environment – most are made from cardboard/paper pieces with only a handful of plastic bits (if there are any), and few require batteries. Charity shops and online are a great place to buy second hand games and there are some real bargains to be had out there. They’re brilliant for children – they teach turn taking, dealing with disappointment, cooperation, as well as maths and language skills.
They can be absolutely beautiful, deeply educational and a lot of fun. We took a huge pile to our after-school club and it was so sad to see how many children were put off at first – thinking they were ‘boring’. A couple of rounds of Hape’s ‘Ghostly Hours’ soon fixed that though! Who doesn’t want to catapult small creatures at one another – right?
With kids, board games can get stale quite quickly, so churning through charity shop finds and returning them is one way to keep things fresh. Or you could make your own – either with pens and paper, or with Lego. Your only limits are your imagination.
In terms of electronic games, the waters muddy slightly…
Increasingly, friends of mine have been doing away with physical media, choosing to download their purchases instead. Which is great, because there’s not an actual item to dispose of when it’s outlived its usefulness and there’s no transport costs – financial or environmental. This is a really expensive way to play games, though.
Second hand games are a totally viable option, but even used, a popular PS4 title can set you back a fair bit. PC games tend to be cheaper but so often, it costs less to buy a used console than it does to buy an expensive gaming PC. A console makes a great media centre too – streamer, DVD player etc. – so you can get away with fewer lumps of tech attached to your TV.
As I said above, I will play absolutely anything so I spend a lot of time with the games you get as part of PSN Plus. Which is great, if you’ve got a Playstation… less so if you don’t, or if you’re interested in a specific title. This is where services like Boomerang Rentals comes in. Cheaper than second hand, this is a great way to share resources. I was skeptical about the packaging until I tried it out, but it’s reused on the return journey so the only waste at your end is a slim strip of plastic.
Of course, if you have a PC, you do have other options – my favourite being Abandonware – basically the Project Gutenberg of the video-game world, this site collects old games and makes them available for download.
If you’re not sure where to start, my nostalgic self absolutely recommends Utopia: The Creation of a Nation.
It goes without saying that playing video games uses electricity, but turning off the TV and any other paraphanalia you might have attached (amp, console etc.) when you’re not playing can go a long way to helping reduce the power consumption.
My crafting skills have saved me so much money over the years and have kept so many of my textiles in circulation when they would otherwise have been binned.
I knit well, can crochet a little, and can mash stuff through a sewing machine if I need to. These can be really expensive hobbies, if you buy everything new, but as above, second-hand is a great way to keep things sustainable and affordable.
That said, with yarn, I’m a real pushover. I reason with myself that with yarn, you should divide the cost by three because you’re getting:
- The yarn – a beautiful item in its own right (the stuff in this picture came from GamerCrafting).
- The joy of working it – literal hours of entertainment.
- The finished item – a unique piece of art.
I do buy a lot of my yarn at the charity shop, but when I do want to splash out on something special, I tend to go for independant weavers/dyers, or an ethical store like Yarn Yarn (the banana yarn is especially scrumptious).
Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive – I included foraging in with walking when it really deserves its own post, for example. But I wanted to highlight that there are loads of low-cost, low-impact hobbies out there, as well as ways to make things you might already be doing a little more earth-friendly.