How the games industry and its players can join #GenerationRestoration for World Environment Day

June 6, 2024

The landscapes of games set in humanity’s distant future tend to follow two routes. On the one hand, the barren deserts of Wasteland and Fallout speak to an earth ravaged by human intervention. Meanwhile, series like Horizon and even The Last of Us imagine the opposite: a world where human activity is vastly (and sometimes tragically) reduced, where the natural world reclaims the land.

Our vision for the future should probably sit somewhere in between these two extremes.. And part of that approach involves fighting the degradation of our landscapes - the process by which the earthbecomes increasingly less able to support ecosystems, agricultural activities and human habitation. 

This year’s World Environment Day builds on this theme with the tagline #GenerationRestoration, focusing on land restoration. 

As part of this campaign, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the facilitators of Playing for the Planet, has published a practical guide to restoration, covering what everyone from governments, to agricultural businesses to individuals can do to help the cause.

Right now, more than one-fifth of the Earth’s land area (around 2 billion hectares) is deemed to be ‘degraded’. 3.2 billion people, or 40% of the world’s population are impacted by land degradation. And yet, there is hope. Between 765 million and 1 billion hectares of land are earmarked for restoration across the world, and countries are already showcasing that it works.

Everything that needs to be done on a global scale for nature can be overwhelming - it demands a system wide response. But, just as every leaf and every insect makes a difference to our ecosystems, every action however small makes a difference to their protection.

This year’s Green Game Jam focuses on the ways small actions can create a big impact, and how we can all play a part in addressing three of UNEP’s three strategic aims, including the restoration of our natural world. 

To help inspire individuals and organisations alike, here’s our summary of UNEP’s practical guide to get everyone involved in restoring land, halting desertification, and building drought resilience.

What can I do?

1. Eat a plant-rich, seasonal and regional diet. 

Some plants are particularly good for repairing soil. Not only do pulses like beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas provide soils with essential nutrients and improve its biodiversity, they have a double-dividend of offering us a natural source of protein,  providing a great alternative to meat, which is a leading cause of land degradation. Just making a different choice at meal time and following a so-called “flexitarian” diet can make a big difference, especially if it makes it easier for you to follow in the long run.

2. Purchase from brands that use sustainable produce

We can use our purchasing power to demonstrate and drive demand for sustainable food sources. Organisations such as LEAF, Rainforest Alliance, Marine Stewardship Council, Soil Association provide labelling for such products sourced through sustainable agriculture and fishing practices. 

3. Participate in food composting / recycling schemes in your community

When food waste is sent to landfill, it breaks down but the biogas produced goes straight into the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. Food recycling schemes help to produce large amounts of nutrient-rich fertilizer to help nourish farmland and prevent it from degrading.

If you don’t have a food recycling scheme, you can safely compost food waste yourself to use in gardens or on balconies.

What can my business do?

1. Apply individual food practices to a larger scale

The recommendations for individuals above can be applied to cafeterias, office snack cupboards, conferences and other events to make an even bigger impact.

2. Use your community to educate, inspire and engage

Playing for the Planet’s Green Game Jam demonstrates year on year the impact that can be made when player audiences are mobilised in support of the planet. Our 2022 Player Survey found that more than two-thirds of gamers have considered changing their behaviours as a result of in-game messaging. 

Participating games have raised funds to protect at-risk ecosystems, or matched downloads with trees planted. 

3. Encourage employees to make a difference: time giving for volunteering

Restoring nature in local rivers, grasslands, forests and oceans can involve practical, hands-on work. Offering employer-supported volunteering - paid time off for volunteering during work hours - helps to reduce this barrier for your team (and has a number of business incentives too).

What can my household or office building do?

1. Building gardens in urban areas

Infrastructure such as Alliance member Google’s 300m roof garden at Google’s King’s Cross HQ and Wood City in Helsinki, home to Alliance member Supercell are examples of large-scale ways to build biodiversity into games businesses. But even a high-rise balcony or suburban backyard can help with the project of land restoration by supporting urban ecosystems. 

2. Attract pollinators to your green spaces

Whilst we mainly think of bees when we think of pollination, bats, butterflies, birds and beetles all play their part in pollinating plant life. But these species are in serious decline due to intensive agricultural practices, pesticide use, invasive species, diseases and climate change. 

Planting diverse, native flowers helps to attract pollinators to a space - as does implementing small shifts like mowing lawns less intensely. Meanwhile, nesting sites like bee “hotels” or birdhouses can be easy to install and provide safe places for urban wildlife to thrive.

3. Spread the word

Become a restoration leader in your community by learning about up to date restoration practices, joining (or even founding) “happy bee” schemes and working together to build and protect biodiversity in towns and cities.

Let’s be clear: when we talk about individual action, we don’t mean isolation. All levers from governments, policymakers as well as other industries like agriculture, construction and manufacturing need to be pulled to reform the ways that land is used. 

Communities and movements are all made up of individuals making the choice to act together - and what feels like a drop in the ocean becomes an ocean of drops. 

Find out more about this year’s Green Game Jam, and make your pledge to be part of #GenerationRestoration for World Environment Day.