what is slow living?

what is slow living?

The term ‘slow’ pops up everywhere these days. There’s talk of slow living. Slow food. Slow fashion. Slow travel. Slow cities. Slow education.

But what does it mean?

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defining ‘slow’

If you’re confused about the definition of ‘slow’, that’s understandable – the term doesn’t necessarily refer to one group of people doing one specific thing.

The essence of ‘slow living’ is to decrease the pace of your life, counteracting the perceived ever-increasing speed of modern life.

Instead, it’s about appreciating the smaller things, being more mindful and making more conscious decisions. It’s about valuing quality over quantity. It’s also often linked with prioritising sustainability and mental health.

the objectives

Taking up ‘slow’ principles could:

  • improve your mental and physical wellbeing, and give you more enjoyment from life
  • counteract environmental issues like globalisation, consumerism and climate change
  • improve and support your local community

the backronym

‘Slow’ is also sometimes given a ‘backronym’ – sustainable, local, organic, whole.

This applies most neatly to the world of slow food, where the term originated. But sections of the acronym can also apply to a range of other ‘slow’ approaches.

For example, slow fashion counteracts fast fashion. It does this by encouraging you to buy less, and choose more ethically and environmentally friendly clothes when you do. Applying the acronym, this could mean buying clothes:

  • from sustainable brands and routes (like secondhand)
  • locally – maybe from small businesses or companies with a more local and ethical supply chain
  • organic or more environmentally friendly fabrics

the origins: slow food

As briefly mentioned, the concept of slowness is said to have originated with slow food.

In 1986, Italian journalist Carlo Petrini campaigned against the introduction of a McDonalds in Rome. He did this by handing out plates of penne to protestors, highlighting the cultural traditions that he felt would be eroded by the fast food giant.

This gave rise to the Slow Food movement. Their manifesto describes their aim to “rediscover the rich varieties and aromas of local cuisines” by “liberating [them]selves from … the universal madness of the fast life”. They do this in effort to preserve our environment, cities and traditions.

‘slow’ movements today

After slow food, the word started appearing in all sorts of other contexts. Just a glance at the slow movement Wikipedia article will give you a hint of how broadly the term has been applied since.

To give you a snapshot…

the slow movement

The broadest term, “slow movement“, was coined in 2004 by Canadian journalist Carl Honoré in In Praise of Slow.

He viewed this as “a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better”, and encouraged slowing down in order to savour life.


Cittaslow was formed in Italy in 1999. Encouraged by the birth of the Slow Food movement, it promoted a slower pace of life in cities to:

  • improve quality of life
  • support cultural diversity and uniqueness
  • protect the environment

There are 268 slow cities around the world, and you can download the list here or use the interactive map on the Cittaslow homepage to find your nearest.

slow education

In response to what are seen as jam-packed curriculums and exam schedules, slow education promotes a less accelerated approach.

This involves looking at subjects in greater depth, with more personalised teaching and qualitative assessment.

slow fashion

In more recent years, the term “slow fashion” has become increasingly popular, first coined by Kate Fletcher in 2007. This stands in contrast to fast fashion, and encourages people to boycott these brands and the systems they promote. The basic driving premise is that we should:

  • buy less overall
  • buy quality, sustainable clothing when we do make a purchase

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