3rd January 2018

10 environmentally friendly ways to beat the January blues


Well, we blinked and Christmas quickly vanished once again. All that build up, those expensive advent calendars and Mariah Carey perpetually blasting out over the airwaves as you shopped – gone for another year.

While we all looked forward to the festive Yuletide, deep down we knew the games of Scrabble with sozzled Uncle Frank would soon dry up (if only we could say the same for him).

The thought of starting a brand new year can be quite daunting, when normality (and the hangover) slowly kicks in. But rather than filling yourself with doom and gloom at the thought of returning to work in 2018 or feeling the pressure to come up with new year resolutions, why not focus on something different and upbeat? Something to make your heart sing, perhaps.

Try cheering yourself up with an environmental activity to help beat the January blues and do some good at the same time. Keep yourself – and our planet – happy. What’s not to love?

We’ve come up with a list of environmentally friendly ideas to inspire you, and it’s a list Acre will be sticking to, now that we have recycled our Christmas cracker paper crowns and are back at our desks.

Now is the time to ensure you have a very happy new year. Make it happen.

Get some exercise

And you don’t need to fork out for a gym membership to do it! There’s nothing like beating that glum feeling this month with some physical activity to lift your mood. Exercise is well-known for kicking stress out the door and your serotonin levels can also be boosted which can be a strong force in the battle against depression. Serotonin is also raised by sunlight so wrap up warm and get yourself outside to make the most of any sunlight. Breathe deeply and embrace the elements. If you get out and about on your bike, even better, as you’ll be cutting traffic pollution at the same time, allowing everyone around you to enjoy the fresh air too.

Give something back

Boost your self-esteem by giving up a few hours of any spare time you may have and become a volunteer. This can help improve your wellbeing and give you a sense of achievement at a time you may need it the most. You could offer to help in a charity shop for an hour or two each week (helping to keep items out of landfill), become a companion to someone in need or help out in a community cafe. Other ways you can give (if you are time poor but still want to make a difference) is by giving up your seat on the bus or train to someone who needs it more or merely taking the time to thank somebody for a good service you have received. Or if you overindulged and have loads of left over boxes of chocolates, hand some out to people living on the streets. It’s the little things.

Build a worm farm

Yes, exactly that. This is a great project to do with the kids as they are naturally fascinated by worms (remember bringing those slimy critters into your home when you were a youngster and making adults shriek?!) Worms are a crucial part in our organic or eco-friendly lifestyles as they produce a rich compost/fertiliser which is perfect for plants. In essence a worm farm is a box full of kitchen waste and worms. They eat all the food scraps, digest it and then produce the good stuff for your plants.

Worms can eat up to half their own body weight every day (rather like us at Christmas) and can double their population every 60-90 days. Not all worms are suited to wormeries – only the ones that thrive and live near the surface of the garden. You can go online to find out the best ones for the job. So go on, make a worm farm. That will prevent the January blues. No, really.

Go Vegan or Vegetarian

Dramatically cut your carbon footprint by becoming a veggie – even for one day – and save millions of lives across the globe. You can make a difference, even by merely cutting down on your red meat consumption – just one steak uses the equivalent amount of water to two months’ worth of showers (7,500 litres). Experts have highlighted animal agriculture as being responsible for 51 percent greenhouse gas emissions, and food-related emissions would be cut by a staggering 63 per cent if people went veggie. If you can’t quit your red meat addiction, simply opt for grass-fed beef rather than corn fed beef, as it has a lower carbon footprint. When it comes to fish, try only eating rod and line-caught kinds, as industrial fishing methods can kill huge numbers of other creatures including sharks and dolphins.

Become your own Green Party leader

If socialising became a bit of a habit over Christmas and you want to continue to unleash your inner party animal, why not celebrate being alive and throw a Green Party. You could incorporate all sorts of things including brewing your own organic beer, cooking some delicious vegetarian or vegan food and ensure you don’t use disposable cutlery! And at the end, always use your dishwasher as it’s more environmentally friendly. Invite your friends and also your neighbours – building up community spirit can do wonders for the soul.

