Slow down, tune in, green up

This afternoon we walked to the supermarket round the corner. Arthur can’t ride his bike with his arm in a cast.

It’s amazing how much more you see, when you slow down. It’s only a few hundred metres to the shop, and I almost always bike there. It’s quicker, you see. But you miss things, even at bike speed. There’s a cute house on the way, with a veranda dotted with potted flowers, that I’d never noticed before. And the electrical box by the traffic lights has got some new street art.

The other new thing I noticed was a poster outside the petrol station on the the corner. They’ve got a new app for pre-ordering your takeaway coffee, so it’s ready when you drive in.

We can’t even wait a few minutes for our grab-and-go coffee from the petrol station now. Why are we all in such a hurry?

It reminded me that this week I signed a petition calling for a tax on disposable coffee cups. A monumental 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are used in the UK each year, and almost all of them end up in landfill. Single use coffee cups aren’t recycleable (though a small proportion are compostable). I feel the need to restate my favourite billions-heuristic here: a million seconds is about 12 days, a billion seconds is roughly 31 years. So 2.5 billion coffee cups is really a lot.

A tax would make a difference to how many cups are used, and then discarded. But that difference would probably be less than 5%. Worth doing, but not a silver bullet.

It confronts me more and more, the more I think about it, that so many of the environmental problems we create are caused by haste. Takeaway cups, plastic packaging from our snacks and meals on the run. Emissions from our combustion engines. And the faster they go, the more they damage our planet.

I’m not saying takeaway coffee is a sin (maybe get a reusable cup though). But isn’t it nice to take the time to savour your morning coffee? Isn’t that what it’s really all about?

To me, living slowly is living richly. More is not always, or even often, better. This is of course a horribly privileged thing to say. A choice you only have to make when the world has presented you with more than your fair share. That’s the position I’m in, and perhaps you are too. But being in a position to do so much, see so much, work so much, doesn’t mean you must. Mercifully, it’s a choice.

This is a travel lesson too, as most life lessons are. And not one we’d entirely grasped at the beginning of our trip round the world. I was beginning to get it after a year on the road. Two years after leaving the UK, it had really begun to sink in

Travelling slowly should mean doing less, and getting to fewer places. But that’s no bad thing. You notice things along the way, when you slow down. Perhaps you absorb the same amount however fast you travel, but at slower speed, you can fit together the things you see. You can make sense of them.

And you have time to savour them.


Thanks to Joe at month at a time travel for helping stimulate this train of thought.

3 thoughts on “Slow down, tune in, green up

  1. Bravo! You have done such an excellent job of describing the joys and rewards of a slow and observant travel style. I especially like the way you applied this slow travel attitude to your daily routine. It just goes to show that even a trip to the corner market can be a meaningful travel experience, if we just slow down a little and open our senses. Finally, by connecting a slow conscious lifestyle to the environment, you have hit on a key to preserving of our planet. Yes, we are extremely privileged, and by slowing down, we can better appreciate our good fortune.

    1. Yes, exactly. I get so much joy from slowing down and taking things in along the way. It’s taken me a while to get to that point, I think we all have a tendency to behave as if busy and fast is better, with the world how it is. But yes, I think more and more that it’s churlish not to enjoy life if you’re in a position of relative ease in the world. It makes sense to stop striving so much and to appreciate life. And also with privilege comes the responsibility to at least not make things worse for everybody else, which living greenly falls under. Ideally we should be making them better. I need to work on that!

      1. I am very impressed that you already comprehend and can articulate the benefits of slowing down at such a young age. I am in my late 50s and have just begun to realize this.

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