A silhouette of a man biking at sunset.

A silhouette of a man biking at sunset.

Photo credit: Pixabay

A Brief Guide to Sustainable Living

J. R. R. Tolkien’s descriptions of the cursed land of Mordor were famously inspired by his experiences in the trenches of World War I. In The Lord of the Rings, he set out to capture the horror of the cruel technologies that were deployed, of the disregard for human life and nature, and to show what happens when we focus on power and wealth to the exclusion of all else.

Conversely, in the home of his heroes, Tolkien strove to describe an ideal. The Shire, the home of hobbits, is a green land full of farmers and nature lovers. The individuals who inhabit this land care little for power or wealth, and their problems are relatively small.

While we can’t visit Middle-Earth, we can bring a more hobbit-like attitude to life as a way of living more sustainably. Here, we examine the principles Tolkien outlined in his work, and how we can incorporate these principles into our own lives to help preserve nature. If you want a truly comprehensive view, consider giving Toklien's series a read.

Eating Local

Hobbits are great lovers of food and drink. You might remember that “second breakfast” is taken quite seriously by Merry and Pippin in The Fellowship of the Ring. Food in the Shire, though, can’t come from very far away. They don't have cars or other methods of transport to move foods in a timely manner, so they have to grow their own.

In our own world, buying food locally reduces emissions from transport and also helps reduce food waste. This is important, as a majority of greenhouse gasses come from our agricultural practices.

So, check out your local farmer’s market. It’s a very hobbit-y way to shop, and ensures that you are supporting local businesses — ones that aren’t contributing to climate change with unnecessary packaging and extensive shipping. See what’s in season in your area, and don’t forget your reusable shopping bag.

Sustainable Gifts

At the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo throws a birthday party. In the Shire, birthdays are celebrated by giving presents to others, rather than receiving them. The gifts in the book are described as small, especially lavish, and are generally upcycled.

Instead of accumulating more stuff on your birthday, why not try giving things away? Reuse old items, and give away something meaningful that you don’t use all that much. Be crafty and creative with your gifts. Such practices reduce the amount of waste that makes its way into our garbage dumps, and they help counter the consumerist culture that fuels climate change. As a recently C4O report noted, the consumption of goods and services “including food, clothing, aviation, electronics, construction, and vehicles” is responsible for 10 percent of global greenhouse gases. That’s nearly double the emissions from every building in the entire world.

Enjoy the Environment

Hobbits love walks and have a great appreciation for the countryside they inhabit. While you might not live in the Shire, there are probably some parks nearby. When was the last time you took a hike near your home or visited a national park or a nature preserve? Have you participated in any of the programming run by your local or state park? These institutions rely on support from the public. Namely, through your entrance fees and participation in their programming.

If you don't want to visit a park, then how about just taking a walk the next time you need to get somewhere closeby? Walking and biking are great ways to reduce emissions from transportation.

Small Heroes Make the Difference

We had one more thought to leave you with today:

In The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien choose heroes who were small and seemingly of little importance to the wider world. Many characters throughout the story are surprised to find out that hobbits even exist. And in the end, it’s not the great powers that save Middle Earth. It’s the dedication and determination of ordinary people, far from home, doing something difficult because it’s what their time requires.

As Paul Rogat Loeb notes, "Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world."


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