Social activity can be all the more meaningful if we shape it with intention to help other people and the planet. But to balance out last week’s rather serious round up of meaningful social wellbeing tips, let’s have some fun. The following 8 examples of how to merge socializing with sustainability offer inspiration for when it’s finally safe to gather in groups.
Tip #83: Host Zero-waste Events
I can’t wait for my first post COVID-19 social activity! (with safety protocols, of course). Think of your first gathering as an opportunity to make our “new normal” events zero waste 🚫. OK, that’s an ideal to work toward, so any amount of waste reduction is a step in the right direction.
How many ways can you reduce waste? Consider dishes & cups, decorations, drinks, packaging, favors, food, and so on. As much as possible, avoid single-use products and make things using whole food (less packaging) and recycled items (like candle party favors made from used jam jars). Don’t forget to send left-overs home with guests (another use for used jars :). Be sure to tell your guests what you are doing and why. Sustainability ♻️ & social wellbeing unite!
Tip #84: Popularize Vegan Potlucks
Who doesn’t love a potluck! It’s one of the easier social activities to host, since guests pitch in with the food and drinks (and they might even bring their own place settings and chairs!). A potluck’s informal vibe helps everyone feel comfortable and at home. In fact, don’t be surprised if your guests start doing the dishes! (My advice: let them!)
To add another layer of sustainability, make your potluck plant-based. We’ve established in earlier tips that a plant-based diet is good for our health and for the environment. Just a brief repeat on the latter point: raising and processing plants requires fewer resources than livestock.
A potluck is a great way to introduce non-vegans to plant-based eating. They can bring an easy appetizer, side, or salad and try a variety of dishes. Be sure to swap recipes, send leftovers home with guests, and pick a date for your next one!
Tip #85: Simplify Stuff Swaps
It’s a simple fact that the longer you live, the more stuff you’re likely to accumulate. If you have kids, you’ll likely be overwhelmed with outgrown stuff if you don’t do a periodic purge. Parents groups and schools may organize swap meets to make it easier for parents of older and younger kids to pass on things and find what they need. These swaps typically focus on one thing like books, Halloween costumes, or sports gear ⚽.
Certainly, schools swap meets are not the only place to trade stuff. As an example, my neighborhood organizes an annual yard sale, with a map to each participating address. We joke that we’re not actually getting rid of stuff — just shifting it from one house to another!
A swap meet qualifies as a social activity because it involves interacting with other people. To make it even more social, share stories: the vacation you bought this tablecloth on or the funny thing that happened the year your kid wore that Halloween costume. This way, you’re not only exchanging stuff; you are building relationships as well.
Tip #86: Get a Green Book Club Going
I’m an avid reader. In fact, I have 2 books going at once: one to escape in and one to learn from. While this might sound strange, turning reading into a social activity makes it all the more pleasurable. I’m not talking about gathering the family around the fire to read in the evening (though my family certainly enjoys that). I’m talking about book clubs.
Book clubs are actually a popular social activity. They take the pressure off choosing books (so many books, so little time!), and through discussion, they let you relive the best parts or see the story in a new light. And of course, there’s the socializing. Some book clubs offer a reason to just get together, perhaps over some tasty food and drink.
Instead of sticking with the usual best selling mysteries, why encourage your group to make your book club green 📗? You might pick an environmentally themed novel like Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy (brilliant!) or try nonfiction, like the classic Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. By becoming more aware and informed about environmental issues through the books you read, your group will be more inspired to take action. Maybe you’ll even decide to do something sustainable together! I can just feel our collective wellbeing warming up!🌡️
Tip #87: Collaborate on a Clean-up Day
Speaking of doing something together, how about collaborating on a clean-up day? Cleaning may not be your idea of fun, but it has to be done. I learned in Thailand that any tedious task can be fun if done together (Thais are exceptionally social).
You might be thinking, good idea — I’ll get the family / roommates to scour the kitchen and bath on Saturday (good luck with that). However, what I mean is a planned social activity with a sustainable spin. Think about public open and green spaces that need to be cared for, like beaches and parks. While the city may empty trash cans, there’s much more we citizens can do. It may take longer than a Saturday, but together we can clean up our home, the Earth 🌎.
Tip #88: Share Sustainable Strategies
Here’s a low speed sustainable social activity: share sustainability strategies with friends and neighbors. Instead of talking about the best TVs, change the topic to rain barrels, solar ☀️panels, & composting. Recommendations from folks you know & trust 🤝are powerful.
My husband is particularly good at this. Take our solar panels. Two years ago, we finally put solar panels on our house after years of dreaming. My husband did extensive research (like always), had 3 bids, and chose a company he felt was best. The installation worked like clockwork, the panels performed better than expected, and my husband was absolutely giddy. He told all his friends, colleagues, and patients about it. Thanks to his exuberant recommendation, four families also decided the time was ripe for solar panels and went with the company we used. (Bonus, we received a nice little referral check, but that wasn’t why my husband talked it up 🙂
If solar panels are beyond your capabilities at this time, by all means, start with something smaller. As your friends and neighbors what sustainability strategies they’re seeing success with and share yours. You’ll never run out of things to talk about.
Tip #89: Start a Simplicity Circle
Have you heard of the voluntary simplicity movement? The foundational philosophy regarding consumption in particular, is that less = more. That is, by having less stuff, we have more space/time/resources/energy for what truly gives us wellbeing. Like relationships. And meaningful social activities.
To make simplicity social, turn it into a circle ⭕ of friends and neighbors. This circle could be your go-to contacts for organizing a swap, sharing sustainability strategies, or getting together for a book club! But the social activities needn’t stop there. We all can reduce stuff by not buying it in the first place. A simplicity circle can also share collectively owned property like community garden produce, tools, even cars. By sharing, we lessen the resources used to produce goods and keep the item in circulation for as long as possible. In this way, a simplicity circle represents endless wellbeing for people and the 🌎!
Tip #90: Visit Climate Change Victims
I saved the best sustainable social activity for last: visiting climate change victims. It’s not the best because it’s the most social or the most fun, but because it has the greatest potential to inspire change. Research shows that meeting people affected by climate change and seeing the impact first hand is highly influential. They say that seeing is believing! However, visiting climate change victims not only prompts individuals to believe in global warming. It’s also a strong motivator for pro-environmental action.
However, I would strongly caution against “climate change tourism” (an ecotourism spin off). If you’re going to visit climate change victims, such a trip should involve someone you know, an organized study tour, or welcome assistance. In my opinion, the last option, volunteering to help climate change victims, is a truly meaningful social activity.
On this topic, I can speak from experience. For our 10th anniversary, my husband and I volunteered though a local NGO to help Hurricane Katrina victims. We worked with a crew to rebuild houses, met and talked with the home owners who lost so much to the flood. Walking down the streets, we saw piles of rubble and downed electrical wires, boarded up houses with rescue crew markings on the front door, and the once lively church with its roof caved it. Talking to and aiding residents determined to rebuild their lives made the magnitude of the tragedy — and the resilience — truly sink in.
We’ll start a brand new goal for our social wellbeing journey: mutuality. Who doesn’t want mutually respectful and supportive relationships, in which we benefit from both giving and receiving? Sign me up!