Every new year promises innovations and trends, whether as a continuation of, or a challenge to, the year that preceded it. 2020 was not only a difficult year, but it was also the strangest many of us have lived through.
Astonishing scientific accomplishments gave us a coronavirus vaccine in record time and the tools to make homeworking the norm. Meanwhile, lockdowns left us craving simpler things – the beauty and freedom of nature, the hug of a friend, and the recipe for banana bread.
Here are five trends likely to be big in 2021.
1. The Scandinavian concept of friluftsliv
The BBC reported on friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv) back in 2017, asking whether it was under threat in an increasingly global and digital society.
Three years later, months of restrictions mean that the concept (literally translated as ‘open-air living’) is set to be a massive trend in 2021. In its native Scandinavian, though, it is less a concept and more a way of life.
Popularised by Norwegian playwright and poet, Henrik Ibsen, National Geographic reported last year on the celebration of the outdoors ingrained in Norwegian culture. It encompasses anything from outdoor strolls and family picnics to one man’s 57-day winter trek with his two-year-old in tow.
During a pandemic that transmits more easily indoors, the health benefits of open-air living, both physically and spiritually, are clear. It is likely to resonate with a global population this year and you can expect it to take off here once the government begins lifting restrictions here.
2. A move to plant-based meat alternatives
A report last year found that 58% of U.S. respondents have plans to increase their consumption of plant-based foods. Meanwhile, a record 500,000 people signed up for the Veganuary challenge this year, twice the number that committed to the challenge in 2019.
2021 is already set to be the year McDonald’s enters the meat-free market with their McPlant. And with potential US-UK trade deals highlighting the issue of chlorinated chicken, and the environmental impact of meat production and consumption better understood, meat alternatives will continue to be big business this year.
Vegan fish substitutes could well be the food trend of 2021.
3. Sustainable shopping
Recent Garnier research, as reported by Ethical Hour, confirms that 73% of UK consumers plan to be more sustainable in 2021.
Despite news reports being dominated by Covid-19 last year, the climate change message still got through too. 42% of over 55-year-olds surveyed said it was easier to go green in 2021 because they felt more knowledgeable.
From the environmental impact of fast fashion to the lockdown crafting revolution that saw Hobbycraft experience a 200% boom in online sales since the start of the pandemic, charity shops look set to be a go-to outlet for those seeking vintage or pre-loved clothes to upcycle this year.
The ethos of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ won’t just be at a local level either. The European Commission has committed to a Circular Economy Action Plan, whose aims are to make sustainable products the norm, empower consumers, and lead global efforts to move towards a circular economy.
4. The continued rise of AI
The term ‘Artificial Intelligence’ was first coined in 1956. Attempts to ‘train’ machines to conduct tasks previously believed to require human intelligence have been ongoing ever since.
Most recent developments in the field have included AI software that can remove unwanted glass reflection from photos, detect tinnitus without patient input, and pilot telecoms balloons in harsh winds.
Trends for 2021 are expected to include:
- Smart tech uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, and analysis to provide cognitive awareness to objects that were in the past considered inanimate. Your phone, speakers, and even your bulbs could get smarter and more widely available this year
- A rise in AI cybersecurity means that technology can learn to spot threats or unusual activity and even take preventative action
- The continuing rise of deepfakes…
- ….and increased discussions about the ethics of deepfakes, and AI more widely
Figures from the International Data Corporation suggest spending on AI systems will reach almost $98 billion in 2023, more than twice that spent in 2019.
5. Slow tourism
While the coronavirus pandemic understandably dominated headlines last year, issues of global warming and climate change lost none of their momentum, and sustainability will play a key part in all our lives this year.
Slow tourism tries to bring sustainability to travel. It involves slowing down; journeying at a more leisurely pace, staying for longer periods once you get there, and allowing yourself to delve deeper into the culture of your destination, and the places you pass through.
Whether backpacking through Asia or taking a walking holiday through the Lake District Taking, take more sustainable forms of transport, eat and drink locally, and consider your carbon footprint. Slow tourism is about quality over quantity, and you can expect it to be in travel tourism this year.