It’s a simple idea, with huge benefits: Spend 30 min outside for 30 days. Interface Canada ran its own 30 x 30 challenge in September 2012 as a fun way to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Here, my Q & A with Dr. Faisal Moola, Director General, Ontario and Northern Canada, David Suzuki Foundation sets the tone for round two, beginning this month. Reduce stress? Boost energy? Improve productivity? Bring it on!
Q: What is the 30 x 30 Nature Challenge? How did it all start?
The concept of 30X30 was originally inspired by one of the Foundation’s Camp Suzuki leaders – Barry Freeman – who decided he needed to get outside more often. We began working with Your Brain on Nature co-author Dr. Alan Logan and Canada’s 30×30 Nature Challenge was born! I’m not sure if this is the official line at DSF now, but it was originally conceptualized by a Camp Suzuki (Rouge NP) participant Barry Freeman – assistant prof in and performance studies at UofT Scarborough.
The concept is really simple, we are inviting people from coast to coast during the month of May to commit to spending 30 minutes a day, for 30 days outside in nature. Our goal is to inspire Canadian’s to ‘cultivate a nature habit’ and enjoy all of the benefits nature can provide. The Challenge launched on Earth Day (April 22).
Q. Why is it important for people to stay connected to nature?
Over the last decade researchers have found what most of us know intuitively, there are countless benefits to time spent outdoors. Simply, connecting with nature is good for our heath and overall emotional and physical well-being. Numerous scientific studies have shown that being regularly immersed in a natural setting like a park, woodland or forest, can lower blood pressure, anxiety and stress levels, as well as boost immunity. ‘Green time’ has also been shown to reduce feelings of anger and depression, while increasing energy, creativity and attention span.
It’s no secret many of us spend our days in front of electronic screens and enjoy little interaction with nature. There is an increasing body of scientific and medical evidence connecting outdoor activities in nature to increased mental and physical health. Take what you do inside — board games, books, a game of cards — outside. It just makes sense to create a nature movement and get people outdoors!
Getting your daily dose of nature is essential to maintaining a balanced, happy, active life for you and your family. Strap on your running shoes and go for a walk on your lunch, take your family on a hike or bike ride in your favorite green space after dinner. It’s that easy.
Q: Why is workplace engagement a focus of this year’s 30 x 30 nature challenge? Why should offices sign up?
The motivation comes from a recent study published by the World Economic Forum that shows how wellness can play a powerful role in employee engagement, organizational productivity, talent retention, creativity and innovation.
Living in the digital age, many of us spend our days in front of electronic screens and computers- this is particularly true for those of us working in offices. The cost of our high-tech, high-stress lives is very real for employees and employers: reduced productivity, lower job satisfaction and higher rates of absenteeism.
It’s been shown daily exposure to nature can improve concentration, and overall mental health and wellbeing. We’ve identified the need to introduce the challenge to businesses across Canada in an effort to transform office culture. We’ve developed a customized Toolkit for HR representatives so they promote the challenge in a fun, interactive way to their employees. The kit includes colourful posters, daily inspirational cards and an office copy of Your Brain on Nature.
Companies can sign up at www.davidsuzuki.org/30x30challenge. We encourage participants to share their stories with their friends and social networks, as well as submit photos of time spent outside in our weekly 30×30 Photo Contests throughout May.
Organize walking staff meetings, a pop-up picnic over the lunch hour, or an after work jog. These are simple and meaningful ways organizations can get everyone involved, and support employee wellness and environmental connection.
Q: How does the support of companies like Interface contribute to the success of the challenge?
The David Suzuki Foundation is so excited to partner with Interface for Canada’s 30X30 Nature Challenge. As supporting partner of this national campaign, we are thrilled sustainable business leaders like Interface are committed to enhancing employee health and well-being. We all play an important role in helping to re-energize corporate and business culture so employers and employees alike can benefit from a positive atmosphere that supports a healthy work-life balance. Companies like Interface are on the forefront, and by embracing campaigns like 30X30 you recognize the return on investment ‘Green Time’ can have for your employees and the bottom line. Together we can inspire one another to fully reap the benefits nature has to offer.
Q: How are you planning to spend your 30 x 30?
A couple of years ago my doctor suggested that I get more exercise and participate in stress relief activities like walking, as I have a strong family history of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. I started biking to work every day on a bike path that runs along the waterfront. I benefited not only from the exercise, but looking out to the lake in the early morning to watch the shorebirds was very relaxing and prepared me for my busy day. I’ll be spending my 30 x 30 time this year cycling once again, but I’m also committing to spend time playing with my young children in a local ravine by my home after school and on weekends.
Q: Where can people go to learn more?
Sign on to take the pledge during the month of May at: www.davidsuzuki.org/30x30challenge. Let’s reap the benefits nature has to offer together!
And if you want to find out more about the science evidence of how spending even small amounts of time in nature can improve your personal health and wellbeing, check out this recent report by Trees Ontario that reviews dozens of research studies.
About Dr. Faisal Moola: Faisal is an adjunct professor in the University of Toronto’s Forestry Faculty, regularly having his work published in books and journals on ecology, conservation biology and environmental policy. For the past decade he has led an expert team of scientists, analysts and campaigners at the David Suzuki Foundation, focusing on the protection of Canada’s cherished wild spaces and wildlife, as well as the greening of our cities.