How to Have a Sustainable Lockdown

Lizzi Philokyprou talks through seven ways we can sustain ourselves (and the planet) during lockdown.

The third – and hopefully final – UK national lockdown has hit hard. Combined with the dismal January weather, it seems like there’s little to feel positive about. How can we strive to be sustainable when sustaining our own happiness and wellbeing is already a struggle?

Personally, I think there’s more to sustainability than vegan diets and renewable energy. The word ‘sustainability’ implies the ability to sustain something. We want to live in a way that conserves the natural resources of our planet, and ourselves. The lives of most people pre-pandemic moved at dizzying speeds, where busyness and productivity were held as badges of honour.

This 24/7 treadmill that many of us called life was fuelled by rampant consumerism in which well-being and happiness was something to be bought with cash, or achieved through endless work. This had, and still continues to have (albeit at a marginally slower pace), devastating effects on our personal, and collective resources. Today, nearly all of the pressing environmental issues, including air and land pollution, animal extinction and global temperature rise, are linked to a rise in consumption. Working harder to buy more isn’t making us happier either; psychologists show that beyond the point that our basic needs are met, more money does not make us happier.

So how can we sustain ourselves through lockdown? With so many things closed down, it seems like there’s little to do but glue ourselves to the sofa and binge Netflix, with a consistent stream of Amazon parcels arriving, to give us a quick endorphin hit. Yet, as tempting and inevitable as this pattern may seem, it’s not necessarily going to help us out of a lockdown-induced low. Here are some ideas of things you can do during lockdown that will benefit you, and the planet.

  1. Check out your local zero waste store

Zero waste shops do come under the bracket of ‘essential’ shops and will need your support now more than ever, as most of them are small, local businesses. The one thing lockdown gives us is more time; since we’re no longer having to rush from work or lectures to parties and brunches, we can dedicate a little more time to our weekly shop. