9 ways you can restore nature

9 ways you can restore nature

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Following on from the first More Nature infographic – 9 reasons we need more nature – we are excited to share how YOU can get involved with the important job of restoring nature – repairing the damage we’ve collectively caused by making simple, positive changes in your life.

Many of these tips are free to try, or even save money in the long run, so they make economic sense as well as being good for your health, and the health of our planet. They also offer you more meaningful life experiences than our mainstream consumerist culture can – which will undoubtedly result in better relationships with yourself, others, and nature.

Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to get involved in the vital work of restoring nature is that it will help you overcome any feelings of eco-anxiety and helplessness you might have about the declining state of our natural world. We can all make a difference and it feels good to take positive action.

Nature has the incredible ability to bounce-back when we let it, and this can happen as soon as our nature-restoring actions outnumber our nature-harming ones. So let’s do what we can, as soon as possible!

Here are 9 ways YOU can restore nature. We hope you feel inspired to give them a try…

1. Take time to reconnect with nature regularly

One of the key reasons humanity has got into this mess is that so many of us have become disconnected with the natural world. We dedicate increasing chunks of our lives to our screens; we share diminishing slivers of space with the rest of the natural world; and when it comes to education, we barely bother to include local plants and wildlife in our children’s curriculum. As  a result, the majority of people have lost sight of the importance of nature – for human health, happiness, and our very survival.

Even when we intellectually appreciate how much we need nature, many of us have lost the emotional connection. You’ve got to love something to be motivated to protect it. If you spend more time reconnecting with nature, you will inevitably fall back in love with it, and you will do everything in your power to protect it.

Reconnecting with nature can be as simple as pausing to watch and listen to the birds from your window; or going for a walk to notice how many plants, insects, birds and animals you see and hear on your path; or spending a few mindful hours ‘forest bathing‘ in your local woods. Scheduling regular slots to reconnect with nature will reap countless benefits for you personally (improved physical and mental health), for society (more of us will be calmer, kinder and more creative), and for our planet (we’ll wake up to the true value of  conserving and restoring widespread biodiverse ecosystems).

2. Create wild spaces in your garden or community

In recent decades our obsession with controlling nature and keeping our outdoors spaces ‘tidy’ has resulted in dramatically less space for native plants, insects, and wildlife to thrive. Our prevailing preference for chemically-treated, weed and pest-free, manicured lawns – or low-maintenance, paved-over driveways and gardens – results in more space devoted to our cars than to our wildlife co-habitants. And with less habitat space available to them, their populations are in freefall.

Previously a common species, the beloved and iconic UK hedgehog is estimated to have a current population of just one million, compared with 30 million in the 1950s. Hedgehogs like to feast on a variety of insects, so if we want more hedgehogs to survive, we need to provide them with a reliable source of insects in our gardens and communities.

It’s not difficult to boost insect numbers. Simply allow long grassy areas to grow, particularly with wildflowers (let’s stop labelling them as ‘weeds’ – they’re a vital food source for many insects, especially our pollinators, and have their own special kind of beauty). Also create log piles, open compost heaps, and shallow ponds (with sloping edges so hedgehogs and other small mammals can exit safely) to encourage wildlife onto your patch.

A recent study found that the UK’s town and city gardens produce the vast majority of food for pollinators in urban areas – accounting for 85 per cent. Creating wild spaces to boost insect numbers benefits many other species of birds, bats, and plants too – and is a simple, very effective way to restore natural balance in local ecosystems. For more information on applying this to your garden or community space, try reading The Garden Jungle, by Dave Goulson, or The Wildlife Gardener, by Kate Bradbury for inspiration.

3. Grow your own food & reduce your food waste

So much of our store-bought food comes with a legacy of mind-boggling food miles, unethical supply chains, and mountains of plastic waste. The only way to truly know where your food came from is to grow it yourself.

Even just a few herbs on your windowsill, some sprouts on your kitchen countertop, or salad leaves and tomatoes grown on a sunny balcony is a great way to reduce the impact of the food on your plate. If you’re lucky to have a garden, why not convert it to a productive, edible garden? You could swap your whole lawn for vegetable patches, or plant your borders with herbs and edible flowers, or create a mini orchard of fruit and nut trees. If you need low maintenance options, perennial veg don’t require sowing year after year, and offer added environmental benefits due to their deep roots, soil building capabilities, and requirement for less water than annual vegetable plants. Since we planted biodiverse crops in our garden, all mixed up in a beautiful jumble, we’ve noticed an increase in visits from a diverse selection of birds, bees, and butterflies which is a joy to behold!

