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Hobbies that are good for the environment

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Thinking about global warming can get pretty panic inducing, so I thought I’d look into hobbies that are actually good for the environment.  Are there things that we can do that will help environment that are also fun?  Below is a list of hobbies I’ve come up with that are beneficial.  OK, none of them are going to change the world completely, but they can make a little difference. 

View from Cleethorpes Fitties across the Humber as the featured image for the blog about hobbies that are good for the environment

I’ve tried to ensure the hobbies I’ve picked really do make a positive impact, though I’m sure there are more.  I’ve grouped the ideas into 3 main categories (gardening, repairing/upcycling and volunteering) because some ideas just seem to fit well together.  I think we’re all well aware of the state of the environment and probably feeling concerned for the future so I’ve tried to avoid too much doom and gloom and instead focus on stuff we can actually do that’s good. 

If you know of other hobbies that are good for the environment, please leave a comment below!

Please note, none of the links are affiliate links.  I do not make any money if you click on them, I just included them to try to help if you’d like to find out a bit more and because I found them helpful or interesting.

Gardening

My first grouping of hobbies that are good for the environment is based around gardening.  Gardening in itself isn’t necessarily a hobby that is good for the environment.  Imported plants, grown in peat and requiring lots of water are not going to be good, but there are garden-based things that can help to make a positive difference.  For some, you don’t even need a garden!

Wildlife garden

Part of a garden that has been set aside for wildlife
Part of a garden that’s been set aside for wildlife

Helping wildlife in your garden can help to protect or boost numbers of wild creatures.  Helping wildlife is definitely good for the environment and can be done even if you don’t have a garden.  Providing a little bit of food, water, a home or protection can make a difference (https://www.soilassociation.org/take-action/growing-at-home/wildlife-haven-garden/).  It’s also a good excuse to let your garden get a bit untidy!  Here’s a good guide for getting started – https://rspb.org.uk/helping-nature/what-you-can-do/activities/planting-plan-for-wildlife-gardens or if you’d like some ideas this is a good site – https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/seven-ways-to-create-a-wildlife-friendly-garden.html.

Making bug boxes

bee hotel, slightly past its best for the blog about hobbies that are good for the environment
One of my bee hotels, sadly now past its best and ready to be replaced

Bug boxes or bug homes can provide a safe space for good critters.  They can be as large or small as you’d like and often you can make them without spending any money – bonus!  This is a nice guide – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2019/09/how-to-build-a-bug-hotel/.

Another option is to make a bee hotel.  The name isn’t quite right, they’re really more of a bee nursery. They are a space for solitary bee eggs to be laid and keep them safe until they emerge as a fully grown adult.  The vast majority of bees in the UK are actually solitary bees and they need help.  This is an easy-to-make box – https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/how-to-make-bee-hotel.html or for something involving a bit of DIY then this guide is good – https://www.rspb.org.uk/helping-nature/what-you-can-do/activities/build-a-bee-hotel.  I made some bee boxes a few years ago using some chunky wood I was given.  I drilled various holes (ensuring smooth edges) and added roofs to keep rain off the face.  It’s been fascinating to watch bees fill the holes (I particularly loved the ones carrying leaves).  Great fun!

Seed saving

Pea seeds I've saved for the blog about hobbies that are good for the environment
Pea seeds I’ve saved

Seed saving will save you money, but also cuts down on waste and helps to maintain diversity.  It’s maybe not the most impactful hobby for the environment, but it will still do a bit of good.  For some plants, it’s super easy too.  Seed saving varies and isn’t possible for all plants, but this guide is a good starting point – https://www.rhs.org.uk/propagation/seed-collecting-storing.

Make bird food

A sunflower within a field full of sunflowers, all in full bloom
Sunflowers are a fun way to grow bird food. This one was in a field of sunflowers on farm land locally

A fun, if messy, indoor activity is making bird food.  Energy-rich fat balls can help birds get through winter.  You can even use some kitchen waste, though please be careful because some things can harm rather than help.  This is a good guide for how to make fat balls – https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/diy/how-to-make-fat-cakes-for-birds/.