Do some Community Gardening

Can you dig it? Yes you can. And with the rest of your community. If you don’t have a garden to call your own, don’t panic. A bit of internet detective work should point you in the direction of at least one communal garden or rooftop garden. It’s a great way of getting to meet new likeminded people who love the planet as much as you and you get to burn off those mince pie calories at the same time. Plus all that healthy fresh air. It’s a win win situation for everyone. Make Monty Don proud.

Plant a tree

While you’re enjoying some community gardening, why not see if you can indulge in some tree planting at the same time. Global warming is caused by a buildup of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, which traps heat on the planet. However, trees can suck up carbon dioxide, which is why the Amazon and other forests are so important. If every person on the planet plants one tree, that amounts to nearly 7 billion new carbon sponges.

Ready, steady, cook!

We’ve already mentioned going vegan or vegetarian, if only for a short amount of time, but cooking is another activity that can really beat the new year blues. According to Psychology Today, culinary therapy is treatment used at a growing number of mental health clinics and therapists’ offices. It’s being used as part of the treatment for a wide range of mental and behavioural health conditions, including ADHD, addiction, depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Home cooked meals are usually more environmentally friendly than processed or frozen foods which can contain environmentally harmful additives such as palm oil or energy intensive practices such as freezing food.

Using fresh ingredients means you are preventing unnecessary plastic packaging from entering your home and cooking your own grub makes it easier to reduce environmentally harmful products. Research has established a link between brain health and several nutrients, including omega-3 fats, B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium and amino acids. Cooking healthy food also involves chopping and slicing – this is a mindful practice that chefs can find calming. Definitely more soothing than bunging a tasteless mass-produced lasagne in the microwave.

We’re going to the zoo zoo zoo

These days, going to the zoo gives you an incredible opportunity to learn about wildlife and understand why conservation matters. Of course you also get to see animals up close and can learn a thing or two about them along the way. A poll found that 58 percent of visitors left zoos with the impression that conservation and biodiversity are “very important” and as well as raising awareness, zoos fund valuable conservation projects.

The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 ensures that animals in such premises are provided with a suitable environment, through a process of inspection and licensing of all zoos in Great Britain. The Act has been updated to reflect the requirements of the EU Zoos Directive (European Council Directive 1999/22/EC).

Under the Zoo Licensing Act, zoos must contribute to conservation and participate in at least one of the following:

  • Research from which conservation benefits accrue to species of wild animals
  • Training in relevant conservation skills
  •  The exchange of information relating to the conservation of species of wild animals
  •  Where appropriate, breeding of wild animals in captivity
  •  Where appropriate, the repopulation of an area with, or the reintroduction into the wild of, wild animals

The Act also requires that zoos contribute to education, either formally (through school visits and the provision of education resources and materials) or informally (through informative signage).
It’s a good day out and don’t forget you will be contributing to conservation. We’re going, how about you?

Have a wardrobe clear out and donate to charity

It may not always be so obvious, but manufacturing new clothing requires both energy and water, and there are many people who don’t have money to buy their own. So why not empty your bulging wardrobe and then donate those unwanted t-shirts that are no longer bang-on trend (and let’s face it, they probably never were) and those hideous shorts you haven’t worn in years to a local charity shop. Be mindful about what you get rid of though. Some people use charity shops as a dumping ground which defeats the object. One charity shop worker told Acre she once had to deal with a dirty nappy and she regularly sees unwashed underwear. It wastes the volunteers’ time and so only donate clean, lightly worn items that can be resold. Some ripped or stained clothes can be sent and turned into rags but do have compassion for the charity shop volunteer. After all, who knows, you could be volunteering in that shop in the near future.

All of us at Acre would like to wish you a very happy (and green, rather than blue) new year.