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  • Low-impact living - introduction

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    “If to change ourselves is to change our worlds, and the relation is reciprocal, then the project of history making is never a distant one but always right here, on the borders of our sensing, thinking, feeling, moving bodies.” – J K Gibson-Graham

    What is low-impact living?

    The destruction of the biosphere (our literal and only life-support system) is accelerating, with nothing in place to stop it. We’ve reached a point now where the concepts of ‘progress’ and ‘development’ are no longer valid. Life is likely to be very different for the next few generations, with broken supply chains due to runaway global temperatures and biodiversity loss, mass migrations, resource depletion, destruction of community, power concentration and war. There has to be a fresh start – a new era, of strong communities, local provisioning and shorter supply chains. We’re now focusing on preparing for the ongoing collapse of corporate capitalism, via: a) self-provisioning via low-impact living, and b) community provisioning via the commons economy. Adopting any of our topics is an act of rebellion against the current system.

    Fancy a gorgeous (maybe self-built) home made from local, natural materials, instead of a bricks & mortar box? Low-impact living isn’t about making sacrifices – it’s about improving the quality of your life.

    There are those who advocate taking high-impact living further – accelerating growth and technology to colonise the universe, in case the Earth becomes uninhabitable. We don’t think it’s wise to destroy the biosphere of the only planet we know for sure has one, in an attempt to get to other planets. But we’re not anti-technology either. We can choose the best of all ages – natural homes, local organic food, internet and solar panels. But we don’t need nuclear power, genetic modification, space travel and high-tech weaponry, which are not ‘convivial’, they promote growth, only benefit the few and create more problems than they (are supposed to) solve.


    High-impact living: earn more, spend more, earn more, spend more…

    It’s not about ‘prepping’ either, which is individualistic, and usually includes hoarding weapons and ammunition to protect resources from others. We’re advocating self-reliance, but within a context of mutual aid and commons provisioning. Low-impact living will be more difficult for some than others – but there’s something that everyone can do.

    What are the benefits of low-impact living?

    • Gain skills to provide for your family and community, that could lead to a more interesting and satisfying career.
    • Physical and mental health, happiness and security.
    • Contribute less to the destruction of the biosphere, by consuming fewer resources and creating less waste.
    • Escape corporate tedium.
    • Inspire and inform others.
    • Make new friends and help build resilient, friendly and safe communities.

    Fresh, organic food straight from your garden or allotment? Not really ‘hairshirt living’.

    What can I do?

    We provide a knowledge bank of 250+ topics, arranged into 12 categories – ‘sustainability on steroids’ as one commenter put it. Some topics are foundational, before you start re-skilling.

    Then start gaining skills to provide things for your household and friends.

    Topics range from easy things that you can start to do immediately, to building your own home, harvesting your own energy or running a smallholding.

    For each topic we provide a range of resources: basic introduction, books, magazines; links, blog articles, course, products and service providers; and experts to answer queries.

    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.


    If you want to learn to install renewables, bake bread or make pottery (for example), don’t just do it for yourself, do it for your community. The same goes for the production of timber, firewood, meat, eggs, utensils, furniture, textiles, herbal remedies, honey, cheese, beer, cider or wine, baskets, clothes or textiles. Once you have the skills and equipment, it’s a waste of resources to use them just for yourself. A community needs a bread oven / pottery kiln / blacksmith’s forge etc., not each household. But the household scale is perfect for composting, veg, herb and fruit growing, cycling, recycling, a few chickens, DIY, making natural cleaning products etc.

    Shopping at local shops and markets helps protect the green belt, spreads the money around instead of concentrating it in supermarkets and big chains, helps your local economy and local producers – and maybe allows you to walk to them instead of driving.


    You don’t have to be a corporate drone. If you feel trapped in corporate employment, you could get out straight away by going WWOOFing. Reskill for a new career. After providing for yourself / friends, if you enjoy it and are good at it begin to provide for your community too. It could be the start of a new career, or a sideline to an existing one, contributing to the new commons economy. Where possible, consume from other local people doing the same, and hopefully, they’ll do the same for you.

    Cohousing projects of various kinds are becoming more popular. They make low-impact living easier, as they can allow sharing of facilities and equipment, give access to land for members to grow food, and reduce travel requirements.


    Be a commoner – help build the commons in your community. At some point, you’ll be able to provide and obtain goods and services via mutual credit. Local mutual credit clubs will have jobs boards for products and services that are required locally, but are not currently provided by members; local businesses or individuals can be invited into the club to provide them, with training provided if those skills aren’t available locally. Low-impact living and the commons economy complement each other – and actually, require each other. We can’t have a commons economy if high-impact living is the norm; and low-impact living is impossible in an economy that siphons wealth out of communities and has to constantly grow.

    Getting a smallholding, providing resources for yourself and your community, harvesting your own energy and building your own home is the ultimate dream for many. It’s not easy, but we’d like to help make it more achievable.

    Contact us if you’re interested in becoming involved with any of the ideas outlined above; or if you’d like to volunteer, work or collaborate with us, provide funding or help in any other way.

    Join our directory; donate or set up a monthly subscription; follow our blog, newsletter and social media channels. And of course we’d love you to send people our way in any way that works for you. Do you have any other thoughts or comments? We’d love to hear from you.

    Whilst you’re here, why not take a look at the other 25+ day-to-day living topics available? And don’t forget to visit our main topics page to explore over 200 aspects of low-impact living and our homepage to learn more about why we do what we do.

    The specialist(s) below will respond to queries on this topic. Please comment in the box at the bottom of the page.

    Dave Darby is the founder of Lowimpact.org. ‘Specialist’ is definitely the wrong word, as this is a huge topic, with many component parts. If you post queries on specific topics, we’ll try to get specialists to answer them for you. This page is for general comments and queries, and discussing how we encourage low-impact living generally.

    The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's


    • 1Brandon August 5th, 2017

      One aspect of low impact living that you do not consider is data usage. Every bit has a price, and loading your page costs 1.9 mb. Now, this is not a lot by web 2.0 standards, but I do find it funny that this facet goes completely unnoticed.

    • 2Sophie Paterson August 6th, 2017

      An interesting point. There are some interesting articles which explore these issues (and the impact of the hardware used to browse, too) on the Low Tech Magazine website, in particular http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2015/10/can-the-internet-run-on-renewable-energy.html and http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2009/06/embodied-energy-of-digital-technology.html.

    • 3Dave Darby August 6th, 2017

      I was going to add a paragraph about data, but I realised that that would increase the cost of opening the page, so I didn’t. Seriously though, you’re absolutely right – especially as computers were supposed to make paper virtually obsolete, which would have balanced things out a bit – but they’ve done no such thing. But the only reason that we omit any aspect of human life is that there are, unfortunately, zillions of other things that humans do that are damaging to nature, and there’s only so much time. We’ll get there though (interesting articles, Sophie).

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    The human impact on nature and on each other is accelerating and needs systemic change to reverse.

    We’re not advocating poverty, or a hair-shirt existence. We advocate changes that will mean better lives for almost everyone.

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