Monday, May 30, 2011

Getting Your Daily Green Hour: No Backyard Required

Today’s post is part of “Your Green Hour Survival Guide,” a series which I hope will provide you with inspiration to make getting outside every day a habit.

A very cool thing happened last week after a reader (code name: MADMommy of MAD House) left me this comment:

“I would love to hear some tips on getting outside when you live in a apartment. We don't have any parks without playgrounds in town and also with gas [prices] so high we just can't be driving all over the place all the time. We live in an apartment to SAVE money not to spend it on gas but we definitely love the outdoors and would love to hear some tips on what to do.”

I decided to put the question to fans of Go Explore Nature on Facebook. The response was pretty amazing. I was so inspired by how helpful and thoughtful the ideas were, that I felt it worthwhile to put together the advice here. Something tells me MADMommy isn’t the only one trying to get in her green hour with little-to-no backyard space of her own.

Idea #1: Take a nature walk around the block.
Nothing beats a walk around your block and some quiet focus to see things you might not have noticed before. There are tons of ways to turn a routine walk into a nature adventure – here are 25 of my favorite ideas.

Idea #2: Try container gardening.
Both Sarah of Wandering Off and Kari of point out that window boxes, small planters and pots are perfect for those with little-to-no outdoor space. Flowers and veggies – along with bird feeders and even birdbaths – bring nature right to your back door.

And if you don’t have patio space, Stephanie of Let’s Go Chipper has another idea: See if a rooftop garden is an option.

Idea #3: Go on a micro safari.
This one comes from Jo P., who says all you need to get started is a magnifying glass (a cardboard toilet paper roll will work, too). Head out the door and take a close-up view of the tiny plants that live in walls and on buildings.

Bridget of Family Adventure Guidebooks adds a twist to this idea. Make a foot-by-foot square on a piece of grass at the park and see how many critters you can find.

Idea #4: Take advantage of public transportation.
My kids consider a ride on the bus an adventure. Several of you suggested that using public transportation is one way to make outdoor excursions beyond your own neighborhood more affordable.

Idea #5: Plan for one special nature adventure per month.
Sarah of Wandering Off suggested budgeting ahead for one adventure to a nature park or other locale per month (or once every other month depending on your budget).

Another great idea from Joan B. is to get together with other moms and carpool. Bonus is you get to share nature with friends! Here’s a list of our 30 favorite day trip adventures in nature to get you planning.

Idea #6: Look into community resources.
Stephanie of Let’s Go Chipper and her now 12-year-old daughter got involved with planting trees through the urban planning department in their city.

Angela R. suggests contacting your local state parks office. Most parks organize monthly nature programs for a small fee – or for free.

Both Angela and Nicole of Arrows Sent Forth point out the usefulness of local libraries, too. Many offer nature-inspired programming. Even if they don’t, they’re a great place to check out books about nature and even better, nature guidebooks.

Idea #7: Explore nature at neighborhood parks.
While it’s true that the playground usually takes center stage at neighborhood parks, that doesn’t mean that opportunities for nature play don’t exist, too. Check out 15 ways to explore nature at the park for some inspiration.

Do you have any more ideas to add to this list? Keep the conversation going in the comments below.


  1. What a great question and a thought provoking one too! You certainly did get some good responses on Facebook. Love all the ideas and think they are good reminders even for those of us that do have green space close at hand.

  2. you always think of great ideas! We spend an hour at the pool for swim team practice -- should I call that our blue hour?

  3. Great suggestions! The nature walks around our blocks are always favorites, and a great way to spend time with your kids! You also forgot one of your new found hobbies, Geocaching. A lot of urban parks have caches that you could go find, its not just a rural activity!

  4. @Melissa: LOL - we have our fair share of "blue time" around here, too. Love it!

    @Marc: You're right - it seems like there are caches waiting to be discovered just about everywhere. Looking forward to finding a "city cache" soon.


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