Reducing food waste is another significant way to reduce your impact on nature. While it’s depressing to think about how much pristine forest (with its biodiverse wildlife inhabitants) has been cleared to grow/graze/grow feed for the food we eat, we can at least make sure we do actually eat it. Shockingly, around 30% of the food we grow is wasted. The UN has estimated that if global food waste was a country it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Let’s recognise the extraordinary sacrifices of land, energy, water, people’s time, and animals’ lives that have gone into making our food, and be sure we value it and use it wisely.

For zero waste cooking inspiration, try these eco-friendly cookbooks: Eating for Pleasure, People & Planet, by Tom Hunt or More Plants Less Waste, by Max La Manna.

Inevitably, there will always be some food waste. Composting your food waste will reduce the amount of overall waste sent to landfill/incineration while adding beneficial nutrients to the soil and increasing the biodiversity of worms, bacteria, birds, fungi and insects living in the soil – a virtuous circle of healthier soil leading to healthier food, water, and therefore all life.

4. Eat mainly local, organic, plant-based wholefoods

Dietary choices have become political in some quarters, and I’m not here to tell you to never eat meat, dairy, or fish again. However, it is undeniable that with a human population approaching 8 billion, it’s not sustainable for us to continue eating the quantity (and poor quality) of meat, dairy and fish the average westerner has become accustomed to eating.

In recent decades, the industrial scale of overfishing, factory farming, and intensive agriculture has taken a devastating toll on nature. But the solution is not as simple as switching to a vegan diet, because many vegan foods originate from fields of monocrops sprayed with pesticides and fertilisers, shipped from the other side of the planet, shrink-wrapped in plastic.

As most of us eat at least three times a day, the cumulative effect of our food choices adds up to be a major part of our overall impact on nature. When you are trying to tread more lightly on our planet, a good rule of thumb is to aim to eat mainly local, seasonal, organic, plant-based, unpackaged wholefoods (i.e. not processed food). For many reasons, you might not want to eat this way for every meal but having it as a goal for the majority of your meals will make a big difference – to your health as well as to nature.

Some people think that eating this way is more expensive, but I’ve found that shopping locally for what I actually need ends up costing less than going into a supermarket for supposedly cheaper food then getting ‘upsold’ lots of things I didn’t really need, as seems to happen with every supermarket trip. Also, if you are saving money in other areas of your life (see below) you will hopefully have slightly more disposable income, and there’s no better investment for your health than to spend it on good quality food.

If you’re a flexitarian, then fish and meat are better served as an occasional treat, so you can spend more on sustainably caught fish or regeneratively raised meat – which are kinder to the animals, taste better, healthier, and of course better for the planet.

5. Stop using chemicals in your home & garden

It’s a sad fact that the mainstream cultural view is that most insects and weeds are a nuisance or an eye sore, so therefore we think we have the right to exterminate them with chemicals.

This approach is causing deep harm to our ecosystems because everything is connected. A pesticide intended for one insect, will inevitably kill more insects than its target, and have far reaching impacts further up the food chain.

So whilst some people might prefer a world without wasps, mosquitoes, flies, or a particular type of garden aphid – the problem is that if they are successful in getting rid of these insects, they will  inevitably also poison other insects in the process, including essential pollinators, while removing a critical food source for many beloved species, such as insect-eating birds and hedgehogs.

Insectageddon is the term given to the shocking collapse in flying insect populations. One study found that the abundance of flying insects in a German nature reserve had declined by a staggering 76% in 27 years. Clearly we have become too efficient in our war with insects, which is having devastating impacts for other species too.

“Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth [but] there has been some kind of horrific decline. We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.” – Professor Dave Goulson, Sussex University and author of ‘A Sting in the Tail’, ‘A Buzz in the Meadow’, and ‘The Garden Jungle’.

Another issue is that most pesticides, herbicides, pet flea treatment, or other insecticides are water soluble, so the toxins enter our rivers and streams through water run-off, killing more invertebrates in their wake and entering our water supply. Nature is a delicately balanced web, and we would all be better off if we worked with nature rather than against it.

6. Strive for less stuff & more experiences

One of the biggest ways we negatively impact our planet is with our insatiable appetite for more stuff. We are recklessly damaging the delicately balanced ecosystems that provide us with the only things we really need – clean air, food, and water – for the sake of the latest must-have fashion fad. And the solution isn’t to switch from one form of consumerism to a ‘greener’ version – we need to radically transform everything by learning to live with fewer material things.

IKEA’s head of sustainability famously said in 2016 that the West had reached ‘peak stuff’ and that the furniture company would be testing rentable, returnable, repairable home furnishings that change and grow with their customers through their different life stages, with the goal of shifting from mass consumption to mass circularity.

In the global North we have discovered that chasing material wealth has made us miserable. Consumerism exploited our superficial desires to demonstrate status through the accumulation of possessions, forcing us to work longer and harder to pay for them, while distancing us from our families and communities. The result has been an epidemic of loneliness, crime, addictions, and mental health issues; social afflictions that can’t be cured by any amount of retail therapy.

