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As I write this, large numbers of people around the world are living with some kind of restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic. For most of us this is not a nice situation to be in, and there isn’t much we can do about it. In this post I want to talk about what we do have control over. Something that can be a very positive thing for ourselves and for the world; more and more people are thinking about sustainability and how they can get involved. I’m going to give some tips on how to live more sustainably during lockdown or stay-at-home orders. It can be easier than you think 🙂
One of the main costs to the environment in our homes is our energy usage. Undoubtedly a lot of people are using more energy at home because they’re spending more time at home. This provides an opportunity to improve your energy consumption.
Turn things off when you aren’t using them. Sounds simple, and it is. Devices such as the TV and the computer use a reasonable amount of electricity, and you can save electricity and money by turning them off when you don’t need them. Turning lights off when not needed will also make a difference.
Washing your clothes and dishes at a lower temperature. This requires close to no effort and can save a lot of money. In a lot of cases with laundry, washing at a lower temperature will ensure that your clothes are still clean, whilst being better for your clothes and better for your wallet. We wrote a more detailed post about which washing machine temperature to use here.
Exchange old halogen light bulbs in the house for LED bulbs. It’s an additional upfront cost which isn’t ideal, but they will likely pay themselves off pretty quickly. LED bulbs can use 90% less electricity. Since lighting is one of the biggest areas of electricity use, this can save you money in the long term.
Change your heating and cooling. This can actually easily save you money as well. For example, by being more flexible about the temperature of your house (using a lower temperature on your thermostat in the winter, using air conditioning less in the summer), you can save substantial amounts of money.
When you’ve done all you can to reduce your energy consumption, the next thing you can look at is your energy provider. Most energy suppliers around the world are producing electricity through non-renewables such as gas or coal. You can switch to a provider which only uses renewables such as solar, wind and hydro. This often costs a little bit more, but, if you can afford it, has a huge impact on your overall carbon footprint.
If you’re currently in a lockdown, you might be spending more time in the kitchen than you normally would. Depending on your cooking abilities, that may or may not be a good thing. 🙂 Taking an optimistic look at things, it does have one benefit: It gives you more control about the food that you eat as well as the sustainability of that food. It’s something you can improve with very little effort.
Reduce your food waste. It’s estimated that between 30% – 40% of food produced worldwide simply goes to waste. That is a big cost on the environment for something we put in the trash. If you look more carefully at what you’re buying, you can ensure that you don’t waste as much food. This can save you more money than you might think as well.
Eat less meat. Meat products are some of the highest emitters. Some say that the biggest thing an individual can do to help the environment is to eat less meat. Luckily, you don’t have to immediately become a vegan if you don’t want to. Start small in ways you find manageable; just having one day per week where you don’t eat meat will have a positive impact.
Use local ingredients. Ingredients that are grown and produced nearby normally have much shorter transportation routes, which is a big factor in the emissions of your food. It has other benefits too: You’re supporting local farmers and businesses and can often buy it package-free, which saves on plastic. You could even consider growing your own vegetables!
Look at organic products. These often have much lower impacts on the environment through reduced use of pesticides and other chemicals used on land. Organic, free-range meat can also lead to big improvements in animal treatment. Both of these do often cost more, but if you’ve saved money by eating at restaurants less often, perhaps it could be worth considering 🙂
Other sustainable lockdown tips
There are many, many other small things you can do to live more sustainably during lockdown and stay-at-home orders too. I’ve provided some more examples below:
Try to recycle more. If your area has recycling programs (such as trash separation), it can be very useful to make better use of them. It sure is easy to just put everything into general waste, but with just a little more effort you can put it into a place where it can be reused, whether that be food, paper, plastic or clothing waste. During this time, most products are consumed at home, and therefore most trash is thrown out at home. This is a great opportunity to look into the types of waste you are producing and how you should get rid of it.
Less internet shopping. A lot of us have more time on our hands now, and a fun way of filling that time can be by ordering online. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s possible we’re buying things we don’t really need and aren’t going to be well-used. With many products being made in developing countries and then transported across the world, this is quite a big hit on the environment. There’s often a lot of packaging involved too, which can’t be easily recycled. It could be worth considering whether you really need what you’re buying. If you do want to do more online shopping, consider buying second hand!
Reconsider your cleaning products. Ensuring your house is clean is important at the best of times, but it’s probably even more important at this time. A lot of the cleaning products people use have chemicals in them that can be bad for us as well as the planet. Most of the time, there are eco-friendly cleaning products that work just as well. You can look at the detergents and soaps you use to see if you can make changes. We recently switched to Attitude dishwasher tablets and Ecover laundry detergent to reduce our impact, but there are many others you can choose from. You could even make your own with basic household products like vinegar and baking soda which can be very effective. It’s what we use a lot of the time!
I hope these tips are useful to you. If you’ve tried any of them, or have any tips to add yourself, feel free to let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear it!