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One Planet Week: Spring Into the Outdoors Q&A  

What are the benefits of spending time in nature?

Green spaces can provide a natural, accessible and cost-effective solution to improve wellbeing. Expansive green spaces encourage physical activity due to their characterisation as large and open, ideal for sports such as football and cricket. Natural spaces can provide a peaceful and relaxing environment to recuperate and enjoy the surrounding wildlife, or a meeting place to maintain social connections, improving mental health. In addition to the mental and physical health benefits to you (and those who you take with you), there are benefits to understanding more of the world than perhaps our urban existence (with it's social and financial focus). This increased understanding has a subsequent benefit to the 'nature' itself - not by our presence, but our willingness to make decisions which will improve ecosystems, rather than impoverish them.


Coventry, P. A., C. Neale, A. Dyke, R. Pateman, and S. Cinderby. 2019. The Mental Health Benefits of Purposeful Activities in Public Green Spaces in Urban and Semi-Urban Neighbourhoods: A Mixed-Methods Pilot and Proof of Concept Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 16: 2712. doi:10.3390/ijerph16152712

Romagosa, F., P. F. J. Eagles, and C. J. Lemieux. 2015. From the inside out to the outside in: Exploring the role of parks and protected areas as providers of human health and well-being. Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism 10. Elsevier: 70–77. doi:10.1016/j.jort.2015.06.009.

What community activities can we still do during lockdown?

Community and citizen science, by definition, means involving more than the individual to address a community need; and whether one has access to the outdoors or not, there are many activities to join and feel connected by. Most common outdoors ones search for biodiversity: iNaturalist, Seek, etc.; weather phenomenon and pollution; while there are internet-based options to contribute towards environmental projects - explore project opportunities on zooniverse, scistarter, science at home, etc

Source: iNaturalist: Citizen Science, Curiosity & Conservation: MammalWeb project page: NatureSpy @ North York Moors:

What is the optimal “nature dose”?

120 minutes is the optimal amount of time to spend in natural areas to receive the health benefits. 

  • Spending an hour in nature improves focus and cognitive performance, reduces anxiety 
  • Spending 30 minutes in nature a week reduced depression by 7% and high blood pressure by 9%, increased attention span 
  • Spending 15 minutes in nature reduces stress and cortisol levels, decreases pulse rate by 3.9%, systolic blood pressure by 1.9% 
  • The improvement effect is proportional to the duration of experiences of nature, frequency of experiences and nature intensity 
  • Frequent exposure to nature has been shown to be associated with lowered chance of cardiovascular disease, reduced level of depression, improved focus 
  • The likelihood of reporting good health and high wellbeing became significantly greater with contact over 120 minutes-could be through a long walk or more frequent shorter visits Spending 2 hours in nature will provide deeper, more restful sleep, overall sense of wellbeing and happiness


Article on optimal nature dose: (White et al., 2019) and Guardian article on time spent in nature:

How can I make my room greener?

Having indoor plants and images of nature in your room can have a positive impact on your wellbeing and productivity as they can encourage micro-breaks from your work, allowing restoration of your cognitive resources. Consider cacti or a flowering houseplant such as a peace lily. Plants can also improve the air quality in your house and bring a tranquil feeling.

Window bird feeders can also attract birds near your window to view. Make the most of natural light in your home to create a bright and cheerful atmosphere. 



How can schools incorporate outdoor learning?

Just get outside! You don't have to have a fancy forest school area and a perfect wildlife garden, even a square of tarmac is a different environment to the classroom. Just having logs that children can lift up and look at minibeasts underneath is great. And just trying to incorporate any lessons outside even if they don't seem 'outdoorsy' for example maths and English both have parts that can be done outside! Also get all ages out, lots of forest school things are done mainly with younger year groups but it's beneficial for all ages, including secondary school too! Also try bringing nature into the classroom too, eg. getting children to grow their own plants.

A Forest school is run by Heworth Primary School which increases understanding, awareness and appreciation of the natural environment amongst children. Forest school is a nature-based outdoor learning program. Activities include campfires, bug hunting and learning about nature. 

Source: Citizen Science and schools: Exploration + Education = students as change-agents (3-min read): Wildlife camera traps for education: How to guide:

How can I start my own vegetable patch?

It depends! First of all ask yourself how much time would you like to invest in growing? Any answer is fine (as long as it's some!) but will dictate how the size of your plot and the number of veggies you might try in a first year. Practical considerations: soil type, draining; shading; tubs vs ground. Raised beds are a good place to start. You can start at any time of the year, but spring and autumn are the best times. 