The rise in popularity of decluttering and minimalism is another symptom of excessive consumerism. People are waking up to the fact that owning too much stuff is a burden, both mentally and financially, and they are looking for ways to extricate themselves by downsizing and simplifying their lives.

The most memorable things in life aren’t things, they are experiences – especially time spent with the people that are most important to us. The Journal of Psychological Science advises us to buy experiences, not things because experiences provide more lasting happiness: the initial joy of a new material possession quickly fades, whilst the memories of an experience/of a deeper relationship last forever.

Experiences don’t have to be expensive. Time spent out in nature. Time spent with people you love. A walk, a wild swim, a wild camping trip, travelling (light with just a backpack). Big adventures, and everyday occurrences when you are truly present, such as baking together, playing cards, taking time to listen to each other. Getting involved in a project that is bigger than yourself, that helps your community or the planet. These are the rich moments that you will remember when you look back on your life. How much stuff you have will be meaningless because as we all know, you can’t take it with you when it’s time to go.

7. Buy from companies with ethical supply chains

In today’s economy, one of the biggest way we can influence the world is through our buying choices – giving our hard-earned cash to businesses that reflect our values, and boycotting those whose practices destroy our planet.

Social media and online reviews have handed more power to consumers making it easier than ever to pressure companies into doing the right thing, or call them out when they aren’t. Most brands try to listen to what their customers want, or risk plummeting profits and damaged reputations.

But how do you wade through the green-washing, or even the well-intentioned but misplaced (i.e. ineffective at meeting the challenge) green posturing from businesses?

We need to support companies that are ambitious and commit to:

  • significantly reducing/eliminating their negative emissions (carbon, plastic, any other forms of pollution) – this is a bare minimum first step that any responsible business must do

AND

  • proactively seeking ways to protect and restore our natural world through their supply chains, and through donating a percentage of profits back to nature regeneration projects – this is not tenuous carbon off-setting, this is channelling funding into credible carbon sequestration while boosting biodiversity using Nature-based Solutions

No business is perfect, but we can support businesses that are transparent about what they are working on and what they have achieved so far on their journey.

We need to reward businesses that take responsibility for the impact of their whole supply chain, and also their products and packaging after they’ve been sold.

Support companies that are leading the way by engaging their suppliers, peers, and consumers in creating better business practices that not only seek to do less harm, but seek to proactively repair the damage we’ve caused to nature.

Examples to look for are schemes that support wildlife-friendly producers, and that donate to tangible nature protection and restoration projects.

Tree planting has it’s place when done properly, but unfortunately because they are so easy to measure and communicate, many companies have dived into quick, transactional tree planting schemes to ease their eco consciences. Done the wrong way, or in the wrong place, you can end up with monocrop tree plantations that harbour hardly any wildlife.

The best nature regeneration projects focus on protecting and restoring ancient or native woodland, peatland, wetland, grassland, and in the marine environment seagrass, kelp, and mangroves.

8. Give time, skills or money to conservation charities

Conservation charities have been at the forefront of the battle to protect nature for decades, and now more than ever they need our support – not just to protect and conserve nature, but to restore and regenerate it too.

Most of us have taken more from nature than we give back. Now is the time to start giving back to repair the damage we’ve collectively caused. It’s not too late, but it is urgent.

Whether you want to give money, your time, or skills, or all of these – there are so many environmental causes that need your help. Our advice is to look for one close to where you live so you can feel connected, invested in the outcomes, and enjoy seeing the tangible results from your involvement.

The best projects are ones that reintroduce keystone species, restore habitats (such as grasslands, peat, wetlands, woodlands, seagrass and kelp), clean up pollution, create wildlife corridors, or successfully protect vast areas of land or sea for wildlife.

If you volunteer for, or donate to, a conservation charity, you’ll help the cause, and help yourself because you will feel better knowing you are doing something positive to address the issue.

If you’re in the UK, see The Wildlife Trusts for some ideas to get started.

9. Lead by example to inspire others too

One of the best ways to create the change we want to see in the world  is to lead by example in the hope that it inspires those around you to take action too. As more of us discover that the lifestyle changes that are good for nature are also fun and attractive for humans too, then the more people will join us.

Known as the ripple effect, we humans are social creatures and our actions rub off on each other. From strangers on the high street, to your neighbours, and friends and family – you’ll never know how many people your actions affect, but you can be sure that the impact of your positive actions go a lot further than what is immediately obvious to you.

#BeTheChange #RippleEffect #LessPlastic #MoreNature

Our #LessPlastic #MoreNature infographics are designed to highlight simple ways we can ALL get involved in regenerating nature – whether as individuals, schools, businesses or communities. Please feel free to share them far and wide!

See our full range of educational infographics here…

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