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National Gardening Leave – Why Britain Would Be Better Off If We All Spent Less Time at the Office

The case for a new, voluntary scheme to introduce a shorter working week, and for the rapid expansion of productive and pleasurable gardening in Britain’s towns and cities.


Executive Summary

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The Proposal – National Gardening Leave: for a stronger, healthier and happier Britain.

This pamphlet argues that Britain will be better off if we all spent less time at the office. It makes the case for a new, voluntary scheme to introduce a shorter working week referred to as National Gardening Leave. And it calls for adapting a wide range of available spaces for the rapid expansion of gardening, both productive and aesthetic, in Britain’s towns and cities.

We argue that this will leave people happier, healthier and better equipped for our challenging times. It will make the economy more resilient, better positioned for the modern world, and more protected from external food and energy price shocks. It will also make communities stronger and more convivial places to live.

Giving people entering new jobs (and, where possible, those in existing jobs) the option of working a four day week – something which is standard practice in the Netherlands, for example – brings potential multiple benefits to individuals, workplaces, communities, the environment and the economy.

It is time to reap the benefits in taking the next logical step in the historical trend toward a shorter, conventional working week. In the new time made available, gardening wouldn’t be compulsory or the only choice of what to do, but it is already incredibly popular and we believe, an important and attractive option.


  1. Mollison once recited the tale of the first European boat that travelled up the Derwent. The ships captain had noted in his log that the aborigines were indolently sitting beneath the trees. Mollison goes on to say “Then we came along and cut down those trees, turned them into factories and tried to put the aborigines to work in those factories and then wondered why they were disinclined to work.” The Labour movement believes in fighting for the right to work without a proper understanding of what the right sort of work it is that we should be doing. I do not see office work, as the right sort of work. I think the occupy movement should not concern itself with Wall St but should be seeking to occupy the land and occupy themselves on that land. Mollison was also asked, ‘how are we going to do what you are talking about, I have a wife and kids, how are we going to do what you are talking about?’ (this was in 79) Mollison’s reply was, ‘here’s how you do it. First you leave your job and then you don’t take the dole, then you have the right conditions to drive you to do it.’

  2. We have recently began the journey towards self-sufficiency, but in order to create the necessary infrastructure on teh property whilst servicing a debt, both my husband & I still have to work off-farm. Luckily I can work 3 days per week from the farm, but my husband has to travel for two hours 5 days per week. Bottling jams and preserves, caring for hens that produce lots of eggs, making goat cheese and soap from our dairy goats is certainly possible – but try earning a livable income from them! Regulations governing selling of proccessed or perishable foods and limited access to farmers/growers markets means that ‘living the life’ and ‘earning a living’ are not always achievable without some compromise. I think a society based on a norm of part-time outside work and part-time home food production would be healthier in so many ways, both physcially and emotionally.

  3. Probably only some of use will be able (and willing) to live exclusively off the land and many will not even have enough land to do so (even though much can be produced on small suburban blocks as well). But what people like Ted Trainer and folks from the Simplicicty Collective and Simplicity Institute envision will still include something like 2 to 3 days a week work for many of use, but that would be thought of being locally in highly decentralised communities and spending much of the other time with own or community projects to support self sufficieny projects. There would still be the need to highly trained and skilled professionals in certain area and many new (and some revived) skills. It is not about everyone trying to be self-sufficient on their own, which is an illusion, which cannot work and has never worked, but as a community (at least to a good degree) and most of all significantly reducing our use and demands on resources.

  4. I think the path is different for everyone, but for those who like working outside growing things, it’s so nourishing to body and soul. I gladly have given up some things money can buy to do more of what I really love. I’m happier and though earning less money I’m saving more money on food and health bills.

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