We all have varying access to resources and some of us find it a lot easier to reduce our environmental impact than others. (Something as simple as an allergy, for example, can diminish your ability to utilise the zero waste shop experience.) This was true before Covid-19 but the pandemic has increased the inequality. Here are some ways you can easily and cheaply reduce your environmental impact during the coronavirus crisis.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve seen a huge increase in the number of people reducing their waste and environmental footprint. (I especially love seeing vegetable patches popping up around my neighbourhood.)
But we’re not all in the same position and it’s important to take the pressure off ourselves. All you can do is your best. If you’re relaxed about it, the process of becoming a little bit more eco friendly is fun. Finding things that work for you and that fit your lifestyle is key. So don’t sweat it and let yourself adjust in your own way.
11 tips to easily reduce your environmental impact.
1 Eat what you normally throw away. Broccoli stalks are delicious in stir fries. Simply peel off the tougher outer skin (or leave on if you’re making soup), chop up the centre and add to a stir fry with your other veggies. Cauliflower leaves (my favourite part of cauliflower cheese) chard stems and beetroot tops are all edible and worth saving from the compost. Reducing our food waste reduces our environmental footprint and saves money. Once you’ve tried these you won’t believe you’ve ever thrown them away.
2 Make your own compost. Composting reduces greenhouse gas emissions and it also gives back in beautiful ways. It gives you nutrient rich soils for your garden and lockdown veggie patch. It also cuts use of plastic-wrapped, environmental degrading composts, such as peat. If you don’t have space for composting, you might find a local composting service that would love your scraps for use in allotments or community projects. Some councils also compost road side. Micro composting ideas also include storing banana skins in water for a few days – the nutrients will leach into the water and be a great fertiliser for your indoor plants!
3 Clear your inbox. Did you know that storage of emails creates a carbon footprint? I’m guilty of this. As I write this I have 1,449 emails unread. Reducing our digital footprint is an easy, cheap option that is also a huge mental relief and a great act of self care.
4 Go on a staycation instead of your usual holiday abroad. Many of us are planning holidays in the UK this year, as overseas holidays are impractical. So this may be an easy one if you’ve already planned a Covid-friendly staycation, but take due credit still! If you’re enjoying a home-based holiday, celebrate the environmental win.
5 Buy second-hand. With many using their time at home to have a clear out, there are some great deals to be had! Buying second-hand clothes is a great way to save money and reduce the huge environmental footprint associated with new clothes. And you can shop from home. eBay, Facebook Marketplace and depop are great places to start and Oxfam has an online shop, too.
6 Get clued up on your local recycling guidelines. Pandemic life means even someone seasoned in reducing plastic is producing more waste than usual. While we should aim to reduce our recycling when we can, sometimes waste is unavoidable. Your local council will have up-to-date guidelines for what can and can’t be recycled. Every local authority is different, depending on what facilities they have. Being savvy about what you put in the recycling bin is key. Putting everything in, in the hope it can all be recycled can contaminate the batch! If something you love to buy comes in non-recyclable packaging, drop the brand an email. Most companies are happy to have feedback from loyal customers and who knows, they might listen!
7 Have a go at some plastic-free DIYs. Make your own homemade citrus vinegar cleaner, DIY deodorant or some beeswax wraps. Many of them work really well, are cheap and fun to make. There are many recipes online for plastic free DIYs, most with household ingredients, too. Deodorant is an especially good one to try out now, when you’re at home more. Not everyone has time to make their own, though – if thats you, don’t feel guilty at all.
8 Make your own bread. Bread is one of the most wasted food items in the UK. Making sourdough has been popular over lockdown for good reason- it’s delicious! But you don’t need to be a sourdough champion to reduce your bread waste. Freezing loaves and toasting from frozen stops bread going mouldy before you can finish the loaf. But if you do have the baking bug, making your own means you can make the size to suit you. You can also add all sorts of herbs that might also be going to waste in your fridge (or if you’re lucky- your garden). This of course saves a plastic bag per loaf.
9 Use reusable masks. I made some reusable masks from fabric scraps and spare elastic during lockdown. There are also some great independent mask makers that mean reusable masks are accessible for many of us. I recommend checking with your local government for guidance on fabric/layers suitable if you’re buying or making your own. But if you’re high risk and don’t feel comfortable wearing a fabric mask when you leave the house and would rather use a medical mask, please don’t worry. Stay safe. There are new options coming out (including medical masks with recycled content) but make sure you dispose of your mask correctly and cut the loops when you’re finished.
10 Have fun and enjoy nature! The outdoors has many benefits, including being good for your mental health. The Wildlife Trusts have some fantastic guides on birds and animals. Head out and see how many species you can ID. You’ll be surprised how many live near you!
11 Support small. If you’re buying more online at the moment, buy from small businesses if you can. It’s tempting to head to the big stores to get your essentials but when you order from a small business a person does a happy dance – it’s true! Supporting small business helps put dinners on tables for families.
I hope these little tips inspire you to have a go at being a little bit more eco during covid. You may already do all of these things, if so, be proud!