Community garden

A mini community garden, just starting out
A tiny community garden, just starting out

Community gardens are local gardens on vacant land run by volunteers.  They vary widely; small to large and varying core purposes (wildlife, food growing, relaxation, memorial and so on).  Some will benefit the environment more than others, but this has the advantage of being a hobby that lets you mix with others if you’d like, rather than be alone. 

For a guide for how to start a community garden, this is a good one – https://www.rhs.org.uk/get-involved/community-gardening/Resources/community-garden.  Access to land isn’t a given, but Hull City Council has hopefully become the first of many to give people a ‘right to grow’ on unused council land (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/oct/16/hull-allow-right-to-grow-unused-council-land-uk-first)

Tree planting

A woodland walk on a summer day
Woodland on a sunny day

Tree planting is another hobby that can be more sociable if that’s what you like, whilst also doing some good for the environment.  Trees remove carbon dioxide from the environment and offer a habitat for wildlife.  The Woodland Trust is a good place for information – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/we-plant-trees/.

Eco cooking

Free tomato salad image
Tomato salad image courtesy of Openverse

If you enjoy cooking, why not do so in a way that’s good for the environment.  We all need to eat, but what we eat can benefit or harm the environment.  As a hobby, you could perhaps accept the challenge of using locally grown, seasonal food, by learning methods such as pickling to cut waste or by eliminating certain ingredients based on the harm they cause to the environment.  If you grow some of your own, you can also be helping wildlife.  Cooking may be a bit far down the list of hobbies in terms of the amount of good it can do for the environment, but anything is better than nothing.  For some ideas, this page starts with a bit of heavy doom and gloom, but after that it does get helpful – https://www.wwf.org.uk/betterbasket.

Linked to cooking, if you grow your own and have a surplus you could donate it to a food bank. This might not make a difference to the environment, but it will make a difference to people instead.

Little steps

Even within the normal world of gardening, there are lots of little steps you can take that will make an environmental difference.  Allow your lawn to be a bit less perfect, learn to accept dandelions, use peat free compost, pick plants that suit your soil, avoid thirsty plants unless you get lots of rain, take and share cuttings, be careful when strimming, use a water butt, make your own compost, put water out for wildlife, create hedgehog corridors, avoid pesticides, share tools with friends etc etc.  This is a nice starting point for info – https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardening-for-the-environment/planet-friendly-gardening-tips.

If you’d like some inspiration for coping with your lawn perhaps not looking quite as neat, how about the ugliest lawn competition (https://gotland.com/worlds-ugliest-lawn/)?!

Repairing and upcycling

This is my second grouping of hobbies that can do a bit of good for the environment.  Cutting waste helps the environment because it means less going into landfills (where it may degrade, may cause problems for future generations or harm wildlife), but repairing and upcycling also potentially means less environmental damage caused by the creation of new products.  Upcycling may even give you something you can sell, more pride in your possessions or a nice challenge for your brain.

Upcycle clothes

A selection of scarves and fabric waiting for upcycling
A collection of scarves and fabric waiting for upcycling

The manufacture of clothes is a major contributor to environmental damage so anything we can do to keep clothes for longer will be beneficial.  According to the European Parliament, the fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon emission approximately, as well as using resources, causing pollution and adding to landfill waste (https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20201208STO93327/the-impact-of-textile-production-and-waste-on-the-environment-infographics). 

So, where to start with this as a hobby? Probably the simplest starting point is to repair rather than replace, but with experience and skills this can be expanded into to creating wonderful clothes items using past-their-best clothing, scraps and imagination.  A bit of time amongst the steampumk community will give you a brilliant example of converting the ordinary into something amazing.  But you don’t need to go that far, my friend has made some wonderful cushions using old quilt (duvet) covers.  These have the added advantage that you can make them to the size you want too.  My mum has also made us a great draught excluder using some left over fabric.  Clothing doesn’t have to be upcycled, down-cycling into lower value items such as rags still extends the lifetime and reduces waste.  These are two good articles if you’d like some inspiration – https://www.thesewingdirectory.co.uk/unlock-the-value-in-your-wardrobe/ and https://www.marieclaire.co.uk/life/sustainability/xupcycling-clothes-ideas.

