It has been reported that after going to lockdown, China has cleaner air after quite a long time. With fewer cars on the roads and reduced industrial manufacturing, carbon emissions have reduced all over the world significantly. Reduced air travel has also cleared the skies up.
In Manila’s commercial centre, Makati, my friend Jane photographed the difference in the air before and a few days after the lockdown that started two weeks ago (picture above). It’s pretty stunning.
Staying home, working from home, skipping the commute, ditching that daily Starbucks/Tim Hortons habit, and not relying on takeouts anymore is already making you quite the low impact, sustainable citizen.
While our environment might not have completely bounced back to pre-human times yet, people staying home and staying safe is definitely the best way to live under current circumstances and to protect others around you.
Staying home, working from home, skipping the commute, ditching that daily Starbucks/Tim Hortons habit, and not relying on takeouts anymore is already making you quite the low-impact sustainable citizen. To make your sustainability game even stronger, here are a few more things you can do to further reduce your environmental footprint and become a sustainability champion.
1. Stay Calm and Buy Only What You Will Use and Need
Being sustainable means using just enough resources from the planet now, so that there is more available to share with future generations. Hence, in that case, emptying shelves of goods you don’t even need in the foreseeable future and depriving people of the current generation from obtaining any resources is actually quite unsustainable, and in many ways, unethical.
…emptying shelves of goods you don’t even need in the foreseeable future and depriving people of the current generation from obtaining any resources is actually quite unsustainable, and in many ways, unethical.
All countries with strict lockdown policies are continuing to keep grocery stores and marketplaces open for the public to continue to use during stringent lockdown protocols. Hence, there is really no need to stock up on more than you need.
(Note: also become cognisant of your meat-eating habits. Maybe it’s time to rethink whether every meal needs to feature meat, and whether you can try plant-based meals for a change?)
2. Make Creative Use of Leftovers
While many of us are fortunate enough to have a fully stocked kitchen and pantry, most people don’t have that luxury, and are only surviving on basics. Wasting good food would mean depriving someone else of food in the society and community where you live. Think of creative ways of using your leftovers again in your next meals.
Leftovers from last night’s roasted chicken? Make some baked chicken patties/envelops. Butter chicken from lunch? Make some butter chicken pizza. Some fresh fruit sitting in the fridge? Blend it all together and make yourself a smoothie!
3. Be Mindful of Your Electricity Consumption
As we stay home 24/7, our utility bills will surge. That is expected, but how we use our energy throughout the day will greatly make a difference on consumption. A good habit is to use natural light for lighting during the day and only turn on air conditioning at night, or scarcely during the day. Popping that window open for some natural ventilation can also help, and ditching that straightener or hot iron for a while will also help.
To reduce power consumption, you can schedule doing laundry certain days of the week as well, instead of doing a haul every day.
4. Be Mindful Your Water Consumption
Water running through our taps is a scarce resource in most developing countries. While the guidelines and protocols against spreading the virus are to wash hands routinely for 20 seconds, be mindful of how you use the water in those 20 seconds.
We don’t know how long this pandemic will last, but we need to make sure that we have enough potable water for us to last it. Let’s be mindful of that.
5. Segregate Waste at Home
Despite all the COVID-19 stress, there will always be waste that we produce on a routine basis which is collected by municipal authorities and your waste collectors routinely. To make their jobs easier and to make recycling easier, we can sort waste at home, at the source.
Some countries already have policies to segregate waste into plastics, glass, compost (organic) and waste at the point source — your home — but majority of the world still doesn’t, so this is an important pointer for them.
Create specific bins for compost, recycling, and waste at home. If you have a garden at home, you can even use the compostable waste to create compost at home (see point 7)!
6. Make a List of All Your Pantry Items, Fresh Produce & Meat
Stick it into your fridge. Keep updating it as you go about your day so you are aware of what you have and what you’re also running out of. This is a great way to rediscover pantry items hidden right at the back of your kitchen shelves so you can get creative with your meals.
With more time at home to cook, you can finally let your inner Master Chef out and treat this like an opportunity to be on Chopped with the limited amount of groceries you may have!
7. Grow Your Own Vegetable and Herb Garden
It’s times like these that make you understand what food security really means. With most countries in lockdown and little to no imports coming in, having your own little vegetable and herb garden can really keep your stress at bay about not having access to fresh produce or that sprig of coriander that you love in your curries and salad.
Gardening is also a great habit that helps you de-stress and stay calm. If you can still purchase a few vegetable plants and seeds in your area, try starting and maintaining a home garden during this period. It may actual grow on you!
8. Resist That Online Shopping Habit
If you’re not in a country with a very strict lockdown, you could be tempted to do some online shopping for clothes next season, possibly because you’re bored/frustrated/stressed about the current situation. Remind yourself that what you don’t have right now, you probably don’t need.
9. Be Mindful of Your Community and Surroundings
COVID–19 is expected to make a significant economic impact on the most vulnerable populations – those living under the poverty lineand those that depend on daily wages for daily sustenance.
Instead of spending on online shopping, look around your community for families that might be severely impacted by the lockdowns or community quarantines in your area. You can find many campaigns or NGOs online doing charity drives for the vulnerable and weak in your area.
And while it may seem that you’re doing very little by just staying at home, helping others will make you feel like you’re actually having a positive impact on society and your community.
10. Sharing This Blog Post!
Because together, we can make an even greater difference and a positive impact on the world!
Even if you are be able to follow only one or two of these points in the next few weeks, that’s great. Sharing this post would lead to others following a few more too!
A Pakistani-Canadian expatriate currently based out of the Philippines, Fatima Fasih is an award-winning watercolorist and graduate of the University of Toronto’s Sustainability Management program. As a Corporate Sustainability Specialist, Fatima maintains a keen interest in social and environmental issues to play her part in leaving the world a more humane, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly place. To keep up with her musings, be sure to follow her blog, Instagram, and Twitter!
Edited by Manal Moazzam.