Have you ever considered taking a climate leave? Going on climate leave works in the same way as when going on parental leave. You take time off from work to do something good – in this case not for a newborn child, but for the planet. Something that benefits everyone.
The Climate Leave concept was developed by Nicolas Vallat who lives in Denmark. This is how he explains what the benefits of a climate leave would be:
Gains for the employee: This time off from work on a daily, weekly or monthly basis with support from your employer will allow you and your workplace to get involved in social and environmental projects at a whole new level. Something which will give both you and your workplace a sense of recognition and fullfillment.
Gains for the employer: While supporting actions of the employee in-house or in the field, the employer gets an opportunity to bring visibility and attention to these projects as a part of the company’s vision or CSR policy.
Gains for the Earth: Through the climate leave initiative, all actors of the economy are involved in tackling climate change and biodiversity loss.
“I hope to inspire every single person I meet to pledge to take action, and to take a climate leave as well, because I believe we’re the first generation to feel the impacts of climate disruption, and the last generation that can do something about it.”
The Climate Leave vision
“My ambition is to bring nature and biodiversity back where it has disappeared, while building a more caring, responsible, more sustainable world. During my own three-month climate leave, I want to learn about and explore the possibilities of consumption models based on more collaborative and sustainable practices. I hope to inspire every single person I meet to pledge to take action on climate, and to take a climate leave as well, because I believe we’re the first generation to feel the impacts of climate disruption, and the last generation that can do something about it,” Nicolas Vallat told Centre for Climate Safety.
“Many little streams make a mighty river. Starting out with the understanding that we all need to build a caring, responsible, more sustainable world, small groups of people and organisations working together can create a momentum,” says Nicolas Vallat, who has also founded a Climate Leave Ambassador Working Group to exchange information and experiences among people and organisations engaged in activities to address climate change issues locally.
Nicolas Vallat got the idea of the Climate Leave concept after having read an article by Eric Holthaus, an American meteorologist who writes about weather and climate for Slate’s Future Tense. On 1 October 2013, he wrote ‘I Flew 75,000 Miles Last Year—and I’m Never Flying Again’ and this became a wake-up call to Nicolas Vallat who realised, as he puts it: “Everything starts with us.”
“I realised that I could be saying the same as Eric Holthaus. You know, at the time I felt that I already did a lot to reduce my impact on the environment. I recycle. My wife and I share a car. I’m a vegetarian. I turn out the lights when I leave the room. I take those fancy reusable bags with me when I go food shopping. But over 14 years, I have also worked for big brands in the cosmetic industry, which are one of the greatest polluters on the retail sector. The amount of wasted products and point-of-sales material is out of control in this industry – even when an international brand claims to be ‘ecological’. I started to question this. How can this continue with everybody doing business as usual while we are all aware of the problems caused by global resource depletion, climate disruption being one of them. It stroke me that the increasing population wasn’t the only cause of this problem. We need to look at the way we live and consume. We need to talk about structural changes.”
Working out the contract
In May 2014, Nicolas Vallat met Bodil Palmberg, a young Swedish woman who recently quit a successful job at the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation. She believed she needed a break from a busy, daily routine where she could not contribute to these structural changes that are needed now in modern society.
Ms Palmberg had dedicated herself as a volunteer to the so-called sharing economy, promoting a more collaborative lifestyle through Transition initiatives, which involve community gardens, swapping and sharing, gift circles, upcycling, and so on.
“Talking with Bodil and trying to understand the reasons why she had quit her job was an eye-opener to me. I was impressed with her bold decisions which had had some quite dramatic consequences on her career life. As far as I was concerned, having three children and a mortgage in the bank, I was not ready to quit my job and change my entire way of life. So I came up with the idea that if taking such a break was streamlined into a formal concept, then it could be done without the drama and economic risk involved. I thought of it some more and really felt inclined to take break from work for the same reasons as Bodil Palmberg. At first, I thought of asking my employer for a leave of absence, until I suddenly got the idea of calling it a ‘Climate Leave’, which perfectly expressed what it was I wanted to do.”
Nicolas Vallat prepared a one-page Climate Leave agreement for his boss, so she could immediately grasp the concept and see what it would involve. The agreement was prepared in cooperation with two lawyers to make it comprehensive and so that his employer would not have to investigate the consequences for both parties.
Things like seniority and holiday allowances had to be agreed upon. Nicolas Vallat initially asked for a three-month unpaid leave of absence. Unpaid because Nicolas saw this as his way of showing his commitment to the project.
“Working in a small size, family-owned for-profit organisation selling natural and organic products on the Danish market, we all know each other well in the company, and I knew the timing was good for me to ask for a climate leave, so I was quite confident when I first approached my employer in the end of June 2014,” told Nicolas Vallat.
“Having been inspired by Bodil earlier, I perfectly knew what I would spend my time on while on leave: taking part in projects for a more environment-friendly, collaborative economy. Since the beginning of October, I have become a member of Transition Denmark and been part of a gift circle in Copenhagen, and I have also met with active members of various community gardens and associations such as www.byhaven2200.dk and www.oestergro.dk with a view to establish community gardens and provide green solutions for offices and organisations.”
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» Open or download the document in Danish language
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“We have all been given a gift, the gift of life. What we do with our lives is our gift back.”
Introduction to Gift Circles
It is an amazing experience to be part of a gift circle. Each time, I leave the meeting with lots of positive energy and a reinforced belief that people are good, truly good. In the gift circle, it becomes obvious that we live in abundance and that if we only allow needs and resources to meet, we are all rich. The good energy transmits and I feel like the world is softer and friendlier for several days afterwards, actually all the time. I feel high on good intentions and positive energies.
