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Is it possible to have fun without damaging the environment?

A study shows what leisure activities that fill us with the least carbon footprint leave

There are leisure activities that are more polluting than others © Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Lately, it seems that everything we do to have a good time is wrong: we are recommended do not travel by plane not to pollute, not to buy food that comes in plastic, do not use the amenities of the hotels if they come in small boatsdon't even pick up beach shells.

Faced with this reality, the British University of Surrey has published in the Journal of Public Mental Health A study which answers a fundamental question in these times: Can we have fun without leaving any carbon footprint, that is, without contaminating? And if so, what activities with low carbon emissions are the ones that cause us the most happiness?

Eating out, for example, implies, according to the work, emitting more than four kilos of CO2 per person and hour, While reading, only one. Watching television or listening to the radio are also in the lower part of the spectrum, and even closer to zero emissions is spending time at home with family and friends - the least spent, obviously, is resting and sleeping.

The intensity of the carbon footprint in the ways of spending time in the United Kingdom © Angela Druckman and Birgitta Gatersleben

On the most intense side of this index are personal care activities: buying and washing clothes, enjoying health, etc., which, although it may not seem like it, leaves a great environmental footprint (the mere fact of making a shirt is very polluting, although it is not we who emit, directly, that contamination).

However, neither this nor other ways of spending time, such as take care of our pets, have been taken into account by the study as ways to enjoy free time, for not having the same discretionary nature as purely leisure activities.


The answer, of course, is affirmative, but it implies a great change in the way we spend our free time. Thus, the work indicates that what most fills us with the least carbon footprint emits are social activities such as spend time at home with family and friends (that is, enjoy the famous hygge Danish).

When a leisure activity involves traveling, its carbon footprint goes off © Photo by ZACHARY STAINES on Unsplash

It also indicates as favorable to the environment to participate in physical activities that involve a challenge, as the runners. However, crossing the seas to participate in iconic races, such as the New York marathon, is not included in the pack. In fact, the authors of the paper suggest that, depending on how they are carried out, Some of these activities may change from generating low to very high carbon emissions, "especially through travel."

Thus, in the same graphic above, the carbon expenditure associated with providing more intense activities that, at the outset, leave a low footprint is indicated in red. If, for example, we sing in a choir or are part of the chess team - both very little polluting things -, we shot our footprint when traveling to take part in international competitions, for example.

Therefore, the study concludes that it is required, by governments, investment in adequate local infrastructure, such as local and community sports centers, together with the implementation of systems that favor journeys on foot or in means such as the bicycle. Even so, in a world of unbridled consumerism, in which we hardly have a good time without spending, it seems an almost utopian reality to change our habits for others that are “simple”. We will get it… ?

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