Have you noticed what a difference the scaling down of human activities during the Covid-19 lock down has made on the environment; cleaner air, clearer waterways, more wildflowers and wild life exploring the empty streets?
We were feeding ducks from our balcony in central London last week – that’s a first!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if all of this could continue once life returns to normal?
Obviously, there will be a pick up in pollution once society ‘reopens’. This crisis has taught us, though, that there are quite a few easy things we can all do to make sure that the post-corona planet will be cleaner and greener.
At the time of writing, I have been #stayinghome for 5 weeks. The first 2.5 weeks were in complete self-isolation with my husband as we both showed symptoms of the Covid-19 virus and now we are just staying home like the rest of the nation.
For obvious reasons, our environmental footprint in terms of travelling and commuting has decreased. You would think though that our water usage and general consumption would have gone up as a result of us spending more time at home, and that it would somehow even out. However, mind-blowingly, we have also lowered our water usage, as well as our food waste and general consumption.
Not only has this crisis opened our eyes to what the world could be like without so much pollution, it has also forced us to reflect more on life and review our habits, which we thought were already pretty good. There is always room for improvement...
Below is a list of some of the lessons that the self-isolation and subsequent #stayinghome has taught me; along with my suggestions to 7 good habits that will have a positive impact on your life and the planet once the lock down is lifted.
1. Experiment more in the kitchen to prevent food waste
Lesson: I like to follow a recipe. Having a nearly empty fridge and kitchen cupboard as a result of our isolation forced me to step out of my comfort zone and be more creative with my cooking. On one of the last days of our isolation, we made a lasagne with pretty much everything that was left; a frozen chicken fillet, some black beans, a carrot etc., and it was honestly one of the best lasagnes we have ever made.
New habit: Be more creative in the kitchen and find ways of using food that would normally get thrown out. This way you prevent food waste and ensure that every food resource is being put to good use. Plus, it’s cheaper too!
2. Use the self-scanner when shopping and reduce plastic waste
Lesson: I have walked past the self-scanners at the supermarket many times, thinking I couldn’t be bothered. First time shopping after our isolation ended, I wanted to make sure that I had as little (if any) contact with other people as possible and downloaded the self-scanning app to my phone. It turned out to be the solution to a long-time problem: how to manage all the loose fruit and vegetables when doing the weekly shop at the supermarket. By being able to scan the groceries myself and put them straight into the shopping bag, I suddenly found myself choosing more loose vegetables than normal.
New habit: Use the self-scanner when shopping and choose more fruit & vegetables without plastic packaging. The planet is going to love you for it – and you get to pick all the best produce yourself.
(If you have the option to buy all your fruit and veg at a farmers market, this is of course even better)
3. Swap some of your holidays away with staycations
Lesson: In my mind, holidays and mini breaks equals going on an adventure; be it to the nearest beach or abroad. I seldom spend holidays at home as I struggle to relax in my usual environment – especially since I started my own business – and love exploring new things. For obvious reasons, the planned self-drive holiday to visit family in Denmark this Easter turned into staycation in London. Actually, inside our flat. And I am completely relaxed, having rekindled my love of macramé, reading and jigsaw puzzles. Plus, I have also seen a different side to the city on my early morning walks.
New habit: Swap some of your holidays abroad with staycations; drop your normal routine for a while, fall in love with the small things again and see your local area in a new light. A lower carbon footprint, a more beautiful planet waiting for you when you do go on holiday and lots of money saved!
4. Use your clothes more before washing
Lesson: I have tried hard to maintain a certain level of style and steered clear of the wearing-tracks-suit-bottoms-all-day trap. I have, however, noticed that I am now wearing each outfit more times than I normally would – and hence do a lot less laundry. And the thing that I find most amazing is that I can easily do this without starting to smell – who knew!! ;-)
New habit: Wear each item of clothing one more time than you normally would (unless it smells or has stains). If it needs to be freshened up a bit, hanging it outside or near an open window will do the trick. This way you save lots of water, energy and detergents. Not to mention all the time you normally spend on doing the laundry…
5. Work from home a couple of days per week and save the commute
Lesson: By now we all know how to use zoom, skype, hangouts etc. I mostly work from my home office anyway and when I go to meetings outside the home, I normally cycle, so this one isn’t a personal lesson. I have, however, spoken to lots of friends who have discovered that it is actually quite nice working from home and not having to commute to work every day, be it by car or public transport.
New habit: Work from home one or more days a week. If we all do this – especially the ones normally driving to work – it could have a significant positive impact on the nitrogen dioxide levels in the air. The result? Cleaner air, less people getting ill as a result of pollution and more time to yourself at home.
6. Consider every purchase and consume less
Lesson: A quick look at my bank account confirms that I have bought a lot less than I normally do while staying at home. One reason for this is, of course, that most shops are closed and some online retailers are unable to fulfil orders on items other than food and medicine at the moment. Interestingly, I have found that I don’t actually need a lot of the things I am looking to buy. I have already created the good habit of waiting a couple of days before I buy any fashion items to check if I really need them, but it has become apparent that I could benefit from doing this in all other areas as well. We need to separate the words retail and therapy!
New habit: When it comes to anything other than food or medicine, wait at least 24 hours from you put something in your basket till you press the purchase button. Avoid contributing to the mountain of landfill unless necessary and use the money you save in the process on experiences with your friends and family.
7. Use less toilet paper
Lesson: I have to mention the toilet paper, ha! We started our self-isolation with 12 rolls of toilet paper that I had just bought the week before, and, frankly, there was a bit of anxiety in the house about whether we would be able to make them last for 7 days ( the amount of time we initially thought we had to be isolated). As a result, using as little toilet paper as possible became a thing and I discovered that I probably only need to use half of what I would normally use. As it turns out, the 12 rolls lasted well beyond the 2.5 weeks we ended up being in isolation.
New habit: Use less toilet paper. Try logging how long it takes you to get through a roll of toilet paper and then try to make the next one last twice as long. I bet you it is possible and if we all do it, there will be a lot less toilet paper going to waste = a happier planet. Might save you a couple of pounds/week too…
In many ways I cannot wait for this #stayinghome to end; especially when it comes to seeing family and friends in real life again.
In some ways, though, I wish it would continue for longer as I love seeing the positive impact it has on the environment and wildlife. (If only it didn't come with the human tragedies linked to the virus)
I can only hope that we have all learnt some sustainable life hacks during this crisis and that, going forward, we will all be a bit more mindful about what impact each one of our actions have on our surroundings.
Stay home, stay safe and stay healthy.