Lockdown has been tough for all of us. However, whilst our “normal lives” have been put on hold, many people have noticed some of the green benefits.
The air is cleaner, more people have been exercising outdoors/inside their homes and many of us have started to appreciate the natural world in ways our previous lifestyles prevented us from doing.
Research shows that a huge number of people have adopted more carbon-friendly lifestyles during lockdowns. This is certainly true for many of our staff at Islamic Relief UK.
We’ve found ourselves adopting more environmentally-friendly habits to take into the future – pandemic or none.
Take a look and see how you too can make a positive change for the planet!
Emily, former Senior Media Officer: Getting creative with food
As far as I can remember, I have always been conscious about not wasting as much food as possible.
Food is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and 30% of the food we produce is wasted. But with a heavy heart, I have to admit that sometimes, a spontaneous shop-bought lunch or meal out would mean a dish I’d hoped would last for several days would wither and get binned (the food waste bin, of course!).
Like with most people, lockdown has meant preparing more food at home than ever before. And, at the start of the pandemic at least, we were encouraged to go into grocery shops or supermarkets as little as possible.
So, my housemate and I signed up for an Oddbox, a delivery box service that rescues surplus or ‘odd-looking’ fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be wasted. Every other week a box shows up, and we have to get creative with dishes to make based on what’s in the box.
Embarking on this challenge naturally got me thinking about food waste more generally. I realised you can make delicious pesto using carrot tops; garlicy dip from otherwise quite bitter green peppers; and there are plenty of recipes which allow you to be flexible with which vegetables you use, if you want to use up certain items.
Jonaid, Media Manager: Walking more, paying less
A couple of years ago, I sold my car in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. However, all that happened was that I got frustrated waiting for buses and I became reliant on cabs.
It was easy to save time getting from place to place. But, I wasn’t really helping the environment as I had originally intended and it started to become a costly process.
As the pandemic came into full force, I became worried about using public transport and cabs to get to places. As a result, I started to walk more: not only did this reduce my carbon footprint, but I actually started feeling more energised and fitter.
Walking is a great way to exercise. I’m not really a bike person, I tried it a few times and wasn’t keen on cycling around vehicles on the road. However, as long as I am socially distancing on the street, by waking, I can be safe, save money and help reduce the impact of climate change.
Tufail, UK Director: Cycling with nature
Just before the first lockdown, I was commuting to work on the Victoria Line where everyone was packed like sardines, and this one chap coughed: he didn’t even try to cover his mouth.
The carriage gasped. This incident was enough to inspire me to dust the cobwebs off my old bike and commit to riding into work.
Of course, the office was soon closed down for lockdown anyway, but I soon rediscovered the joy of cycling around the city. The lack of pollution really helped!
I spent the summer months building up the strength for the 11-mile commute and I’m now hooked on riding my bike. I found beautiful tracks down the local canals in East London and through Epping Forest.
It’s a great way to keep fit, gather your thoughts and listen to a podcast or Islamic talk, and it’s also helped me to manage my long-term back pain.
Connecting with nature is also beneficial to our health. What’s more, it’s great for the environment and for personal budgeting!
Judith, Head of Communications: Swapping plane for train
I fly to Spain every year with my children to visit my sister’s family. I also tend to fly to Denmark and Sweden to see other family too. So my holidays have mostly been spent abroad.
As flying has such a detrimental impact on the environment, I always offset my carbon emissions when I do so to help protect the planet.
Like many people this year, I decided that travelling overseas during a pandemic was perhaps not a great idea. So we decided to spend our summer holidays in the UK.
I don’t drive, so I needed to find a location that we could easily reach by public transport and then once we were there, somewhere we could move around easily by foot. Based in London, we chose Margate.
There was plenty to do beyond spending time on the beach: we went for a long walk along the seafront; we played crazy golf; we spent time in the arcades and we visited Margate Caves and the Shell Grotto. I also visited the Turner Contemporary Museum and plenty of vintage shops.
I am hoping that I will be able to fly to Spain, Sweden and Denmark again once the pandemic is over, as I do miss my family overseas. So I will fly again when I can, ensuring I offset my emissions.
But my experience in Margate was a pleasant surprise, and I would definitely be open to exploring other gems that the UK has to offer once lockdown is over and it’s safe to travel.
Saeedah, Corporate Relations Assistant: Ditching fast fashion
Did you know that fast fashion is destroying the planet? Each year alone, the fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic metres of water.
That’s enough to meet the needs of five million people.
I therefore made a conscious decision during lockdown to think about the clothes I wear. The longer evenings indoors in particular presented a great opportunity to empty my wardrobe and look at everything I owned.
I got rid of clothes that no longer fit or things that I don’t wear, passing them onto friends and family and dropping them off at Islamic Relief UK’s clothing banks.
The clothes donated via our banks and shops are sold to market traders abroad and the profit generated is used for Islamic Relief’s projects in the UK and overseas. This is a great way of helping others and the planet.
I also read up on which brands have ethical work practices and I have been educating others about the garment industry.
Ethical consumption is not just about switching from plastic forks and straws, or changing our future shopping habits, but learning to value, use and reimagine what we already have.
Valerija, Support Officer: Ditching plastic
During lockdown, I’ve found that I have more time to make environmentally-conscious shopping decisions. Aware of how much plastic waste is produced through packaging, I started buying fruit and vegetables from street vendors that sold them loose – supporting independent local traders as well as cutting down on plastic.
I then discovered ethical online shopping and started using Farmdrop. The company offers sustainably produced food in electric vans. Most of the produced is delivered loose without any plastic bags or if necessary some items are put in biodegradable bags.
Due to poor tap water quality, many people are pushed to buy bottled water. However, there is another solution: I simply invested in a water filter for my home.
I also stopped buying plastic toothbrushes and floss, opting for bamboo instead, and pledged to only buy recycled toilet paper.
If we do not factor in the environmental impact each of our shopping habits, there may not be a safe, green planet for us and our children to live on in just a few decades.
Take action from home
It’s great to see how our colleagues have been able to make such drastic yet simple improvements at home during lockdown.
Every action counts and really does make a difference to combatting the effects of climate change.
So, why not give them a go? Tweet us at @IslamicReliefUK and let us know how you’re helping the planet during the pandemic!
What’s more, we’re also calling on all our supporters to lobby the government to help create long-term change on a global level.
Please sign up to The Time is Now’s Climate Change Declaration and call on the PM to do more to tackle climate change. Take action today and help save the planet.