The Christmas holidays are starting to feel like a faraway dream, so to escape the city hustle my wonderful photographer friend Gianna and I took a picnic down to one of our favourite places, Richmond park, for some peace and clarity. When living in a crazy, somewhat dirty city like London it’s important to deliberately set some ‘green time’ aside to get back to nature, and parks are one of the easiest ways to do this. I consider myself a bit of a Leslie Knope; I absolutely love the outdoors, and I was fortunate to grow up close to several UK National Parks. The Lake District, Northumberland and the North York Moors were all a fairly easy drive away from me as a child, and now that I’ve been talking to the wonderful Greenvelope about their new parks partnership (more on that below), my love for them is larger than ever before. Let’s talk about why these places are so important, wherever you live.
Remember when I wrote about air pollution? I truly believe if you live in a big city one of the best things you can do is get out of it on a semi-regular basis. Stepping into a national park provides some much needed breathing space, so unclog your airways and get outside.
Habitats and Biodiversity
In both the UK and the USA National Parks cover less than 10% of the country, but contain much higher proportions of the most wildlife-rich habitats. In the UK up to 80% of some habitats that have been identified as national priorities for conservation are within the National Parks, whilst most parks worldwide contain an amazingly diverse range of nature and wildlife. 2010 saw The International Year of Biodiversity take place, with many parks running special schemes to help protect or re-establish rare species. Soon after the United Nations declared a ‘new decade of biodiversity’ that runs until 2020, and National Parks are a vital part of this.
National Park Authorities work with landowners, communities and a range of organisations to implement conservation measures and projects; both protecting habitats and biodiversity and enhancing the natural environment. But despite all this work National Parks aren’t strict or exclusive preserves that aren’t open to the public. National Parks across the world are open to all; in the UK 90 million people visit National Parks each year, in the USA it’s close to 300 million!
For me, parks are one of the best places to recharge my mental health and practice mindfulness. Check out this quote from Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre:
“It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour,” he says. “An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment.”
It can be hard for us to do this in a busy world full of distractions, heading out into nature is an easy way in to reconnecting with what my body is experiencing, because there’s a more peaceful environment in which to do it. What I can see, smell, hear and feel are easier in a place with more physical and mental breathing space.
I believe the more we value something, the more we will work to protect it. As well as being great for nature and beneficial to us as individuals, National Parks are one of the most powerful educational tools we have when it comes to protecting our planet. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’m such an eco-warrior now after growing up surrounded by nature as a kid. I think the more we can get ourselves, the people we love, and especially young people into nature, the more they will value it and work to find solutions to protect it. Often National Parks services run specific education programmes, lead field trips and supply information and materials to classrooms, but you can also just get in touch for helpful advice and information that you can pass on to your friends and family. Get learning, and get valuing! (Seriously, just writing this post has made me fall in love with parks all over again!)
So, as Spring starts to show its face, why not get a group together and start making natural adventures part of your life? You can gather friends and family, far and wide, using Greenvelope, an amazing company I came across who work hard to protect nature. Greenvelope is a digital invitation company, uniting beautiful designs and integrated event management tools to provide an elegant, effortless and eco-friendly alternative to pesky paper. Forget cheesy e-invites of the past, their invitations and announcements stunningly mimic the traditional paper variety — think textures, di-cut edges, and gold foil, without any of the waste. They also have added built-in RSVP tracking, survey questions, gift registries, mapping functionality, and messaging to save trees, time and money.
And guess what? They’ve teamed up with the National Park Foundation! So you can visit parks, and support them at the same time!
The National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks and nonprofit partner to the National Park Service. Chartered by Congress in 1967, the National Park Foundation raises private funds to help PROTECT more than 84 million acres of national parks through critical conservation and preservation efforts, CONNECT all Americans with their incomparable natural landscapes, vibrant culture and rich history, and INSPIRE the next generation of park stewards.
Greenvelope has created a special range of thirteen designs that were inspired by American icons like the giant sequoias, to natural wonders like the Rocky Mountains, with matching save the dates, invitations and thank you cards available in each design. The Greenvelope team hopes to inspire others to step outside with friends and family and surround themselves with the wonder that nature has to offer, whether it be a wedding, family reunions or simple picnic. And for every collection purchase, $5 is donated to the National Park Foundation.
Not only am I totally in love with parks, I’m totally in love Greenvelope’s designs. It’s brilliant to find a paperless option that doesn’t mean sacrificing on quality or good design, so this is like a dream combination for me. Support parks, save trees, make life easier for you. Could it get any better? So gather your pals, get outside, and use Greenvelope to do it simply and sustainably. (also – make sure to check out the sustainable tourist guide for visiting parks before you go!)
You can see the Greenvelope National Parks collection here (they are beautiful!)
Until next time, stay magic y’all.
This post was created in collaboration with Greenvelope.