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Perfect Sustainability? How to improve personal sustainability through lockdown: Your Way!

Winter is coming, and once again we are stuck inside due to new lockdown measures because of Covid-19. It can feel difficult to be sustainable when all we’re doing is walking around our house, sitting at our laptops, and looking out of the window to see if the neighbours are doing anything exciting (spoiler alert, they never are!). So how can we make sustainable choices when it we feel like we’re in survival mode!

Many of us have tried to make smarter choices in our daily lives outside of the home, but what can we do to help now that we’re stuck inside? Well, there are some sustainability tips and practices as well as responsible companies to get the things we need that can help you feel good while being environmentally conscious. What are the things that we’re doing a lot more of now that we are all #WFH? #workingfromhome (which is just a nice way of saying #SAH, #stuckathome).

Small changes can make a big difference. My first tip would be to make a list (in your mind or on paper) of your daily routine, or what you feel you do a lot of now that we’re all stuck at home. Now try to see how you could make those practices a little more sustainable. It doesn’t have to be perfect or zero waste (although it could be). These changes should be not only sustainable for the planet but sustainable for you in order to make these small changes into habits. Small changes over time can make as much of a difference as big changes that don’t last long. I find that when I come up with my own little solution, I’m more likely to implement them, and it’s always fun to come up with your own ways to be eco-friendly. This is sustainability: Your Way!

The first things that come to mind are for me is that I’m obviously spending more time indoors, I’m spending more time watching TV and on my laptop, more time cooking, eating and cleaning, more time exercising indoors, drinking more coffee (and wine!), showering more, and of course more big grocery shops and mask wearing. And on top of everything else, ordering a lot more from Amazon (or at least I was during the first lockdown, more on that later)

So, here’s my list of sustainability tips: My Way!

  1. Spending more time indoors? Skip switching on the lights and instead use natural light from windows-it’s good for vitamin D intake, very important during these dark UK winters. Use layers instead of relying on the radiator and windows instead of the fan!
  1. Watching more TV and using your laptop 24/7? Switch your TV or laptop into Eco mode, set a sleep timer, and try to turn off when you just have it on in the background and are not watching or using it.
  1. Spending more time cooking and eating? Try plant-based versions of your favourite foods; easy ones are dairy products like cheese, milk (oat milk anyone?) and burgers like Beyond Meat (they have more than burgers too!). Also, when grocery shopping, try finding loose produce instead of packaged ones to reduce plastic and wash them at home. Or head to a small market and support small businesses; most are considered essential, may even have shorter lines than the big supermarkets, and are less likely to overuse plastic packaging.
  1. More time cleaning? Try refillable cleaning products like the ones from Fill which are sustainably made. They send a tiny glass bottle of product so that you can pour it into your existing cleaning bottle, fill the rest with water, reducing plastic. Not only that, they collect the glass bottle to be reused!  How cool! Speaking of cleaning, turning your washing machine on eco and hang drying are great for being more friendly to the environment.
  1. More time exercising indoors? This may not be for everyone but, have you tried nude (or almost) nude yoga? I’ve “heard” (ahem) that it’s very relaxing and reduces the amount of clothes in your weekly wash! Of course if it’s cardio you’re after, maybe best to keep some undergarments on for support.
  1. Drinking more coffee? Try switching to a more environmentally conscious and sustainably sourced brand. I got turned onto Our Gorongosa coffee by one of my favourite social justice and sustainability warriors on Instagram @mikaelaloach, and it’s now my go-to coffee. They source and buy their beans directly from the local farmers in Mozambique. Every purchase supports local causes including funding girls’ education, wildlife conservation and rainforest reforestation. Not to mention, Out Gorongosa is absolutely delicious coffee, ideal for people who must have that perfect cup. Why not support sustainable practices and great causes while doing it? And if you’re more of a wine drinker, there are plenty of sustainable wine companies out there, like Benzinger Family Winery, which uses sustainable green farming techniques.

  1. Showering more often? Try limiting your time in the shower by using a timer or staying in for a certain amount of songs. I go 5 minutes for a regular shower and 10 to wash my hair, but you can customize however you want! You can also use shampoo, conditioner and bodywash bars that don’t use plastic packaging as well as eco-friendly deodorants and other toiletries; like the ones at Package Free Shop who specialize in zero waste and vegan bathroom products, even sanitary products. The CEO of Package Free Shop, Lauren Singer or @trashisfortossers, is sustainable Instagram and Youtuber with plenty of tips and tricks to help you stay sustainable.
  1. Headed for a big shop? Make sure to bring your reusable bags, and if you can bring reusable produce bags to hold you lose produce before purchase: OnyaLife has great options and is B-Corp Certified.

  1. Mask a must? Of course, it is! Make sure to pick up a reusable mask instead of the disposable ones which are becoming a pollution problem as discussed in BBC’s piece “Coronavirus: Face masks part of ‘new plastic pollution explosion” . You can find a reusable one pretty much anywhere and throw it in with your wash, or hand-wash in the sink as often as needed.
  1. Ordering more often from Amazon? This is a biggie. I found myself buying from Amazon all the time in the first lockdown. But after realising Amazon’s huge environmental impact (in many ways), described in Terri Nguyen’s 2019 article Amazon’s 1-day Shipping is convenient- and terrible for the environment”,  I think it’s important to realise Amazon isn’t the only option during lockdown. For books, there are plenty of small book sellers like Round Table Books and New Beacon Books. For everyday items, try Ebay, they have plenty of pre-used items! And try going directly to small business websites to support them.

And there you have it. This is my personal list, but I don’t mind if you use it. Honestly, though, by making sustainable choices Your Way, it will make them much for fun and easy to do. Make your own list and share it with me in the comments! I’d love to get some new ideas on how we can make imperfect sustainability sustainable!

As sustainable chef Anne-Marie Bonneau, @zerowastechef, once says “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfect. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly”.

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