Every day, the need for sustainability is driven further as we learn more about the negative impacts of human practices and processes on our environment. In such stressful times, everyone could use a bit of leisure activity, but how often do people consider the sustainability of such pursuits? A 2010 study in the UK estimated that 27% of household emissions could be attributed to recreational activities. In that light, here are some sustainable practices to consider.
Enjoying local spaces
Advocating sustainability often goes hand in hand with loving and appreciating nature. Yet people are also constantly in search of something fresh and exciting; the pull of novelty can make it more attractive to travel further afield, or even out of the country, in order to experience different sights and take on new challenges. For all the effort a person might spend trying to reduce one’s individual carbon footprint, unnecessary trips can easily rack up carbon emissions – the equivalent of someone who’s trying to follow a healthy diet but indulges in a dessert.
Instead of consuming fuel to visit distant places for leisure, appreciating local attractions is a sustainable alternative. Nature enthusiasts in Utah will often find themselves a short drive (or bike) away from many outdoor activities. Within many cities such as Cottonwood Heights, tree trimming and careful maintenance of parks has created green spaces throughout the urban area, giving residents an abundance of places to enjoy within walking distance of their homes. You don’t have to forfeit enjoying nature in order to be sustainable; looking around for local options will cut down on energy consumption and travel time, too.
Learning a skill or hobby
Sustainability in our leisure activities isn’t just a matter of direct energy consumption or emissions resulting from what we do. Any materials or specialized equipment involved must also be manufactured and delivered to the end-user. More sophisticated equipment tends to place a heavier burden on the environment in terms of production and logistics costs. Playing video games, for example, may not appear to have a significant impact in terms of carbon footprint. But if the player must frequently be upgraded to new hardware in order to run titles with more intense specifications, then the demand on the environment is increased.
From this perspective, our desire for enjoyment and entertainment in leisure time can be directed towards learning more traditional skills or hobbies with little to no equipment required. Skills such as reading, drawing, or playing a musical instrument, can all provide enjoyable, time-consuming diversions with second-hand or recycled materials.
Social engagement activities
Not all forms of leisure are focused on the individual experience. Many people look forward to their leisure time as a way to interact with others, getting together with like-minded enthusiasts or friends who can only meet up on weekends, for instance. The benefits are tangible; maintaining such pleasant social activities has been shown to improve well-being and reduce morbidity among the elderly.
Turning to sustainable practices doesn’t have to remove this option as a means of increasing social engagement. Attending local group exercise classes, or learning hobbies such as art or dance within a classroom setting, can provide this stimulus while also reducing overall costs, as shared facilities and materials are less expensive overall.
As our world tries to overcome many challenges, the need for positive recreation is greater than ever. By practicing sustainability in our leisure pursuits, we can continue to enjoy our free time without increasing the burden on our environment.