Staying indoors and minimising travel has seen us have to compromise on some of our daily sustainable rituals. Emma Slade Edmondson advocates that managing eco-anxiety during lockdown is all about the small steps we take every day, and doing what we can with the situation at hand.
For many of us, lockdown has been one of the strangest and most unnerving of experiences we have lived through. It has thrown so many of the things that keep us feeling grounded, sane and secure in our everyday lives right out the window. I know that I personally have also been grappling with an inner dialogue around whether these feelings of anxiety even deserve space and credence, given how comparatively privileged my lockdown situation is. But I also know that my reaction stems from a deep-routed anxiety around the suffering of others due to Covid-19. If I’ve learned anything from my coron-emotions, it is normal to be fearful and demotivated right now, and it is ok to not be operating at maximum capacity across all life tasks.
It has taken me by surprise, but one of the things I have struggled with most is maintaining environmentally responsible habits at home. I have been feeling frenetic and my motivation levels are wanton, perhaps due to convenience factors like queuing for hours at a time around the block for the fishmongers or greengrocers, and not being able to get to the refill shop for my washing liquids and bathroom essentials.
While I have long recognised that there is immense privilege involved in having the head space and access to be able to engage in an environmentally thoughtful lifestyle, that has become a stark reality during this time. That’s why I am advocating, now more than ever, that we simply do what we can on an individual level. It’s about maintaining a positive mindset when it comes to sustainability, even if you can’t do all that you want to just now. Started by Lilo Ask-Henriksen, the #SAOTD (Sustainable Act Of The Day) movement is starting to resonate more than ever, encompassing this spirit wholeheartedly. From using your coffee grounds leftovers to fertilize your plants to making homemade stock, the beauty of these small sustainable activities is that you can nurture positivity for both yourself and the planet in way that you can then maintain and build on. Here is my take on the challenge, with the steps I’ve been taking each day as well as new tips to try.
Images: Lilo Ask-Henriksen, Emma Slade Edmonson
Caring for your clothes
It can often be easiest to start with something you are really familiar with; such as the contents of your closet. For me this would be mending, repairing and refreshing items in my existing wardrobe. Being at home all day is the perfect time to show your favourite pieces some care and attention.
As you start to stow away your thick jumpers and cords for the summer, now it a great time to spot clean, aerate and de-bobble before setting them aside for the season. Try taking one item from your wardrobe each week that has either become bobbly, that needs to be freshened up or that has a minor stain on and hang it in the bathroom. For those items that need to be freshened up – open the bathroom window to let them breathe. If they are not an extremely fragile material, you can leave them hanging while you take a warm shower to lightly steam them for added freshness. For any accidental marks or spills, gently spot clean an item in the sink or with damp cloth with an environmentally friendly cleaner – The Clothes Doctor has some great options. For bobbling jumpers, on the other hand, running a clean razor lightly over the knit will help restore it.
You can also try your hand at mending your broken items. Tickover’s Bryony Porter offers a simple darning tutorial, while Erin Eggenburg is my go-to for visible mending techniques. She even does well Zoom classes if you need some guided help.
Getting creative in the kitchen
One of the things that I’ve found easier to focus on is continuing to cultivate a responsible approach to food consumption. Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that you have to provide yourself (and others, if you’re at home with family) with sustenance each day. I’ve really been enjoying throwing myself into cooking whilst in lockdown.
Make the most of the longer evenings and time saved from lengthy commutes by cooking homemade foods with everything you have in the cupboards already. Dive into that neglected stack of cookery books or bookmarked websites to find a new plant-based recipe to your cooking arsenal – there’s never been a better time to try more hands-on meals and build up your sustainable, seasonal repertoire. Aim to cut down your food waste by composting at home and finding new ways to use ingredients that are on their way out. I love cooking down fruit that may have gone soft into a summer fruits medley for a crumble, as well as chopping and freezing fruit and veg for smoothies. And you can of course follow the nation’s lead and whip those brown bananas for into a delicious plant-based banana bread.
If you want to take things one step further, why not use the extra time at home to experiment with growing your own produce too. Make sure your seeds are Soil Association-approved, and try planting up tomatoes, radishes or cucumbers, or window box herbs (if you don’t have a garden) instead of buying from the supermcarket or grocers. Your left-over eggshells and incense ashes will work wonders as fertiliser.
Image: Lilo Ask-Henriksen, Emma Slade Edmonson
Taking part in community initiatives
It’s very important for our emotional and mental well-being that we feel like we are connected to, or part of a wider community. We also often feel far more centred and capable when we are focussed on a greater sense of purpose that sits outside of ourselves and our immediate everyday needs. I would wholeheartedly recommend finding your conscious community to motivate and inspire you to keep going with small sustainable habits at home during this time. For me building community, connecting cultures and building our understanding of one another’s experiences are integral to creating progressive sustainable systems and structures.
One creative idea that really speaks to this for me is Quarantine Quilt – a collective community project that aims to build kinship through isolation, it offers the opportunity to carve out some mindful down time by contributing to a quilt which will be made up of all of our collective hopes, fears, dreams and poignant lock down moments. Cultivating a creative ethos and getting used to utilising leftover materials for new projects is such a great way to gradually train yourself not to waste resources, whatever they might be.
Another initiative that has caught my eye is the Sustainable Lifestyle Awards. Tuning in to their Sustainable Brand of The Day updates is a great way to stay clued up on new innovation and brands. Using this time to do your research and discover the companies that are operating in a responsible way it sure to help you set concrete foundations for more sustainable lifestyle – not just during lockdown but for the future too.
Making those simple switches
Now is a great time to finally get around to establishing a more sustainable beauty routine, and I’ve been using the lockdown to make headway in my quest for a plastic-free bathroom. Support independent natural beauty brands by branching out from your usual regime, exploring package-free options or swapping plastic bottles for glass ones. You could also take this opportunity to finally make the switch to reusable feminine hygiene products like menstrual cup or period pants. Ohne biodegradable tampons are a great middle ground too.
Another recent switch I’ve made is swapping normal tea bags which usually contain plastic, for biodegradable ones. Pukka, Tea Pigs or We are Tea are some of my favourite brands. Better still, you could ditch the bag altogether and start to use tea leaves – then you’ll be making a small sustainable act every time you sit down for a tea break and a cuppa!
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