How We Can Take Care of the Planet While Taking Care of Ourselves
Photo by James Appleton
By KEEN Europe Ambassador Cal Major
It might seem that all eco-activities have come to a halt in the shadow of the global COVID-19 pandemic. I appreciate that at this time it can seem futile to be trying to do anything other than tackle this illness. If you are able to help in a safe way, please do. However for most of us, helping is being at home, supporting each other from a distance, and protecting our mental and physical health, and that of our loved ones, as best we can for the moment.
If you’re someone who deeply cares about the environment, and you are passionate about doing your bit to protect it, there are still things you can do even on lockdown to make positive change. And this, in turn, will help to boost your own morale during these weird and difficult times. It’s OK to seek things that make you feel good at the moment, and it’s also OK to reside in those moments of feeling like you’re making a positive difference to the places you love, completely distanced from the current situation.
As an individual, we have incredible capacity to make change. We are consumers, voters, and members of the community. Your individual actions don’t just actively reduce your own carbon footprint and plastic consumption, but can enable your voice as a consumer, which sends a strong message to the big companies that have the power in their hands to make even bigger changes.
So let’s look at some things you might not have had a chance to do in your usual busy life.
1. Declutter your house and donate your unwanted stuff to a charity shop. You might not be able to physically take your stuff to a charity shop at present, but once shops reopen, it will provide people with secondhand clothes instead of investing in brand new fast fashion, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions globally. Living with less stuff also helps to keep you in the present moment, grateful for your belongings and clearer-headed to be able to tackle big environmental issues head on.
2. Repair your kit. Take this time now that we have to repair or clean any clothes or kit that is still functional but needs a bit of TLC, rather than ditching it and buying new. Check out YouTube for tips on repairing specific items. This will not only lower your carbon footprint but also your plastic footprint as a lot of clothing is made from plastic-based polymers.
3. Reduce plastic microfibers from your laundry. If you haven’t yet got hold of a microfiber-catching laundry bag, filter or ball, now could be a great time to give it a go. These solutions help prevent plastic microfibers from escaping down the drain and into our waterways.
4. Take an online course. Check out the One UN Climate Change Learning Partnership (UN CC:Learn). Read big long blogs that you hadn’t had time to really chew over before. I love this Save Our Rivers blog post and its associated links. Read charity’s websites and all the information on there — for example, City To Sea has some brilliant information about plastic pollution and how to do your bit. There are also lots of blogs on my Paddle Against Plastic website.
5. Create inspirational movie nights. Get up to date with Netflix’s range of ocean films, including Chasing Coral, Mission Blue and the Our Planet Series. My films Vitamin Sea and Skye’s The Limit are also online for the next few weeks to watch, too.
6. Educate the next generation of stewards. The beauty of home-schooling is you’re able to choose what your family learns about. You can directly choose to teach your kids about the amazing animals in the oceans, plastic pollution and climate change. I can strongly recommend the Wild Tribe Heroes books and Michelle Cassar’s Seb and Polly Planet on their Ocean Quest for bedtime reading. There are also some brilliant people doing Instagram and Facebook live videos specifically learning about ocean creatures and environmental issues — check out @stompycole and @ruby_free_.
7. Sign up for CSA deliveries from local organic farms. It reduces a trip to the grocery store, supports small, organic farmers, and we’re all home right now to easily receive the deliveries.
8. Read those books you’ve had on your shelf but never got round to opening. I can recommend This Is Not A Drill by Extinction Rebellion, There Is No Planet B by Mike Berners-Lee, Let My People Go Surfing by Yvonne Chouinard, and Tools for Grassroots Activists by Patagonia. There are loads of books giving specific tips on eco-living too, such as Nat Fee’s How To Save the Planet for Free, and Jen Gale’s Sustainable(ish) Living Guide. Look for eBooks or support local bookstores that are taking online orders and making deliveries.
9. Spread the word. If you find it beneficial for your mental health rather than detrimental, take this opportunity to get active on social media, or even better to call your pals or family to talk specifically about what you’re learning or what you care about! You can even set up your own mini online conference call to share your findings with your friends. Zoom and Houseparty are two apps that let you have face-to-face group video calls where you can chat and discuss.
10. Use your voice as a citizen. You have the ability to vote, but you also have the ability to specifically ask things of your elected official. They have a duty to take note of their constituents’ concerns. Write a letter — actually hand write a letter telling your elected official just how much your local environment means to you, and how important it is that s/he put measures into place to protect it. If you feel able, tell them your personal story of what nature provides for you and your family’s health, and how precious it is to preserve. Let them know how much you care about legislation to reduce single use plastic, and that you’d like them to support movements such as the deposit return scheme in parliament. There are some great draft letters at www.sas.org.uk
These are very strange times. It’s important that we stay focused on what we need to be doing right now with regard to COVID-19, and protecting ourselves and our loved ones, but I also don't think it’s the wrong thing to do to distract ourselves every now and again with focusing on something we’re passionate about. I hope these tips help, and please let me know how you get on! And thanks for protecting what you love.
Photo by James Appleton