By Lydia Neave
Before we start, I think it is important to stress that this blog is in no way making light of the current situation, and we are taking it very seriously. In times like these, health is always the priority. Anything you can do (or not do) to keep yourselves and loved ones safe and well takes precedence. On top of that it’s important that we take care of our mental health – let’s not be harsh on ourselves or judge others. If our usual eco-friendly routines take a back seat, let’s just accept it and remember it’s only temporary. For example, don’t feel guilty if your supermarket delivery arrives in plastic bags, when under normal circumstances you would visit the shop and re-use fabric bags. These are certainly not normal circumstances, and we must be mindful of that.
However, if you find yourself with more spare time around the house than usual and the environment is still a concern for you then here are some ideas to think about.
Thousands upon thousands of us are now at home working on laptops, watching TV and charging our devices. While this may be necessary – can we reduce our energy consumption? We could certainly consider turning our devices off at the socket when finished with them, and not leaving them on standby. Make sure you switch the TV and lights off when you leave the room.
If you’ve got the oven on, don’t just cook one meal – try cooking in bulk and freezing portions for later.
If you have some time on your hands, maybe now could be the time to calculate your carbon footprint, and set about reducing it. There are lots of carbon footprint calculators available online. This would be an ideal task to involve your children! Have a competition to think of the most imaginative way to reduce your carbon footprint. You could also investigate switching to a renewable energy provider. How about doing some research on solar panels ready for when life returns to normal?
Lots of people will be using this time to give their house the best spring clean it’s had in years. However, with cleaning products being among the first items to fly off the shelves, it may be useful to know that you can make your own products, which cost next to nothing – and actually work! And doing this means buying less plastic and less toxic chemicals. See more information and at Good House Keeping. Did you know that simple every day vinegar is an excellent and very safe product for cleaning? Here’s an excellent review of how to use it.
As we said at the beginning, these are extraordinary times – and if you feel now is not the time to experiment with cleaning products, that’s absolutely fine. Maybe something to try out later in the year?
Clearing out your wardrobe is another activity to keep you busy. However, charity shops will be closed, and you may not be able to leave the house to take clothes to donation points. Why not have a go at sewing and try upcycling your old clothes. How about shortening that skirt that felt a bit too long? You could cut up a patterned blouse and applique pieces onto a pair of jeans to brighten them up! There are lots of easy ‘hacks’ to make children’s clothes from adult ones! Check out YouTube for more ideas. This is an unusual time when none of us have many reasons to leave the house – so it could be the perfect time to reduce our online clothes shopping habit. Think of the money you’ll save! This will also benefit the planet, through less manufacture and less transport. If you want to understand more about the problems fast fashion creates for the environment, click here to read an informative blog .
Gardening is a great way to pass the time, and whether you live in the country or in city centre flat it’s possible to plant some flowers, vegetables or herbs. You can even fit a few herbs in a planter or a window box, and many seed suppliers are still operating mail order. Growing your own food means less plastic and less airmiles, and so much more satisfaction! Greenery is good for air quality, and growing things is great for your mental health! If you are lucky enough to have a garden with a lawn you could consider ditching the mower and leaving it to grow out. You may well have wildflowers there you never imagined, which will be great to encourage bees and other wildlife. Our Make it Wild FlowerBursts are an easy way to sow wildflowers and you could even spread a few when out for your daily walk!
A great way to encourage more wildlife into your garden is to introduce some water. This can be as little as an old washing up bowl. Ideally sink it into the ground, and make sure you provide a large rock, or other means of clambering out, for any creatures that may fall in – especially hedgehogs. Observing how the water changes, and what creatures arrive over the next few weeks is a lovely activity for children.
Another easy way to encourage insects into your garden is by building a ‘bug hotel’ in quiet corner of your outside space. This can be as big or as small as you like! And as neat or as messy as you like – the bugs won’t mind! You simply need to gather suitable natural materials that insects would like to rest in, and pile it up. We have successfully used twigs, dry leaves, cardboard, egg boxes, old roof tiles, and sections of old logs. Use your imagination! If you can make a slight hollow underneath and fill it with sand, you might even attract hibernating toads! Click here to see a video of our founder, Chris, making a bug hotel.
We’ve all seen the empty supermarket shelves – we know that people are buying more food than they need at the moment. The thought of all the resulting food waste does make me feel sad but it should be preventable. If you are buying more fresh food than usual to make your food shops last longer then consider making use of your freezer. Cooking meals using the fresh ingredients then freezing them for later is a great way to cut down food waste. Homemade soup is an easy way to use up vegetables, it freezes well and makes a great cheap and easy lunch.
Many local green-grocers have set up delivery services in response to the ‘lockdown’ situation – check out if yours has. Supporting local businesses at this time is really important, and will ultimately reduce food miles.
You could get creative with recipes making use of more long-life ingredients. Tinned beans, sweet corn and chickpeas keep for ages, and are good cheap sources of protein. You could combine with tinned tomatoes and maybe dried ingredients like lentils and rice for a cheap nutritious casserole.
Check out The Bootstrap Cook for lots of inexpensive recipes from store cupboard items.
This might be a good time to reduce your intake of meat and dairy products, which have a short shelf-life. This will save money, help to reduce food waste and also significantly decrease your carbon footprint. A win for you and a win for the environment.
We are all advised to get outside in the fresh air once a day for some exercise. It is certainly important for our mental and physical health. How about combining it with a little litter pick? The grass verges aren’t yet overgrown, so the litter is easy to see. Always wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly as soon as you finish. Put any litter you collect straight in a bag and into a bin.
As I said earlier, your health comes first. If you can find time to consider the environment during lockdown then that’s great, but if you can’t prioritize eco-friendly behaviours right now, don’t feel bad about it. You may even find comfort in the fact that by staying home you will be contributing to a worldwide reduction in pollution and greenhouse gas emission – which could hopefully help to slow down climate change.