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Woman wearing a mask sitting in a park with a dog
Photograph: Helena Lopes on Pexels

How to live sustainably during lockdowns

Easy tips on how to treat the Earth well, while being safe and responsible

Nicola Dowse
Written by
Nicola Dowse
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Remember how in 2019 we finally solved the increasingly dire climate crisis? No, us neither – it's still a major issue. It’s fair to say that 2020 (and 2021) didn't exactly go according to plan, with our way of life changed ostensibly forever. But it doesn't mean we have to give up on working towards a greener, cleaner planet.

During lockdowns, there are still stacks of ways to build a more sustainable future. Sure, we might be using more single-use items or driving more out of necessity, but many of the actions that make a difference can still be achieved regardless of how many reasons there currently are to leave home.

How to live sustainably during lockdowns

• Say no to disposable cutlery when getting takeaway or delivery. Many places will still give you cutlery automatically when ordering unless you specifically tell them not to – so tell them not to. 

• Or opt to cook more often instead of getting takeaway or delivery, which can come with a ton of plastic packaging. Here are our favourite grocery delivery services

• Ask if your local café is accepting reusable coffee cups. Not all are, but you can always ask to see if they’re happy to provide your takeaway coffee in a more sustainable container. 

• If you can’t get your coffee in a reusable cup, you can still recycle the lid (put it in your regular household recycling bin). 

Reusable coffee cup generic
Photograph: Goran Ivos/Unsplash

• Be a conscientious mask wearer. Face masks are here to stay, but you can reduce their impact on the planet by either wearing a three-layer washable mask (now sold widely) or by properly disposing of your single-use mask. That means snipping the string and placing it in your general waste bin when you get home.

• TerraCycle also have a box in which you can actually recycle single-use face masks as well. 

• Start a compost bin. Some councils (like Glen Eira and Hobson’s Bay) even provide an organics bin which can take all your food scraps for kerbside recycling.

• Level up your recycling game. Actually go over what can and can't be recycled in your local area (your council usually has resources online). For example, many containers can be recycled but might need to have their labels or lids removed before putting them in the yellow bin. 

• Collect your soft plastic waste (think chip and cereal packets, cling film, lolly wrappers etc – here's the full list of products you can recycle) and dispose of them in a RedCycle bin. These bins are conveniently located at hundreds of Coles and Woolworths stores across Victoria – just make sure you rinse and dry any dirty plastics before dropping them off. 

• Shop locally... online. If you can’t head into a physical store, support local businesses online through delivery or click and collect. 

• Write or call your local state or federal MP to ask them to act on climate change. You’ve never had more time to get in touch with your local member – make them work for you.

Fruitastic
Photograph: Supplied

• It can feel safer to order groceries during lockdowns – consider supporting a local grocery service instead of one of the major supermarkets. 

• If you drive to the supermarket, consider doing a weekly or fortnightly big shop instead of lots of little ones if practical for you. You'll save on petrol, reduce emissions and reduce your chance of running into a certain virus.

Plant more. And especially plant more natives. Not only does it help provide food and habitat for insects and birds, native plants tend to use less water. 

• Speaking of less water –  you can help the environment while staying home by simply showering less or taking shorter showers. Hey, it’s not like you’re seeing anyone anyway. 

• And while we're all washing our hands more, consider using bar soap (ideally wrapped in recyclable paper) or a product like Single Use Ain’t Sexy (which creates soap using tablets and water). 

• If practical, walk, skate or cycle to your destination. It’s good for the environment, good for you, and a good way to avoid other people. You can’t get more ventilated than the literal outdoors. 

• You can also still safely catch public transport during this time – here’s how to travel safely during outbreaks. 

• Instead of ordering new books, borrow them virtually (for free) via BorrowBox. It allows you to use your library membership to borrow ebooks and audio books online! 

• If there is a park nearby, walk to it for exercise instead of driving to one that’s further away. 

Edinburgh Gardens, North Fitzroy, Melbourne
Photograph: Josie Withers

• Get vaccinated. No, hear us out: hospitals use a ton of single-use materials, which are very bad for the environment. By getting vaccinated, you vastly reduce your likelihood of ending up in one. Here's how to get vaccinated in Melbourne.

• Buy some board games or puzzles and use those for recreation instead of always running that giant, energy-inefficient TV. Here are some of our favourites.

• Open your curtains during the day and light your workspace with natural light instead of turning on the overheads. 

• Buy hand sanitiser in bulk and use the big bottle to refill the small bottles you are no doubt keeping in your car, jackets and bag. 

Did you hear? By 2030, all Victorian households will have four kerbside bins to reduce landfill.

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