Get active while having a positive impact on the planet

From beach clean-ups to planting trees, it’s easy to give a little back to the outdoors

Barely a day goes by without hearing a mention of the climate emergency, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Sometimes it helps to take a step back from looking at the problem in its entirety and instead focus on the small patch around us and what we can do to help.

Doing your thing for the planet doesn’t need to be all about hardship, either. You can make a difference while also getting outdoors and active. Here are some enjoyable and effective ways to help the planet.

Beach clean-ups

We have all seen the build up of litter along our coastlines, roads and parks but rarely do anything about it. This could be the year to do something about it and, luckily, there are a number of initiatives to assist you.

Clean Coasts offers free beach-cleaning kits to those who want to take on a two-minute beach clean. Log on to the website and pledge to do a #2minutebeachclean and they will send you a reusable beach clean kit containing a tote bag and gloves. Then head to your local beach, pick up as much litter as you can manage in two minutes (you can do more if you wish), take a picture of what you collect and upload it to your social media channels using the hashtag. If you don't live near the coast, you can opt for a #2minutestreetclean instead.


The National Spring Clean is one of Ireland's most popular and successful anti-litter initiatives. The campaign runs for the month of April and encourages people to organise clean-ups in their local areas. An Taisce organises the event and will send out clean-up packs to everyone who signs up.

If you are living in a rural area the Pure Mile is a great way of making a difference over a longer period. You simply adopt a mile along your local walking route and commit to keeping that stretch tidy. Groups are encouraged to not only pick up litter but also to educate themselves about local wildflowers, plants, animals and trees to ensure the environment is thriving. The Pure Project provides groups with Pure Mile signage, Pure Mile bags, gloves, litter pickers and Pure Mile high-vis vests. They will also arrange collection of your rubbish bags.

As an addition to these organised events, you can keep things simple and commit to collecting two or three pieces of rubbish every time you go out for a walk, run, swim or a cycle. It’s a small commitment that takes little effort but can make a huge difference over time.

Volunteer with Mountain Meitheal

Mountain Meitheal – whose catchphrase is “Get, out, get dirty and give back” – is a group is of environmental volunteers who undertake conservation and restoration projects on mountain and forest tracks. These projects attempt to counteract some of the pressures that are evident in our upland areas.

To date the group has built 14km of trails in upland areas, built and repaired bridges and constructed three emergency shelters on the Wicklow Way, one on the Bangor Trail and one on the Western Way in Co Mayo.

Volunteering with Mountain Meitheal offers you the opportunity to meet like-minded people while giving a little back to the outdoors.

The group meets every two weeks on alternate Saturdays and Sundays from late February to late November. Membership costs €20 and you must be over 18 to join.

Ditch the car

Opting to take the car is always tempting, especially on winter days. However, if you try to swap a minimum of one car journey per week for a walk or cycle, you’ll be surprised at the positive impact it will have on your life. Not only will you save on fuel and reduce your carbon footprint, your fitness will benefit too. If you are struggling to squeeze exercise into a busy schedule, doing tasks on foot or by bike is one of the most efficient ways to tick that box.

Take your commute to work for example (we aren’t talking about the one from your bed to your home office!), this is one of the easiest ways to exercise while saving time. If you are commuting 10km from a Dublin suburb into the city centre by car each day it will likely take close to an hour, or even more if you hit a particularly bad traffic day. That same journey will take just 30 minutes by bike. Before you know it, you will have not only saved five hours on your commute each week, you will have cycled 100km. It’s win win. If commuting to work isn’t an option then try to commit to completing one short errand on foot per week instead of taking the car.

Help the bees

One third of our bee species is threatened with extinction in Ireland because of the drastically reduced amount of food (flowers) and safe nesting sites. The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan was established to combat this problem. The initiative has been set up to encourage all of us to create biodiversity-friendly habitats across our landscape so bees and other insects and animals can thrive.

Gardening also burns 200-400 calories an hour which is the equivalent to an energetic gym class or a 30-minute run. See how you can help at

Plant trees

Tree-Nation is an international not-for-profit organisation with plantation projects in more than 200 locations worldwide. The initiative, which is in the process of establishing itself in Ireland, is on the lookout for volunteers. The project will be based, for now, in various locations around Dublin and will require a commitment of one day (six hours) per month.

Volunteers will need a base level of fitness to plant trees and will help organise and guide various community groups from primary school kids to college societies. The programme offers ongoing support, supervision and training opportunities. You must be over 15 to apply.

Eco-friendly travel

As an individual one of the biggest things that you can do to play your part is to fly less. And let’s face it, that has been pretty easy for the past two years. However, most of us are now dying to hop on a flight and head to sunnier climes.

Whether you are planning to stay in Ireland or head further afield you can do your part to offset the impact of your trip by choosing your accommodation wisely. Globally, accommodation providers have been making huge strides, opting for more sustainable operating practices.

Sustainable Travel Ireland is an organisation that educates travel-related businesses in sustainable practices, and there are similar organisations around the world. Sustainable Travel Ireland teamed up with to create a list of the most unique eco friendly places to stay in Ireland.

A little bit of research will help to guide you to the most eco-friendly places to stay in your chosen destination. Ecobnb is great website offering eco-friendly places to stay.

Heather Snelgar is editor of