Why a gift circle? We envision a world in which sharing and gifting replaces the economic system that we know today. A world united by love and respect, in which individuals are free to develop, express and share their unique potential, and trust each other to meet their needs. The gift circle is an active and creative step towards a more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.
What is a gift circle? It is a space where a group of people meets frequently to share their needs and offers and talk about how they can help each other to meet these needs. The gifts can be anything for example a service or an item given without expectations to receive anything specific in exchange. However, the gifts are not free in the sense that we are building a gift community and culture were people happily share their gifts trusting their needs will be met as well.
It has several benefits; by putting words on the needs they become concrete and can be met. And, by identify and tell the offers, it becomes clear that we all have so much to share with others.
For inspiration: Gift circles are part of gift economy, an economic way which helps create connections and togetherness instead of separation. The book ‘Sacred Economics’ by Charles Eisenstein is a good source of inspiration.
» Read more and find the book as a gift at www.sacred-economics.com/
» Charles Eisenstein introduces the concept of gift circle in this article on: www.yesmagazine.org
Everybody can be part of the gift economy, choose yourself to which degree you would like to participate.
» You can read more about different ideas here: www.yesmagazine.org
How do we do it? We are organizing gift circles in Copenhagen and our goal is, in addition to enjoy being part of it ourselves, also to help the concept to spread so that more people can discover the magic of gift circles.
The process in short:
- Gather 10-15 people, it is also possible with more or fewer participants. The most important is that the participants understand and appreciate the concept. The circle usually lasts between 2.5 and 3 hours depending on the number of participants.
- All participants are asked to prepare before the meeting by:
o Watching the movie at www.youtube.com
o Writing down maximum 5 needs and 5 offers
o Bringing a piece of paper and a pen
- We start each circle eating together; everyone brings a small dish to share with the others. It is very nice and also allows for some buffer time, so if someone is late s/he can still manage to arrive before the actual circle starts.
- One person, selected as a facilitator, will briefly explain the process for the others as well as making sure that focus is kept throughout the circle. It is also a good idea to decide the date and facilitator for the next meeting.
- First round: Introduction – each person can tell something about themselves for example their name and passion.
- Second round: Needs – The round starts with a 2 minutes individual reflexion focusing on the needs. Each person has the possibility to say between 1 and 5 needs. You can need anything without justification. For example: “I need travel advises to go to Cuba”, “I need two chairs”, “I need friends”, etc. Experiences show that it is a good idea to limit the number and that each need should be only shortly described. All focus is on the person who is expressing his/her needs. The other participants have the possibility to ask clarifying questions. There is also a bonus round where everybody has the chance to add one or two needs if they wish. Everybody takes notes of the names and the relevant needs for later discussions during the break that follows. Further, in order to keep focus, nobody should offer their help during the rounds, those discussions are for the break afterwards.
- Break: after the needs-round, there is a break where participants can approach each other to talk about how they can help to meet that specific need expressed in the circle with a gift. They clarify details, exchange contact details and if possible agrees on a time when the gift will be given.
- Third round: Offers – the same procedure as for the needs is repeated. You can offer anything without justification. For example: “I offer conversation in Hungarian to improve language skills”, “I offer a vacuum cleaner”, “I offer listening ears”, etc.
- Fourth round: Gratefulness – the participants have the chance to thank for gifts they have received since last time. In general, it is useful to write down the gifts that have been given in order to see how many good intentions are being circulated.
- Evaluation – is there anything to improve for next time?
- Hand ritual We finish every gift circle with a hand ritual as pictured above and we leave the circle with light feet and warm heart. Each time Magic.
Some common sense ideas for a successful gift circle
It is more enjoyable if people are:
• transparent and honest
• specific about the offers and sharing information so that the receiver knows what to expect. For example: “I have a children bike to offer” or “I have a bike in need of some fixing to offer”.
• specific about the needs as well
• attentive to actually give the gifts and remind people if the agreed gift is not given
• contributing to a good energy/ vibration in the circle
• talk nicely to everyone and contact the core group if there is a conflict you cannot handle instead of bringing that energy into the circle
• open to new ideas of governance such as sociocracy
“An eloquent solution is available to us, if only we choose it collectively…”
Vision of a simpler life
If you found the climate leave and gift circle concepts interesting, you might also like to take inspiration from Ted Trainer’s 8-page paper entitled: ‘Your delightful day: the benefits of life in the simpler way’.
It was published by The Simplicity Institute in 2013.
Ted Trainer has a vision of a low-carbon conscious world in which people would have considerably more leisure time as their dwellings diminished in size and they learned additional skills and how to live cooperatively in a small interdependent community.
If Transition Towns is a new concept to you, it would most likely be worthwhile for you to update your knowledge on this website: www.transitionnetwork.org
The Transition movement has grown from just two groups in 2006 (Kinsale in Ireland and Totnes in England) to over 1,107 initiatives in more than 43 countries across the world in 2013.
“This choice between fewer work hours versus increased consumption has significant implications for the rate of climate change. A number of studies (e.g. Knight et al. 2012, Rosnick and Weisbrot 2006) have found that shorter work hours are associated with lower greenhouse gas emissions and therefore less global climate change.”
The Center for Economic and Policy Research: ‘Reduced Work Hours as a Means of Slowing Climate Change’
This paper estimates the impact on climate change of reducing work hours over the rest of the century by an annual average of 0.5 percent. It finds that such a change in work hours would eliminate about one-quarter to one-half of the global warming that is not already locked in
» Read more on: www.cepr.net