What’s love got to do with sustainability? Everything! It’s time to rekindle our love of the earth and make sustainability a priority each and every day. Yes, it’s true: connecting with what we love about the earth means that we can better understand our environment and how to protect it.
From the heart
If protecting the planet feels like an obligation borne out of guilt or fear, it may be exhausting and disheartening. However, if sustainability feels like an act of love, this deeper connection can bring fulfillment and can allow us to effect real change that will last for generations.
Lindsay Coulter (@SaneAction), a green living expert (former Queen of GreenTM), community catalyst, mother, and co-founder of EPIC Learning Centre (a forest and nature school in Victoria, BC), who, when asked about the role of emotions like love in sustainability, explained, “Emotions are essential to reason.
“They’re part of the human experience, and they tell you what to pay attention to. How can we awaken to the suffering of the world or have courage to be in the world if we don’t have skills and practices to address emotions? (Of course, we must not act from dangerous emotions.)
“Guilt is a luxury,” says Coulter. “There’s no time for judgment and guilt. Choose love. Toko-pa Turner, author of Belonging [Her Own Room Press, 2017], speaks about our need to reconcile belonging to the earth itself, plus the fact that it all hurts so much because we’re being torn from what we love, Mother Earth.”
Scientific literature suggests that those who spend a lot of quality time in nature as children grow up wishing to protect it. According to the press release from a 2017 University of British Columbia study, “… 87 percent of study respondents who played outside as children expressed a continued love of nature as young adults. Of that group, 84 percent said taking care of the environment was a priority.”
In an older study from 2006, “wild” play in nature was deemed important in fostering adult environmentalism. This means free and unstructured play, where children can become truly immersed in their natural surroundings. Think: spending a carefree afternoon digging in the dirt and making flower crowns.
Not quite sure where to begin when it comes to fostering a love of nature in your little ones? Try these ideas to spark their (and perhaps your!) imaginations:
- building fairy houses
- going puddle-jumping
- skipping stones
- making mud pies
- climbing trees
- picking fruit or berries
- wading in tidepools
- doing a scavenger hunt
- building a snowman
- flying a kite
Looking for more inspiration?
If you’re looking for more inspiration when it comes to getting kids outside, consider these books:
- There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Åkeson McGurk (Touchstone, 2017)
- Play the Forest School Way by Jane Worroll and Peter Houghton (Watkins Media, 2016)
Nurture your relationship
So, what do you do if you’re not a child anymore? Is connecting with nature still important? Coulter believes so. “Time in nature takes you out of yourself and stops the profound disconnection,” she explains. “Each day find magic. Seek beauty and awe. In nature, you realize there’s more in the world than me!”
Coulter recommends Joanna Macy’s “Work That Reconnects” (workthatreconnects.org), a type of “group work designed to foster the desire and ability to take part in the healing of our world,” which offers many resources and exercises. For example, as Coulter explains, “Act as if everything you meet is alive, that it matters and has its own story—the rock, the moss, a tree.
“Be open to communication. Whisper and touch the trees. Practise witnessing and being witnessed. Show reciprocity and rise in their honour. Is the water or tree looking back at you? Sensing you as you are sensing it? Let your senses be awake. Tell the living thing a gratitude (aloud), give it praise, and wish it well with how things are … not trying to change anything.”
While we’re all still arguably kids at heart, there are plenty of activities us “grown-ups” can do to nurture our own relationships with nature. Use this preliminary list to inspire you!
- skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing
- outdoor meditation or yoga
- wild plant or mushroom identification
- watching the sunrise/sunset
Show Mother Nature you care
Our individual actions matter. For those beginning their environmental journeys, these eco-living tips are fantastic places to start:
- Plant trees.
- Waste less food.
- Waste less water.
- Learn to mend clothing.
- Reduce your plastic waste.
- Give up fast fashion and shopping as a hobby.
- Shop second-hand or from local craftspeople.
- Take up active transportation when possible: cycle or walk.
- Read environmental books.
Spread the love
It’s essential to couple our individual eco-actions with collective eco-action. What does this mean? Once again, it comes back to love. When we work collectively, we work out of love for our shared planet, as well as its inhabitants.
When we engage in eco-friendly actions (such as using reusable water bottles) it’s also important to see the larger issues (such as pushing for clean water for all communities in Canada, as many First Nations communities do not have clean water).
What is #BlackBirdersWeek?
It’s an initiative that began on social media in the spring of 2020 to highlight and normalize Black nature enthusiasts. Organizers wish to raise awareness that the outdoors are currently not inclusive of everyone, as Black people often experience racism when spending time in nature. Everyone ought to be able to spend time enjoying nature comfortably and safely, and it’s important that we work to make it so.
Consider starting with what you love. For example, if you enjoy shopping for local, organic produce (without plastic packaging!) from your farmers’ market, perhaps volunteer for a group that works to improve food security in your city.
Here is a nonexhaustive list of collective eco efforts that may ultimately deepen our relationship with the world we live in:
- Start a community garden.
- Host a clothing swap.
- Create a local “buy nothing” group.
- Organize a shoreline cleanup or litter pickup.
- Get involved with a volunteer cause.
- Teach others what you know, such as knitting or foraging.
- Attend local meetings and town halls (many occur virtually).
- Write to your politicians to express your views.
- Donate to environmental or social causes.
- Spread the word to others.
The natural world is a beautiful place that deserves love, respect, and protection. This Valentine’s Day, and every day, let’s love our planet—and its people—with all our hearts.
10 eco-friendly Valentine’s gifts
Want to give your family, friends, or sweetheart a Valentine’s gift? Consider one of these options:
- a batch of freshly baked cookies or a loaf of homemade bread
- a seedling or potted plant
- organic and fair trade tea or coffee
- beeswax candles
- a poem, story, song, or painting—by you!
- a home-cooked meal or a gift card to a restaurant
- DIY bath bomb, sugar scrub, or lip balm
- artisanal, locally made soap
- sustainably or ethically made lingerie or PJs
- organic and fair trade chocolates
Try this: “Birthday witnessing”
“Practise an annual gratitude ritual on your birthday!” says green living expert Lindsay Coulter. “Gratitude is a social emotion; it points to what’s already there. It solidifies our relationship with the living mystery, enhances our resilience, and helps to face hard info.
“What do you notice happening in nature on our birthday? What’s in bloom or what is going to rest? What are the smells and sounds in nature? Even more, what textures do you notice in the sky, the earth, on a leaf, or in the snow?”
Find your people
Green living expert Lindsay Coulter suggests seeking out circles, groups, or workshops to help with compassion cultivation, building resiliency, or dealing with climate/eco-grief. “For example, check out the Good Grief Network resources online or find a chapter near you,” she explains. “Many heart-centred and trauma-informed groups have online sessions from all around the world.”
Create earth art
According to green living expert Lindsay Coulter (@SaneAction), “An earth altar is a simple way to acknowledge sorrow and joy. Get inspired by impermanent art created by Day of Morning Altars (instagram.com/morningaltars).
“You too can create one! I do it outside anytime I’m moved to acknowledge a loss, or life, in some humble way. Don’t forget to pay gratitude to items from nature (leaves, flowers, etc.) before you collect them.”