Low-impact living: introduction

What is it?

We can’t solve the nature problem and the democracy problem if we want to continue living just as we are now. It’s got to be different – and we’re arguing that it could be more fun, more interesting and healthier too.

First let’s contrast low-impact living with how most people live in the modern world – let’s call it…

High-impact living

Many of you reading this will own property through, and owe interest to, a global bank – or you will be paying rent to someone who does; most of your food, clothes and energy will be provided by corporations, and you might have credit card debt; you’ll have quite a bit of electrical equipment, you’ll drive and you’ll fly occasionally, to go on holiday; you’ll be exposed to a lot of advertising, and your lives will be more or less completely controlled by the corporate sector. Does this sound familiar?

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Fancy a gorgeous (maybe self-built) home made from local, natural materials, instead of a bricks & mortar box? low-impact living is all about making sacrifices? I don’t think so.

Here’s how it could be instead:

Low-impact living

Imagine instead being able to walk to a local market, filled with locally-produced, organic vegetables, eggs, meat, honey, fruit, cheese, beer, fish, cakes, breads, jams, pickles, nuts and loads more.

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Meanwhile, in high-impact world: earn more, spend more, earn more, spend more…

Imagine being able to walk or cycle to a local job – towns and villages full of family businesses, self-employed people, independent shops and restaurants; and people making things – clothes, furniture, pottery, kitchenware, jewellery, building materials; and teachers, hairdressers, mechanics, bus drivers, plumbers, builders, electricians – all for small, independent companies, selling their products and services locally.

Imagine a strong, diverse, uncontaminated, environment that provides for us, keeps us healthy and nourishes us with its beauty.

Imagine being able to get your energy and heating from small-scale, local renewables, with no need for large, poisonous coal and nuclear power plants, and pylons snaking all over the countryside.

Imagine living mortgage-free in a beautiful, natural home that you built yourself, or that someone you know and trust built for you.

Low-impact living is about local, organic food, self-employment, family firms, small independent shops, co-ops, credit unions, home cooking, open source, craft skills, self-built homes, renewable energy, smallholdings, allotments, sharing, enjoying nature, enjoying life.

It’s also about authenticity – real friends, real food, useful work, It’s an antidote to the power of corporations and banks, supermarkets, pesticides, McFood, monotonous, identikit shopping centres, housing estates and industrial estates, credit card debt and stress. The global economy is out of control, but it’s only a blip – we will either choose to live in harmony with nature, or nature will do it for us. But if we wait for nature to do it for us, it won’t be pretty.

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How about fresh organic food straight from your garden or allotment? Hairshirt living? not really.

What are the benefits?

  • we can’t guarantee you’ll be happier – that’s ultimately down to you – but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you haven’t been crushed into corporate conformity
  •  you’ll be doing your bit to get humanity onto a better path
  • you’ll be consuming fewer resources and creating less waste
  • you’ll inspire and inform other people you come into contact with
  • you’ll probably meet some pretty great people, and make new friends
  • you’ll probably be healthier – including mentally
  • you’ll be helping to build stronger, friendlier and safer communities
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We can have the best of all ages – you can’t beat a wood stove for cosiness, but you can read this on your laptop, powered by pv panels.

What can I do?

Become a free-thinker – but I guess if you’re reading this, you are already.

So what to do practically?

Well, you could just jump and get out straight away by going WWOOFing.

Or you could stay where you are and downshift.

Then think about where you get your stuff from, and where you keep your money.

And get together with like-minded people locally.

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Shopping at small, local shops helps protect the green belt, spreads the money around instead of giving it all to supermarkets and big chains, helps your local economy and local producers – and maybe you can walk to them instead of driving.

Then think about gaining any number of skills & making life changes, around:

  1. building & retrofitting
  2. energy, water & utilities
  3. land management
  4. gardening & smallholding
  5. keeping animals
  6. food & drink
  7. craft skills
  8. transport
  9. lifestyle, work & money
  10. home, health & family
  11. bushcraft, wild food & nature

… in no particular order – just go to what attracts you. It’s no good slogging away at something you don’t enjoy.

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We’re not promoting some kind of austere lifestyle. Quite the opposite – we think that the ideas you’ll find here will make you happier. After all, you can’t possibly be happy if you’re constantly craving more and more ‘stuff’. Let it go!

You can do things for yourself, then maybe for friends, family and neighbours – possibly in exchange for something else.

Then who knows – it may turn into a small business. If you’re supporting small, local businesses, other people will be too.

Good luck! Ultimately it’s down to each of us as individuals to do what we can.


We'd love to hear your comments, tips and advice on this topic, and if you post a query, we'll try to get a specialist in our network to answer it for you.