Staying Eco-Conscious During the Covid-19 Pandemic

We have all had to vastly change our way of life to try to combat the devastating effects of coronavirus. A lot has been written about the large-scale impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown on the environment. What about our individual practices? 

Facemask and glove on the ground

Firstly, I want to say that this article is aimed at people who want some advice on keeping their carbon footprint down. I am fully aware that we are all being asked to make huge sacrifices and I by no means want to add to anyone’s anxiety or guilt at this stressful time. I also know that time and money restrictions can make some of this harder so don’t fret – you’re fab for reading this and wanting to make a difference. I just wanted to collate some information for those who want it. 

The good news is that you are probably already reducing your carbon footprint just by following the government guidelines to stay at home. You might be understandably upset by cancelled holidays or business trips but air travel is the worst form of transport for greenhouse gases. Hopefully you can take at least some solace that by not flying for the time being, you are helping the environment as well as helping stop the spread of Covid-19. You will probably find you are driving less and taking fewer journeys on public transport. Whilst public transport is the best form of transport, rail and bus travel does produce CO2 emissions so reduced services will be making a little difference. If you are still traveling to and from work, it is likely because you are doing a really important job so take whatever mode of transport you can to keep yourself safe. 

We have had to change our buying habits with high street stores shutting up shop for the time being. You can still buy non-essential items online or in supermarkets. As always, reducing the number of things you buy is the best way to keep your carbon footprint down but there are still bound to be things you need or want to keep up morale. Some eco-friendly websites are great for listing eco-credentials of the products you buy; many only use recyclable packaging. If you do still want to buy something from Amazon it is worth knowing that you can email them requesting that they add a note to your account requesting that they avoid plastic bubble wrap and keep packaging to a minimum.  

You will still be needing to do your food shopping and if you are following government advice you are probably doing fewer trips to the shop which is great for the environment. Whilst you want to stock up enough to reduce your trips, take a look at the use-by dates, you don’t want to end up throwing food away. When planning your meals consider that cutting out meat and dairy can reduce your carbon footprint by two thirds, so try to keep meat and dairy to a minimum. Eating plenty of vegetables is great for your health, and if you can grow them at home that’s even better for the planet. For the ingredients that you do need to buy, try to choose locally grown produce and if you can afford plastic free choose that. A lot of farmers markets are suspended but you might be able to find a local farm shop for your essential items. 

Eating meals in restaurants tends to have a larger impact than homecooked food due to overheads. More of us are cooking at home during lockdown which is helping lower our carbon footprints. You might want to support your local businesses during this difficult time, if you do opt for a takeaway meal it is a good idea to prioritise restaurants that use local ingredients and that keep packaging to a minimum. 

The UK government is not currently asking us to wear face masks unless we require PPE for our job. Lots of people are choosing to make their own masks to wear. If you do plan to make a fabric mask try to use old clothing or off-cuts rather than buying new material. If you want to wash and reuse your mask, try to avoid synthetic fibers that contain plastic as these will shed microplastics each time you wash them. 

Similarly, some people are choosing to wear gloves when shopping. Obviously, most of us want to keep our use of plastic to a minimum and we are being advised to wash our hands with soap and water and avoid touching our faces. If you do choose to wear gloves consider using reusable gloves rather than single use. Most importantly, when you do want to dispose of gloves and masks do this responsibly. Plastic waste ending up on our streets, rivers and the sea can be disastrous for wildlife.  

One of the issues with all this hand washing is dry skin. Do try to look after your skin using a cruelty free moisturiser. If you can’t find one with plastic free packaging, consider buying a bigger bottle which can be reused and recycled.  

Lots of people are doing spring cleaning and having clear-outs now that they have more time on their hands. If you do have the space, keeping your winter clothes for next year is much better than buying new outfits each season. You might even consider repairing and customising some outfits to give them a new lease of life. If you do choose to get rid of them remember charity shops are closed. Do not leave bags outside closed shops because the shops will likely throw these away due to contamination fears or if they are left unattended, they add to debris which is making our streets untidy and harming our wildlife. Reuse, recycle or dispose of your items in a responsible way. If at all possible, hold on to them ready for when the charity shops reopen or look forward to swapping them at a clothes swap event once restrictions are lifted. 

So in summary:  

  • Request minimum packaging on your purchases 
  • Locally grown food is best, fruit and veg is preferable to meat and dairy 
  • Plan ahead, check use-by dates to reduce waste 
  • Home cooked is best but if you get a takeaway ask for less packaging  
  • Dispose of masks and gloves responsibly, if you do need them 
  • Don’t leave bags outside of closed charity shops 
  • Smile – you’re probably already doing more than you realise