Low Waste Habits In A Lockdown

April 07, 2020

Low Waste Habits In A Lockdown

It feels very surreal writing this post. Right now the UK is in lockdown. The government has implemented a 'Stay At Home' order. For many of us, our world has been tipped upside down. Non-essential shops and community services are closed, people are self-isolating at home, and literally everything has been cancelled.

My personal situation right now is unstable. My partner and I are both self-employed (as are many of our friends) and with little support from our government, the future is filled with uncertainty for creatives. Thankfully I can continue working in my studio as it's safe for me to do so but for my partner, every booked client has cancelled. It's a roller-coaster of emotions and everything feels out of our control. One of the ways I'm helping myself to alleviate anxiety is by focusing on the things I do have control over: my habits.

While there are arguably bigger things to be worrying about right now, you don't have to stop caring about what matters to you. Adopting and maintaining low waste habits will not only save you money and resources, it will also give you something else to focus on. Giving ourselves back some power when the world around us seems so uncertain can do wonders for our mental health and peace of mind.

I'm going to make it clear that if you're struggling to pay your bills or buy food, fighting not to lose your job or your home, caring for sick and elderly relatives, or dealing with anything more important than food waste or plastic packaging - you do not need to add to your list of things to worry about. It's OK just to make it through each day.

For those of us who have the head space, there are a few sustainable ways to reduce your waste, lessen your impact, and save your money when living in a lockdown so that you might make the sudden changes in day-to-day life a little easier.



Reduce Food Waste

The government has advised we make fewer trips to the shops for essential items to minimise contact with other people. Buying extra supplies to reduce how often we visit crowded spaces is a good idea but it can result in a lot of wasted food if we're not careful.

The easiest and most obvious way to avoid food waste is to simply eat all the food you buy. Every mouthful at dinner is to be eaten up, every spoonful of leftover food is to be saved, and any perishable goods need to be used up before it turns bad. My Low Waste Plant-Based Cookbook will help.

Storing fresh food correctly will prolong its life and most likely avoid it rotting before you've had a chance to eat it. If something is starting to turn, reserve a shelf (or a small area if your fridge is as tiny as mine is) as an 'eat first' section. The rule is simple: everything on that shelf must be incorporated into the next few meals to use it up.

Meal planning and batch cooking are both useful tools to help with sidestepping food waste. Cook up a big batch of whatever it is you're planning to eat and serve it for the next few meals. Freeze portions, excess food, and leftovers to eat at a later date.

Finally, buy reduced food items. It doesn't matter if these items are packaged in plastic - food waste has a far greater environmental impact. You can get some great bargains and some really cheap food. Put any freezer space to good use by stocking up on reduced deals.



Buy In Bulk, Online

It’s been recommended we shop online as often as possible to minimise the risk to ourselves and others by reducing contact at physical shops. To alleviate some of the impact we have when we do this, we can buy our supplies in bulk. It'll save money, reduce packaging, and make shopping easier.

Bulk buying does require spending more money up front to purchase larger quantities and the space to store it all. If you're restricted by either funds or space, or both, consider whether you could split the cost with family, friends or even neighbours, to make the investment easier for all of you.

Follow this guide to buying in bulk online. The following are places you can stock up on essential supplies:
Ethical Superstore
The Clean Kilo (if you live in Birmingham)
Faith In Nature (hair care, body wash, hand soap)
Who Gives A Crap (they're sold out right now)
Amazon (as a last resort)



Use Everything Up

It’s surprising how much stuff we have hidden away at the back of cupboards and in drawers. Now is the time to put them to good use; from half empty shampoo bottles to dried herbs and spices. Pull everything out and make use of all the stockpiled spices, half used packets of grains, and vegetable odds and ends. Don't waste a single thing. There are limitless recipes online so get creative in the kitchen by finding recipes that will help you eat up the food you already have.

The more you look around the more things you find that you've neglected or haven't gotten around to using up. Skincare, craft supplies, books, ingredients, candles, tea and coffee, even empty jars. Whatever it is you have forgotten about, at the back of your kitchen cupboard or bathroom cabinet - use it up! Using things up feels good; it prevents good things from going to waste and saves you money.



Do Laundry Less Frequently

If you're staying indoors, going outside infrequently, and not getting sweaty or dirty - you don't need to wash your clothes as often! Many of us have the bad habits of dropping every item of clothing into our laundry bin even if we've only worn it once. Now is the time to break that habits. It's hugely wasteful and totally unnecessary. Unless an item of clothing is dirty or smelly, there's little reason to wash it (excluding underwear, of course!) I hope it goes without saying, but just in case it doesn't, please wash clothes that may be harbouring

Doing laundry less frequently reduces wear and tear on your clothes, preserves their colour and shape, and saves you money by not having to buy laundry detergent so often. If you're worried about your clothes not smelling as fresh as when they first came out of the washing machine, hang your clothes in the bathroom (the steam from the shower will help), make linen sachets or a spray, and keep them out of your wardrobe to air.

There have been no specific recommendations for making changes to your laundry routine. Unless you're actively dealing with someone infected with COVID-19, you can stick to washing your laundry normally. If you're coming into contact with someone infected with the virus, it's a good idea to launder your clothes afterwards to limit the virus's ability to spread. Handle with gloves (or wash hands thoroughly afterwards), do not shake laundry, use the warmest setting on your machine, and consider placing a liner in our hamper that can be laundered or sanitized.



Avoid Wasting Electricity and Water

We should be doing this all the time of course, but confined to our homes during a lockdown our water and electricity use is expected to rise. Make sure to only use lights when you need them and to turn them off when you don't, avoid leaving electronics on standby, and be wary of spending too much time on a computer, tablet, laptop, or television. Wash clothes on a cooler setting (this is completely safe unless you're dealing with a COVID-19 sufferer and will clean your clothes just as effectively), only turn the oven up to the temperature you actually need, don't use a tumble dryer (your clothes will look better for it too), and dry dishes by hand.

To avoid water waste, look out for dripping taps or shower heads, turn taps off when not in use, shower in less time, wash your clothes and dishes with full loads, repurpose grey water for others uses, and, as always, do not buy bottled water unless you have no other option. If you're able to, collect rainwater for watering your houseplants.




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