A Time to Change… Part 2
Following on from her last blog, Lambeth Friends of the Earth member Charlie reflects on other ways she has used this time in lockdown to make environmentally friendly changes to her lifestyle.
Support your charities and local businesses
The coronavirus pandemic is hitting almost every sector hard; however, this is a particularly uncertain time for the charity sector. With hundreds of fundraising events cancelled or postponed, thousands of charities have had to reduce or stop services at a time when vulnerable members of society need them most.
While appreciating that everyone will be facing their own financial circumstances, some of us may find ourselves with a few extra pennies saved from not spending money on our usual outgoings. If you can, consider donating to a cause close to you or to a charity that supports those affected by COVID-19. Donate that £20 you had intended to spend over the May Bank Holiday or subsidise the money from your weekly commute for a Direct Debit contribution. These small donations may mean the difference between whether a charity survives or closes up permanently.
Local businesses are also likely to be facing hardship during these times too. Lambeth is fortunate to cultivate a community of unique shops and independent businesses; however, if we want to preserve this neighbourhood, it’s important we do what we can to support it.
Before dining out on Deliveroo, take a look to see if any of your local restaurants are doing delivery; some cafés near me have even turned themselves into local fruit and veg vendors.
Find out if any of your local shops have shifted their services to social media. My favourite florist has started delivering plants to nearby addresses (in line with the Government’s guidelines!) and has also started virtual flower-arrangement workshops over Zoom!
Making this shift in our consumer behaviour and moving towards one that favours local businesses will ultimately reduce our environmental impact too, as "locally owned businesses make more local purchases requiring less transportation and set up shop in town or city centres which generally means less sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution."
Review and renew your providers
I hate speaking to Customer Service about bills at the best of times and I’ll always try and push it to the bottom of the pile. However, with nothing but time, now is as good a time as any to review your service providers.
Who you choose for your providers can have a huge impact on the environment – in particular, your energy providers. Most of the UK’s electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, which are known as non-renewable resources. “Burning fossil fuels creates unwelcome by-products i.e. CO2, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other pollutant substances. These chemicals are the culprits that contribute significantly to global warming.”
“Green energy, or renewable energy, can be extracted, generated, or consumed without any significant negative impact on the environment. ... Green energy sources are renewable, meaning they are replenished naturally and relatively quickly. ...There are also a number of other benefits to using green energy including lower healthcare costs, a stronger economy, less service disruption, energy independence and creation of more jobs.”
Friends of the Earth have highlighted three green energy companies that are all 100% renewable energy and offer some pretty good deals when you switch:
Ecotricity, “the world’s first and only green energy supplier”: This company uses the money from customers’ bills to build new sources of green energy. The supply is animal-free and they will make a £50 donation to Friends of the Earth when you switch, as well as another £50 donation for each and every year you remain as a customer. They have also written a good blog on how to save energy when working from home – particularly relevant for those of us who currently have offices in our living rooms!
Good Energy, “highest green eating from Which?”: Voted as Ethical Consumer’s ‘Best Buy’ and 100/100 on Good Shopping Guide, Good Energy will credit £50 to you and donate £50 to Friends of the Earth when you choose them as your provider. They’ll also donate a further £50 when you refer a friend.
Octopus Energy, “awarded the company who has done the most to advance renewables in Britain”: New Octopus Energy customers can save up to £259 a year on energy, with dual-fuel bills typically averaging at around £83 a month. They too will donate £30 to Friends of the Earth when you switch, as well as crediting £30 to your account and donating a further £50 when you refer a friend.
Putting time in to phase out plastic
In the last couple of years, the world seems to have woken up to climate change in a way we’ve never done before – in particular, to the scale of plastic pollution. Seeing the videos of plastic rivers in South East Asia or pictures of marine animals being suffocated by plastic beer rings is making us more aware of our plastic consumption; however, it’s still hard to avoid it.
In my last blog, I mentioned how I’d been inspired by a mum who’d made the change to become a carbon-neutral family. This mum is Sophie Tait, founder and author of the blog ‘Trash Plastic’: a practical how-to guide that delves into the 'nitty-gritty' details on how to eliminate plastic from your life. But, as you can imagine, this kind of prodigious pledge took some time.
She started her plastic-free journey first by taking the time to understand the problem, saving all the plastic she used over the course of a week to understand where and how she needed to make the changes. Once she could see how much plastic she was using, she knew where she could start making the changes.
“It’s worth taking a bit of time to first understand the problem. It’s important to think about plastic reduction in context of the wider environmental situation. Of course, plastic pollution is a disaster of epic proportions. But climate change is even bigger. The two problems are connected, and the solution to both can be summed in one word – LESS. So, whilst there can be a tendency to want to rush out and buy MORE – to replace everything plastic straightaway – if we don’t properly think through our buying decisions, all those good intentions are wasted.”
Sophie shares a whole bunch of plastic-free tips and advice in her blog, from bathroom products to kitchen commodities, each with a helpful and cheery review. However, she’s not the only one to have made the plastic-free plunge, and you could easily be the next entrepreneur!
You could also take this time to make your own toiletries (I say optimistically and ambitiously). My Plastic Free Life shares some secrets for creating plastic-free kitchenware, like an all-purpose spray cleaner made of vinegar and water, stored in a reused spray bottle, or using baking soda to wash your dishes. Just Leaving Footprints reveals her recipes for essential toiletries, from toothpaste and deodorant to beard oil and bath salts. Note – you might need to invest in a few more scented oils and powders for these, but the results look great… and great for the planet! There’s also plenty of videos tutorials too, if you’re more of a visual step-by-step person.
It may seem a little daunting – and sometimes expensive – at first, and a lot of recipes seem to require mostly baking soda, apple cider vinegar, various scented oils… ingredients we don’t always have lying around. However, ultimately, you will be spending a lot less on products, wasting less on packaging and, best of all, having control of what goes in and on to your body. Plus, think how proud you’ll feel using your own home-made handiwork.
These are just a few ways you could use this time in lockdown to form some new habits that will be both good for you and good for the planet; you may also have your own. Yet even though we have this ‘extra time’, don’t put too much pressure on yourself for these changes to happen overnight. As Sophie says in her blog, “Slowly aim to create new habits that are realistic or you’ll probably bail on this pretty quickly. Picture the sweet spot venn-diagram between doing what’s right for the planet and what’s right for you, and hang out there. … Whatever, please be proud of whatever you do. You total rock for even trying.”