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We will remember this time for the rest of our lives. A time when we went from washing our hands to barely being allowed out. A time when we substituted our morning commutes for virtual workouts with Joe Wicks and our kids and set up offices in our kitchens. A time where we spent our evenings on FaceTime or Zoom, or banging pots and cheering outside our windows for the heroic acts of our key workers.

For many of us, aside from those who valiantly continue their front-line roles, we will remember this as the time we spent at home; a time when we had nothing but time.

When we start looking forward to the weekdays instead of the evenings and weekends, having this much time can feel a little overwhelming. The global pandemic has completely changed our day-to-day lifestyle, and it can be hard to keep your mind occupied during the lockdown.

Lambeth Friends of the Earth want you to know you’re not alone. Over the next few weeks, we’re working with our members on a series of blogs – tips to keep you entertained, engaged and involved, as well as thoughts and reflections. We are welcoming everyone to get involved and send us their comments, ideas and to help us spread the word. Just contact us via email, website or social media.

This week, Charlie shares the first part to her blog on how she is using this time in lockdown to introduce some changes to her lifestyle that are both good for her and good for the planet!

A time to change... Part 1

I’ll put my hands up and admit I’m still a little ‘new’ to this, to the environmental ‘movement’. Growing up I would’ve disagreed – I adored animals (at one point even wanted to be a vet... didn’t we all?!) and I loved the outdoors. I was also lucky to travel a lot as a child and have always been captivated by the world’s cultures and countries, how we all thrive and grow differently and how beautiful the world is. However, I can admit now, there was a disconnect between my love for the world and being aware of my impact on it. It’s only been in the last few years that this awareness has clicked, and I’ve started to speak up and make my voice heard.

At a climate change talk towards the end of last year, I was inspired by a mum who, after a diving holiday to the Maldives, had seen first-hand the coral bleaching and plastic pollution and decided enough was enough. She and her family now live a ‘pretty much’ carbon-neutral lifestyle. “Wow,” I said to myself. “That seems easy. I want to do that.” But – spoiler alert – it’s not that easy.

Changing your lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight. We all know that deep down, but sometimes it’s a little discouraging when we think of the time we need to commit to implementing these changes. Once I realised that – and stopped having a breakdown every time my housemates didn’t recycle properly, or I broke my vegetarian diet again – I realised I owed myself that time, the time to allow and introduce these changes into my lifestyle.

While we have this time in lockdown, I think we can all find the time to allow and introduce some changes to our lifestyle. And although small, these changes can make a collective difference, for ourselves and for the impact we have on the world.

Get creative in the kitchen

Cooking can be the biggest culprit of ‘not having enough time’: the longer the day, the easier it seems to whack a chicken kiev in the oven (not saying that I don’t love a cheeky kiev...)!

When it comes to ‘good-for-the planet’ kind of cooking, vegetarian and veganism has always seemed a little ‘out of reach’ to me. My lifestyle has always seemed too busy to fit in the ingredients that never seem to be in my cupboard or at my local Sainsbury’s, and the recipes seem too far-fetched to become a part of my regular day-to-day. But nowadays, the time I’d be taking standing on the tube, my face against someone’s sweaty back, I can now spend in the kitchen.

While acknowledging that going to the shops is a luxury (abiding by the fact that we can’t nip out for ingredients like a nob of ginger or pomegranate seeds), now is as good a time as any to start challenging yourself and become a bit more of an environmentally-friendly chef!

  • Start slowly: If you’re used to a mainly omnivorous diet, the idea of cutting meat out completely might seem a bit ambitious! Take it slowly – challenge yourself to Meat Free Monday’s, cut down to one meat meal a week, or shift to a veggie-every-three-days, meat every four week.

  • Search on social: Try out some new dishes by diving into Instagram and Facebook. Plenty of people are sharing their homemade delicacies, and now that restaurants and café’s have been forced to close, a lot more are taking to their social media channels to share recipes for their popular dishes. Try out some local vegetarian or veggie restaurants in your area and see if they’re sharing any tips!

  • Build your repertoire: Build up your recipe repertoire by signing up to a recipe box delivery service* – it’s a great way to ease yourself into some more adventurous meals you might not have otherwise thought of (and makes you realise they’re not that difficult!). Most ones will send you weekly or monthly boxes (however often you choose), with all ingredients and steps, clearly labelled; you can also choose them to be vegetarian or vegan only! You might worry that these kinds of services come with a lot of excess packaging but a lot more companies are implementing greener policies, from recycled pots and boxes to free packaging returns. Some even share creative ways to reuse the packaging, like using the insulation for your shed or making a lovely bed for your pet! (*With delivery slots in high demand, some food-delivery services may not be running so remember to check before you sign up)

  • Word for the wise: Remember to write down your recipes!

The garments that keep giving

Weekends in lockdown are becoming opportunities to do the things we always wanted to do but never had the time. Many of us are using this time to Marie-Kondo our wardrobes, reaching into the dustiest parts of our dressers and drawers and asking ourselves, ‘Do I really wear this anymore?’