Repurpose rubbish

growing seeds in old food containers for the blog about hobbies that are good for the environment
Re-purposed old food container growing tomato seedlings

Every time I put out the rubbish bins I am reminded how much waste a household can generate.  Some waste is easily recycled, but a lot of household waste goes to landfill.  According to government statistics, the UK recycling rate for waste from households was 44.6% in 2021 (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uk-waste-data/uk-statistics-on-waste), suggesting that way too much waste ends up in landfills.  Repurposing waste stops a bit of waste potentially going to landfill and saves having to buy something new – better for the environment and bank account. 

I like using old yoghurt pots, butter tubs and icecream tubs as plant pots.  Anything I grow from seed will spend its early life in a former food container.  My garden has also got old cooking pans scattered around as water dishes for wildlife or saucers to retain water for pot plants in summer.  Repurposing doesn’t just have to fit with gardening as a hobby – whatever your hobby, there may be things that you can save from the bin that will be helpful to you and good for the environment.  Alternatively, what about a hobby based on finding new uses for things from your own household waste?  Perhaps this news article will inspire you – it’s about making sleeping bag covers from crisp packets – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-54888102.

Repairing devices

Photo of a typewriter as an example of repairing or upcycling
A typewriter I tried to repair

Some devices and furniture can easily be repaired, extending their life and reducing waste.  Unless you have cupboards full of broken things, this might not end up as the biggest hobby, but any repairs you can do will be good for the environment.  Even if you can’t mend it yourself, you may be able to sell it on eBay as parts/broken for someone else to repair.  Furniture such as wobbly dining chairs can be often quite easily repaired with just a bit of glue, cardboard and rope.  I’m a big fan of boiled linseed oil for making a lot of scratches much less obvious.  Look out for local charities either helping people to repair items or saving unwanted items from landfill (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-59135413)

Kintsugi

For a beautiful hobby, why not make repairing broken pottery into an art form?  Kintsugi is a Japanese art form where broken pottery is repaired using lacquer mixed with powdered precious metals like gold.  The repair becomes highlighted rather than disguised to celebrate the history of the object.  I love the idea of this – the results are beautiful, but it’s also saving things from landfill.  This Wikipedia article doesn’t have many photos, but does include a good amount of information as a starting point – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kintsugi.

Volunteering

This is my final grouping of some hobbies that are good for the environment.  Volunteering involves giving up your time for free in aid of others or a cause.  I know that might not sound fun, but volunteering has been shown to be good for you (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/06/200611094136.htm), so you can help the planet whilst you also help yourself.  It doesn’t need to be a big commitment either – even if you give up a few hours once a year you will make a difference.  It can also be as sociable as you like.

Plogging/litter picking

Evidence of litter picking by a local bin for the blog about hobbies that are good for the environment
Evidence of litter collecting locally

Plogging combines running with picking up litter and was founded in Sweden (https://www.plogga.se/en/).  If running sounds a bit much, then what about picking up litter when you’re out and about?  During the pandemic I noticed a surge in people getting out with litter grabbers and bin bags, clearing along roadsides.  Litter cleaning has slowed down a bit since then, though I still see the lovely evidence of people’s hard work.  This is a good starting point if you’re interested – https://www.cleanupuk.org.uk/.

Volunteering at a local nature reserve

A winter-time view across a local nature reserve for the blog about hobbies that are good for the environment
A winter-time view across part of a local nature reserve

Nature reserves are protected areas, which if well managed can protect biodiversity and endangered species (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/aug/24/blakeney-point-coastal-nature-reserve-centenary).  In my mind, I picture people planting trees and mending fencing, but volunteering doesn’t have to be physically demanding either.  For example, reserves need money so you could volunteer in a shop, with fundraising or even just helping with admin. Whatever you you, you’ll still benefit the reserve.  These are some volunteering questions answered by RSPB – https://www.rspb.org.uk/helping-nature/support-the-rspb/volunteering/faqs.

Beach clean

A winter's day walk along the beach
A winter’s day walk along a lovely clean beach

There are a few organisations running beach cleans in the UK.  These events remove litter, but they also help with campaigns for change.  One of the better known ones is the annual week-long beach clean – https://www.mcsuk.org/what-you-can-do/join-a-beach-clean/great-british-beach-clean/all-about-the-great-british-beach-clean/, but there’s also https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/support-us/volunteer/help-out-with-a-beach-clean and https://www.sas.org.uk/plastic-pollution/million-mile-clean/.