Creating a vegetable garden is a great way to eat fresh, healthy food and to learn where food comes from. To start, dig the soil thoroughly to remove weeds and stones and rake it level. Then sow the seeds into the soil. Some great veg crops for beginners are courgettes, potatoes, beans, strawberries, radish and beetroot. 

Don't forget the social benefits! Becoming part of a formal or informal community is really valuable (which of your neighbours grow veggies? are you starting on an allotment? Which if your colleagues/friends are growers? Most people end up with more seedlings/plants than they need - and often come with free advice!).


Is it better to compost waste food at home or put this in civic food waste collection?

It depends! At home if you want to use the free compost you produce. But other factors are key - e.g. what space have you got at home (hard to do in a flat with no garden); what other material do you produce for a compost (a balance of 'browns' and 'greens' is what you need!)

Source: Study on compost and carbon uptake in soils:

How do bug hotels benefit the environment?

You don't have to buy a fancy one (even though they do look pretty) - you can make a bug hotel easily. a tin can stuffed with sticks/bamboo of different size. Think about the placement - hung up or on the ground and sunny or shady will attract different insects. 

They benefit the environment by providing a home for insects such as bees, ladybirds, spiders etc. which then provide food for other species such as birds, bats, amphibians. If it is for bees then they also help with increasing levels of pollination. It is something that takes consideration though as some can actually do more damage for example if they are not maintained there is a risk they can lead to parasitism where parasites lay eggs in the bug house which can then kill the larvae of the bees living there.

Source:,pollution%20and%20abuse%20of%20pesticides. mud bug hotel - make own bug hotel -

How can buying food locally benefit the environment?

Buying food locally will reduce the emissions from transportation. Eating locally also means you will be eating in season as local farmers can only grow what the weather will support. Where possible, select farmers who follow organic and sustainable farming practices. Buying local also helps to protect local land and wildlife as the farms aren’t sold to developers.

Local initiatives: 

Good Food York 

Abundance /


Edible York

What are the advantages of the slow food movement?

The slow food movement promotes quality food over speed, focusing on locally grown produce that preserves original techniques. The advantages of the slow food movement is the production of healthy and nourishing food instead of fast food that encourages convenience. Slow food also changes our relationship with food by taking the time to prepare fresh food and enjoy the process of cooking and eating. 


How can I invite nature into my garden?

Some ideas on how to invite birds into your garden are to create bird feeders. Another option to attract insects is to build a bug hotel or plant pollinator-attracting plants. Having a source of water is really important for a variety of wildlife - hedgehogs, birds, insects. It can just be a shallow dish that you regularly top up or an old washing up bowl or bucket. Fill it up with rainwater as much as possible as tap water has too many chemicals in and make sure there is a way for things to get out - put rocks or bricks along the side so creatures can climb out. You'll be surprised at what finds a home in it without you having to do a lot. Leave parts of your garden wild or messy, not mowing the lawn as much and leaving piles or sticks and leaves. Leaving dead plants - lots of insects use hollow stems as a home. Making a small hole in the fence to allow hedgehogs to pass through as they can travel. Slugs and snails are your friends (veg growers may disagree!) but they will attract things that eat them like the birds, amphibians and hedgehogs so make sure you don’t use slug pellets or things like weed killers as they both damage and kill other things apart from their intended recipient!

Sources: Creating mini ponds - Recycled bird feeder - Hedgehog friendly garden -

What are some citizen science projects we can get involved in?

There are lots of citizen science projects that you can get involved in and will enjoy nature. For example the Bird watch encourages participants to document the bird species that come into their garden. Another project is the OPAL biodiversity count, where participants review the diversity of plant and wildlife species in their local area. Other projects (that are local & global) are to observe all kinds of biodiversity using "iNaturalist" and for the younger generations, they can try "Seek by iNaturalist" which uses the iNat database and AI to identify whatever it is you point your smartphone/tablet camera at - plus, there are in-built 'Challenges' to spur on curiosity and incentivise continued exploration of nature in and around your home.

There is an upcoming global collaboration to document urban biodiversity called "City Nature Challenge" in late April-early May:

How do I get involved with projects to look after the environment our local area?

Local volunteer organisations - such as Friends of Rowntree Park; Conservation volunteers. You could organise something yourself via local groups - such as litter picking or tree planting or a community garden. For young people (aged 10-14) they can get involved with the Green Influencers project at St Nicks, either with their school, youth group or individually to do projects in their local area. Have a look at your local green area, lots of places will have volunteer groups that are just a drop in thing, maybe once a month and it doesn't have to be a big commitment. 


Green Influencers -
Edible York -

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