I know I am far from the only person to say that autumn is categorically my favourite time of year. What is it that so many of us love so much about this season? For me it lies in the autumnal golden glow in the air, the memories of collecting conkers and trampling leaves as a child, the comfort food and drinks, and the celebration of the macabre and darkness. As an intersectional environmentalist living with a chronic illness, I am passionate about how we can celebrate this season simply, inclusively and in a way that doesn’t harm people or the planet.
Here are 10 ways that I connect with autumn, which make every single day of this season special whether I’m outside in the crisp air or tucked up in bed.
Celebrate seasonal food
1. Celebrate seasonal food
Eating seasonally is not only tasty and great for carbon emissions, but enriches our lives by rooting us in the changing seasons. Autumn is an important time to celebrate the yearly bounty, with the Harvest festival traditionally falling on the Sunday nearest the full moon in September (the Harvest moon), which celebrates the food grown on the land once all the crops have been harvested.
Seasonal food in the autumn months includes apples, pears, squash, sprouts, leeks and so much more! Try growing your own pumpkins and experimenting with these recipes from Veganuary. Research if you have a local orchard or cooperative that has apple juicing sessions like this initiative in Sheffield.
Definitely help yourself to a seasonal hot chocolate or pumpkin spiced latte too, but remember to support independent coffee shops and ethical chocolate companies!
2. Observe the night sky
As the nights draw in and we experience more darkness, autumn is a wonderful time to observe the night sky. Full moon’s can be particularly bright and prominent. The ‘Harvest moon’ in September is particularly famous, named so as it was thought to help light the sky for the end of the harvest, followed by the ‘Hunter’ or ‘Blood’ moon usually in October.
This autumn Jupiter, Mars and Saturn are all particularly bright and easy to spot in the night sky. The Almanac book by Lia Leendertz provides a guide to the night sky each month including deep sky objects that may be visible.
3. Have a creepy but conscious Halloween
Halloween is my absolute favourite holiday, it can be a wonderful escape and time to embrace darkness and the macabre, but it doesn’t come without its issues related to both sustainability and social impacts. Halloween can be a huge occasion for overconsumption and waste, as well as a time that promotes problematic stereotypes and cultural appropriation.
My advice for a conscious Halloween is to learn the history of Halloween and use those roots to help form why you celebrate it, support small businesses, be conscious with your costumes and borrow and reuse, consume less and go for homemade treats and decorations, and always eat and compost your pumpkins!
4. Go wildlife watching
Before many animals hibernate and slow down over Winter, Autumn can be a magical time for wildlife watching. The iconic deer ruts happen in Autumn, as stags lock antlers in battle. Watch from a safe distance! Hypnotic starling murmurations start in Autumn which sees thousands of birds flying in unison and forming shapes.
If you have a garden you can keep it wildlife friendly over this season by leaving fallen leaves in piles, topping up bird feeders and keeping an eye out for hedgehogs that may be too small to hibernate!
To watch wildlife without leaving your house, keep an eye out for the Autumnwatch starting soon, and the amazing Frozen Planet 2 is currently on BBC1.
5. Foraging and Fungi spotting
Mushrooms are the clear winner when it comes to foraging in the autumn months. Fungi spotting can be a magical and exciting activity, but you have to be very careful and research before eating any! Look out for the enchanting fly agaric (but don’t eat it!), and some of the more common edibles such as penny buns, shaggy ink caps and chanterelles. Remember to leave some behind and tread lightly. Find some tips for sustainable mushroom foraging here.
Other food to forage through autumn include sloes, nuts, sweet chestnuts, rosehip and blackberries at the end of their season!
6. Learn about seasonal events and festivals
Autumn is full of wholesome pagan/neopagan events which can be really magical to learn about and find your own way to incorporate these traditions into your year. Mabon is the neopagan Harvest celebration in September, and Samhein is the traditional celebration which Halloween is thought to originate from.
There are many other celebrations for different cultures this time of year to learn about, for example the Mexican Dia De Los Muertos (day of the dead) and Mid-Autumn or Mooncake Festival celebrated in East and Southeast Asia. Just remember to respect the line between appreciation and appropriation!
7. Collect treasures from the trees
I think we all know that the trees are the real stars of autumn, from the crispy, colourful leaves to the enchanting fallen seeds. Appreciating the changing colours is a must, but you can also collect some of the treasures such as acorns, conkers and pine cones to bring nature into your home.
How about trying out some autumnal crafts, making a pine cone bird feeder, or growing your own trees and replanting them with collected fallen seeds!
8. Get cosy and look after your mental health
Although many people see autumn as a fresh start or a season that elicits warm feelings, for people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) the darker days can mark the onset of poorer mental health. Autumn is an important time for self care, as well as getting outside for a walk in the woods or maybe a wild swim, this can involve slowing down, staying indoors and allowing rest.
Many of the most comforting autumn activities are also the lowest impact, such as reading, cosy film nights, hot drinks and board games. To connect to the season from home with others you could also try a nature-based online circle such as those offered by Kindred Soil.
9. Give to others
Autumn is an important time to get involved with charity or mutual aid, especially this year as we live through the cost of living scandal and will see energy bills soaring as the temperature drops. The UK’s most extensive network of food banks, the Trussell Trust, has seen demand increase by more than 80%, and it is estimated two-thirds of households could be in fuel poverty by January.
Charities or individuals alone will not solve this problem, we need rapid changes from the government. However, getting involved with mutual aid can help build resilient local communities. Consider helping charities this autumn but also look for mutual aid groups in your area or start one yourself. Check out the radical mutual aid group the Jubilee movement, who provide free end of the month meals and are campaigning for the cancellation of debt.
10. Get involved with climate activism
It’s clear that every autumn is getting warmer and warmer. Taking action for a liveable climate for all is a year round activity, but there are a few specific events happening this Autumn to get involved with. The COP climate conference currently takes place in Autumn, with COP27 taking place in Egypt this year between the 6th and 18th of November. Check out:
- The Climate Justice Coalition are building towards mass mobilisations for COP27 on November 12th. See if there’s an event in your area here.
- The Stop Cambo campaign have launched the fight against the huge Rosebank oil field in the North Sea, which is under review for UK government approval. Find out how you can help here.
- Global South led group Debt for Climate are planning a day of action demanding debt cancellation for climate justice on October 13th, find out more here.
- Extinction Rebellion will take to the streets again between October 14th and 16th.
- Choose one or two of the ideas above to focus on or try out this Autumn, share with your friends!
- Connect with every season over the year through the book The Almanac and the podcast As The Season Turns, both by Lia Leendertz.
- Check out our previous Curious Earth article about having a green Halloween.
All photos taken by Fran Haddock