Reconnecting with nature

Reconnecting with nature supports the world.


Author Kerry Rolison, Head of Suntrap Forest Centre

At Suntrap we’ve always known that being outdoors can be good for your mental health, but that’s only one reason to visit our local green spaces. A study published in January 2020 in Environment International showed that people who have access to nature or urban green spaces are much more likely to behave in environmentally friendly ways. The findings also identified that people who were not exposed to green spaces were less likely to adopt eco-friendly behaviours, such as recycling.

Co-author of the research, Ian Alcock from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter said: "The message that we want to get out is that reconnecting with nature may promote sustainable behaviour."

At Suntrap Forest Centre some of our visitors may not, at first, enjoy their encounters with the natural world; balking at being asked to sit on grass, pick up soggy wet leaves or look for invertebrates. From experience we know that it can take time for some of them to start to relax and enjoy being in the natural world. We have found that what can help is when they start to learn about the different roles natural wild life plays in Epping Forest’s ecosystem. That without those creepy crawly invertebrates, leaves would not decompose and in turn there’d be no compost to make a healthy soil for the plants to grow in. Through encouragement we help them to start to nurture a love of the natural world and subsequently a healthy respect for all living things that often carries on into their adulthood.

Along with this knowledge our newly refurbished centre will promote sustainable behaviour, providing learning opportunities about the ground-breaking energy-efficiency measures we are putting in place throughout the site. Small changes can make big difference. One example will be us running an electric minibus and we’ll be recommending groups booked on our eco residentials to arrive on public transport without the need for cars or coaches.

There is more and more evidence that the natural world has a vital role to play in shaping Waltham Forest Council’s Climate Emergency Strategy. For over fifty years Suntrap has been at the forefront of educating young people on the importance of looking after our world. At the heart of everything we do is to bring nature nearer and long may this continue!