To collect data on pollution, how about taking part in a nurdle hunt (https://www.nurdlehunt.org.uk/)?  Certainly a good conversation starter if nothing else!

River data

Nina, our dog, standing beside a lovely autumnal river for the blog about hobbies that are good for the environment
Nina, our dog, surveying a beautiful autumnal river

As an alternative to going to the beach, you could volunteer with organisations involved in cleaning or monitoring the UK rivers.  One option is to take part in the Big River Watch Weekend (https://theriverstrust.org/take-action/the-big-river-watch).  It only involves giving up 15 minutes of your time at a riverside location, but the data is then used by many groups to campaign for healthier rivers.  According to a New Scientist article, a tenth of UK biodiversity depends on rivers and wetlands (https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg25734263-300-save-britains-rivers-why-were-campaigning-to-rescue-uk-waterways/). So whether you help to clean or to collect data, you have the potential to contribute to a massive impact on the environment.

RSPB garden bird watch

Not the best photo, but of a robin sitting in a garden tree for the blog about hobbies that are good for the environment
Sorry the photo isn’t good, but a Robin visiting the garden

Bird watching is quite a popular hobby, but if you want to contribute data that can help the environment (or maybe have never even heard of a Dunnock), how about the annual RSPB Garden Birdwatch (https://www.rspb.org.uk/whats-happening/big-garden-birdwatch/submission)?  Perhaps this isn’t one of the hobbies that will do the most good for the environment, but for one hour of your time, you can be involved in the UK’s biggest citizen science wildlife survey

Direct action

Emmeline Pankhurst, Women's Social Political Union Activist (1858-1928)
A well-known group involved in direct action were the suffragettes, photo courtesy of Openverse (Emmeline Pankhurst, Women’s Social Political Union Activist (1858-1928) by Unknown photographer,Agent: Topical Press Agency is licensed under CC-PDM 1.0)

This is a bit controversial to include because direct action could get you arrested and I suspect many people involved in direct action don’t consider it a hobby.  Direct action has in recent years become synonymous with organisations like Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil blocking roads or throwing soup at a Van Gogh painting, but direct action is broader than headline-grabbing stunts or irritating road users.  It’s about taking protest one stage further by things like sit-ins, boycotts, blockades and causing disruption.  Direct action has also existed for a long time.  In 1995, motorists boycotted Shell and managed to get the company to change its plans for Brent Spa oil rig (http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/june/20/newsid_4509000/4509527.stm).  Contrary to some press and government portrayal, 66% of the population back non-violet direct action according to a 2022 survey (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/oct/24/huge-uk-public-support-for-direct-action-to-protect-environment-poll). 

If direct action is taking things too far, things like petitions can still help the environment.  Avaaz is probably one of the better known campaigning organisations that rely heavily on petitions (https://secure.avaaz.org/page/en/), but some charities are also very active with petitions.  Alternatively, supporting your preferred environmental organisation or charity on social media with likes, comment, shares etc can do a tiny bit of good.

Final thoughts

None of the hobbies I’ve listed are going to change the world, that’s true, but they’re a start.  Sometimes it feels as if everything we do is bad, especially when it comes to fun, but it’s nice to know there are hobbies that can be enjoyable as well as good for the environment.

It’s funny, but when I was researching for ideas for this blog, most sites I visited listed the same things, including things that are not actually beneficial when I looked into them further.  I’ve tried to stick to hobbies that will help the environment, though they still need the environment keeping in mind to stay on track.  It is easy though to feel overwhelmed, but I think that trying is important and even a tiny act is better than nothing.

What other hobbies are there that are good for the environment?  Please let me know in the comments below!


Eleanor with Hobby Aids dog Nina
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Dr Eleanor Rogerson founded Hobby Aids because she believes hobbies are good for you and limitations shouldn't stop doing what you enjoy. She is based in North Lincolnshire, UK.

Her background is chemistry, but after years in industry she wanted to work for herself and so went self-employed. During this time she mainly worked as a gardener. Recently she has been diagnosed with arthritis in her hands, which has caused her to discover the gap in the market to cater for hobbies for people with limitations.

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