While now is as good a time as any to have a spring clean, please remember that charity shops, recycling centres and textile recyclers are all closed until further notice! There have sadly been quite a few cases of people leaving their give-away garments next to bins and in shop doorways, which won’t benefit anyone (except possibly some sharply-dressed stray foxes).

Every year an estimated 336,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK – a huge environmental hit. I think we’ve now got some time to try and change that...

  • Revive it: Because who said the art of repairing clothes is dead? I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to throwing away broken clothes because it’s much easier to replace them than take the time to get them fixed. Well, lucky for you, you’ve now got oodles of time! With non-essential shops closed at the moment, the Love Your Clothes campaign has a collection of simple ‘care and repair’ tips to help you become your very own self-taught tailor. From quick fixes, stain removal secrets and a vault of video content too, these will help to save your bank account and give the environment a break.

  • Refashion it: Think your clothes are a little last year? Before resorting to online shopping, have a look through your “unwearables” and see if there’s anything you can refashion. Turn a ruined shirt into a ruffled shirt; rejig those jeans into summer shorts; or give your old skirt some new life as a handbag. There’s a whole tonne of top tips and tutorials out there, and it’ll be a great project for the lockdown evenings, as well as a whole wardrobe to wear once all this is over.

  • Rehash it: Maybe it’s completely unsalvageable... well, there’s one last resort. If it’s a little too ragged to refashion, try your hand at creating handy crafts for the house. Transform a t-shirt into a pillowcase or a coin purse, or design a DIY-draft stopper out of a tired trouser leg. There’s plenty of life hacks in this article to get you inspired. Creating tote bags out of old material will especially come in handy for those loose fruits and veggies, and save you getting yet another plastic bag.

  • Restyle it/ridicule!: Get your kids involved too! The Sock Puppet Posse have a fun message and activity for how the kids can get involved too, (and help save the 616 million socks thrown away every year!)

  • If you’ve got the space, hold on to them: Sewing’s not everyone’s craft, and a lot of us might just want to get rid of things. If you’ve got the space to store it, hold on to your clothes until charity shops and recycling banks reopen.

Get resourceful with your recycling

Over the past few months, our Community Inclusion Group at Lambeth Friends of the Earth has been visiting local community groups to deliver workshops and presentations on climate change and the environment. A popular subject that was raised was recycling, and how it can be “too time-consuming” to do it properly.

Recycling might seem simple, but to recycle properly, and to separate waste appropriately and correctly does take a bit of effort, and sometimes we still get it wrong… for example, did you know that if we don’t wash away the food remains, it ends up contaminated and unrecyclable?

Without wanting to sound too much like a teacher trying to convince you doing maths homework in the summer holidays is fun, there’s no better time to get to know your recycling! Lambeth Council has some really helpful guides, from an A-Z of what to do with your waste to a guide from recycling at home. A friend of mine did a great Instagram story-feed about what can actually go in your recycling bins, and what happens when we don’t do it properly.

Otherwise, here’s a few ways you can get resourceful during the lockdown:

  • Learn how to compost: Composting is the gift that keeps on giving, giving you an opportunity to cut back on food waste while turning your leftovers into soil for your veggie garden, repotting your house plants, or sharing with green-fingered-neighbours. There are two types of composting but the easier way, (if you’re a more simple-gardener, like me), is cold composting. Happy DIY Home and Better Home Gardens give great guides on how to start your own compost at home. As they say in the article, “It’s a great way to use the things in your fridge that you didn’t get to, therefore eliminating waste”! No garden? No problem! Tiffany Davis from Imperfectly Happy has some kitchen composting tips that will use up your leftover food waste and also help you keep the stink and the pests at bay.

  • Save the planet by eco-bricking!: Tired of plastic packaging you can’t recycle? Try Ecobricking! Ecobricks are a great way to recycle unrecyclable plastic that would most likely end up in landfill or worse, the ocean. It’s created by filling a plastic bottle (of any size) with clean, dry plastic until it’s packed tightly. Once you’ve made an Ecobrick, you can check your local area to find your nearest collection point. These are then used as building blocks, in developing countries to construct furniture and even building, and are even being used in the UK to build children’s playgrounds. Ecobricking during this COVID-19 outbreak can also help reduce the strain on centralised waste management systems and keep plastic from piling up, ultimately prevent the spread of single-use plastic and saving lives. There are some important rules to create and Ecobrick, so make sure you check out the step-by-step guide.

  • Upcycle some new homeware!: Got any household objects, old furniture or unused bits and bobs? Looking for a new project to do over the weekends? Our friends over at Happy DIY Home have shared 17 genius repurposing ideas to give some old items a new lease of life, including turning a ladder into a bookshelf, a picture frame into an earring holder, and a lotion bottle into a mobile phone charging station.

  • Create some crafts with the kids!: With schools closed and gatherings banned, it might be hard to entertain the kids at the moment. Why not create some crafts out of recycled materials to keep them busy? Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac made a pretty nifty bird feeder from a one litre milk bottle, and these guys made some pretty cute rainbow elephants with theirs. We Are Teachers even has a page of 30 crafts and activities you can make using recycled materials, which they created for Earth Day last month.

Stay tuned for next week for Part 2...!

Written by Charlie Porter


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