It’s hard to believe, but it’s been exactly a year since the World Health Organization officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic.
Stuck at home can actually be the perfect time to learn to live more sustainably.
For most of us, especially those who do not play essential roles in healthcare and other industries, the past 12 months have meant being stuck with major constraints in our daily lives at home in general. This meant strolling from the kitchen table or being on leave for school or office work, and it was both frustrating, boring and alarming at the same time.
However, with the extra time gained due to repeated lockdowns, some individuals were asked to change their lifestyle in a way they felt they could not do before, whether to leave the big city or to change careers.
And there are definitely some ways to escape the boredom of locked-in life and use your free time wisely. Now and when COVID-19 restrictions are finally lifted, finding all ways to live more sustainably could be a strategy. It looks a bit like spring cleaning, but your only eye is on your carbon footprint.
Here are some ideas to get started.
1. Find your carbon footprint
Before you start reducing your carbon footprint, it’s helpful to know how big it is.
There are many free and easy-to-use carbon footprint calculators and apps on the market. They can help give you an idea of how your lifestyle contributes to carbon emissions – and often include helpful tips for reducing.
You can help with the simple WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) survey or go to carbonfootprint.com, which provides detailed information about each mode of transportation you use and your home.
Or you can download an app like Giki Zero that helps by breaking down lifestyle changes into accessible steps, and it even comes with an app that you can use to scan barcodes of products in stores to see their sustainability scores.
2. Stock up on items you own
The time-poor lifestyles of the “previous times” created the perfect conditions for excessive purchases and hasty purchases. Now, there’s a lot less pressure to buy something at the last minute, so why not rejoice a little?
Use this opportunity to clean up wardrobes and drawers and discover the laptop cord you thought you lost or that gorgeous jacket you forgot.
Clothing is an area where the more “reduce, reuse, recycle” mentality can actually reduce your carbon footprint. The fashion industry ranks second after the oil industry in terms of carbon footprint and is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions – more than international flights and maritime transport combined.
“The most sustainable choice you can make is the clothes you already own,” Mikaela Loach, a student climate activist and 2020 Global Citizen Award nominee, told Global Citizen about leaving fast fashion. Also, there are some great tips on reshaping clothes to keep them looking fresh.
“The most sustainable choice you can make is the clothes you already own,” Mikaela Loach, a student climate activist and told Global Citizen about leaving fast fashion. Also, there are some great tips on reshaping clothes to keep them looking fresh.
If you’ve done a cleanup and need to get rid of some items, consider giving them a second home through forums like Freecycle or Facebook Marketplace, or donate them to a charity or thrift store if they’re wearable. before going to a recycling center.
3. Practice cooking at home and reduce food waste
Another part of daily life where it was difficult to find time in our hectic pre-epidemic lifestyle was cooking. The crash was bad news for sandwich chains, but it’s good news for people who eventually get the chance to hone their kitchen skills.
Fiona Lavelle, a researcher at Queen’s University Belfast Institute of Global Food Safety, writes that in countries such as the US, UK and Australia, home cooking was on the decline before the epidemic.
But now, multiple consumer trend reports point to an increase in confidence and creativity in home cooking – 75% of Americans feel more confident when cooking at home, a survey found by marketing firm Hunter last year, and 7 out of 10. plans to do: go ahead.
A survey by Lavelle found that lockdowns in the UK, USA, Ireland, and New Zealand led to an increase in what are called “organizational food practices,” namely planning future meals, using a grocery list, and keeping food in the store locker.
All these steps help reduce food waste – which is great because 1 billion tonnes of food are wasted each year, according to the latest United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) food waste report.
Usually these foods end up in landfills and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. UNEP estimates that 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are related to non-consumable food.
4. Get familiar with plant-based recipes
Meanwhile, a study conducted by the Vegan Society in August last year found that 20% of Britons reduced their meat intake under lockdown, while 15% reduced their milk and egg intake, resulting in increased interest in plant-based diets.
According to the UN, this is a great direction to enter, as eating less meat is one of the best things people can do to reduce the pressure on the world’s resources.
So now is the time to get creative, try ingredients you didn’t have before, and try to cut down on meat. Something may be sticking when the crash is lifted because you will find that you already have a menu that you have learned how to cook without too much fuss.
5. Plan a walking or cycling route
While gyms are closed and public transport is at risk of spreading infectious diseases, the COVID-19 lockdown has given millions of people the chance to explore their cities or local areas on foot.
“Active travel” has meanwhile become a buzzword in the transport world – urban planners around the world are trying to find ways to encourage walking and cycling for public health reasons. While doing this, policies also reduce carbon emissions.
There is pressure to keep the people’s new habits permanent. In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a £ 2bn plan for improvement in walking and cycling infrastructure last July, and transport minister Grant Shapps outbreak to get more people to walk and the total number of polluting car trips.
You may not have a lot of travel to do while on lockdown, but now is the perfect time to gain confidence in cycling, for example, or to think about how you can go to work or college when things reopen. Leaving the car may be easier than you think.
6. Rebuild your garden
If you are lucky enough to have a garden, you most likely have already seen the benefits during the pandemic, and perhaps you have already started trying a planting point.
Horticulture with wildlife in mind has become more popular in recent years because the environmental benefits are better known, according to the charity Rewilding Britain.
Allowing our natural areas to grow wild helps reverse biodiversity loss, prevent soil erosion and even tackle climate change on a large scale as plants and trees store carbon dioxide and we need more of them for carbon capture. But it’s also something you can embrace on a small scale in your own little wild oasis.
15 easy ways to bring your garden back to wild, according to Rewilding Britain, include planting trees, allowing different types of plants to grow, embracing scrub and mess, and even adding ponds to attract birds and aquatic creatures. You may soon find yourself attracting more wildlife like hedgehogs to your backyard.
7. Make your home more energy efficient
Why not use that time for energy audit? In the long run, it will save you money and at the same time reduce your carbon footprint.
There are lots of small fixes you can make to your home or apartment to reduce emissions. Things like turning off appliances when they’re not in use, using a smart thermostat to prevent unnecessary central heating from turning on, or turning bulbs into LEDs that use 85% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lamps.
If you want to take things a step further, and if you have the opportunity, downtime during COVID-19 could be an opportunity to make modifications that reduce carbon and save money in the long run. For example, you can search and seal drafts around your home or consider replacing doors and windows that don’t meet energy-saving standards.
According to the Landscape for Life initiative in the USA, planting shrubs and trees around your home can act as a natural windbreaker for the colder months or provide shade in warmer weather.
The organization explains that a properly organized space around a home can reduce bills spent on heating and cooling by up to 40%.
8. Identify sustainable options for future purchases
Decorating with second-hand furniture or washing websites for the perfect second-hand clothing are rewarding activities – but both sometimes mean spending a little more time than what’s available.
Similarly, taking the extra time to research a brand’s history and commitment to sustainability was something we all had less time to do before – whereas there is no excuse anymore.
Research suggests there are some indications that greater public awareness of the epidemic and climate change is leading to increased interest in making more ethical purchases.
For example, a global study by management consulting firm Accenture reported that 60% of consumers made more environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical purchases in 2020.
“It is clear that consumption looks very different from what it was [before COVID-19],” Oliver Wright, the global leader of consumer goods and services at Accenture, told the BBC in January.
“This is a black swan affair [a surprise event with a big, lasting impact]. It makes people think more about balancing what they buy and how they spend their time with global sustainability issues,” Wright continued.
This shows that locking is a really great opportunity to reconfigure shopping habits as we hope in the future.