Written by Sarah Robertson-Barnes for The Zero Waste Collective.
The concept of hygge (pronounced hyoo-guh) is the Danish concept of coziness, contentment, closeness, and taking pleasure in ordinary comforts. It is a feeling, a practice, and a way of life all rolled into one.
The Danes must be doing something right, as Denmark is consistently ranked among the happiest countries in the world! As the Northern Hemisphere settles into the long, cold winter, we can still be merry and bright by practicing the principles of hygge sustainably at home.
One of the main components of hygge, create a feeling of warmth in your home in any number of low waste ways. Turn down your heat, and gather around a flickering fire to read a book from the library or play cards.
If you do not have a fireplace, a variety of non-toxic candles can create the same glowing atmosphere while providing a little warmth. Wrap yourself in your favourite sweater, thick socks, and cozy blanket made of natural fibres for a toasty, close evening together.
Lighting is key to hygge. Natural, warm, and indirect lighting creates the ideal atmosphere, with candlelight being best. Opt for non-toxic candles in reusable containers. Use lamps or fairy lights instead of direct, overhead lighting.
Create a sense of calm and coziness by gently simmering aromatic natural items such as cedar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, citrus, or lavender in a pot of water on your stove.
Bring the outside indoors with greenery, pine cones, birch bark, twigs, and other natural materials to stay connected with nature while it is buried under snow. Pay special attention to displaying items that are meaningful to you and tell a story. Couple this with fun outdoor activities that end with cuddling up inside a warm, cozy corner.
Close, meaningful relationships are a key factor in both our personal well-being and strengthening our communities as a whole. Hygge helps us practice gratitude and cultivate intimacy with family and friends.
Nurture your relationships by hosting friends for a quiet evening. Turn off your phones and share a casual potluck meal around a candlelit table, or play a low key game of cards or Scrabble. Do crafts together, especially with children. A quiet afternoon is a great time to pass on a skill such as knitting, needlepoint, mending, watercolour painting, or wood carving.
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
Wrapping your hands around a warm mug is the perfect way to feel hygge. Brew up some bulk tea, coffee, or hot cocoa being mindful to purchase from sustainable, ethical, and fair trade producers. Enjoy local hot cider or mulled wine made with spices purchased in bulk in your own containers.
Indulge in treats the “slow food” way by cooking or baking together from scratch. Use local and bulk ingredients to make a big batch of hearty stew, bake bread, or make cookies. Settle in and enjoy together with candlelight and good conversation.
Valuing people and experiences over things are what hygge and a zero waste lifestyle have in common.
Valuing people and experiences over things are what hygge and a zero waste lifestyle have in common. The small elements that add up to a hygge home bring warmth and light into a gloomy time of year. Taking the time to unwind, slow down, and be close is sure to warm our winter days and our hearts.