One of the qualities I associate with environmentalism is slowness. Foregoing conveniences, such as K-Cups, fast food, and driving everywhere in favor of those extra steps that are more sustainable are simple changes we can make in our daily lives. I believe that embracing slowness, the process of brewing a pot of coffee in the morning or taking public transit to work, makes environmentalism something that is not only good for the planet but good for individuals at our core. Earlier this year, I read “The Book of Hygge” and I think that the concept of hygge naturally aligns with the zero-waste movement.
Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is a Danish term that describes a feeling of coziness, contentment, and being present in our daily lives. The concept of hygge is not new to the Danes, but it is gaining popularity around the world and was shortlisted for the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year in 2016. To me, it makes sense that a concept that focuses on slowness is gaining attention in the U.S. American life is marked by an obsession with business and it seems like every day there are articles published with tips about creating a better work-life balance. Our business fetish has created a market for products that make our lives easier, but at a cost to the planet, like all of those meal-delivery kits that give you the ingredients you need for a meal delivered to your doorstep with everything individually packaged in plastic. Taking the time to slow down and prepare a meal from scratch can allow us to pause in our busy lives. The zero-waste movement is often about giving things up, but I don’t believe that means we have to give up joy, we just have to think about how we create joy in our daily lives. Instead of going out to bars with friends, which is bad for my wallet, health, and the environment, I’d like to do more things with friends that turn chores, like cooking or grocery shopping, into a chance to connect with others.
“The Book of Hygge” focuses a lot of attention on the hyggerlig home, because that is where we connect with friends and families and have those little moments of joy. The hyggerlig home has small spaces that invite us to be close together. Brits describes hyggerlig objects as “vintage textiles softened and worn with use, quilts patched with love, a basket of blankets arranged so that anyone can envelop themselves in warmth.” Filling our home with things that are worn with love is not only environmentally friendly, it helps create hygge moments in our lives. I’ve written before about my love for antique furniture and ambition to eventually replace all of my box-store furniture with second-hand pieces. My second-hand pieces have certainly created a cozy atmosphere in my room and I was able to be a more conscious consumer by buying used furniture.
I am happy to live a slow and quiet life. I love that on weekend mornings I can spend a little extra time in bed and appreciate the change in the morning light through the seasons. I didn’t know the name for it before I read “The Book of Hygge”, but there is a hyggerlig feeling when I go to my regular coffee shop and order coffee from baristas that I know and the act of ordering coffee is a mini moment of connection. These little moments may not be exciting stories to tell my coworkers on Monday morning (they frequently ask me if I had an 80-year-old or 20-year-old weekend), but they are the simple things that make me feel like myself.
The Danes are some of the happiest people on the planet, and while things like universal healthcare, paid family leave, and affordable childcare probably do more to do contribute to this happiness than burning a candle and putting on a wool sweater, I think that embracing hygge can make our lives happier and more environmentally friendly.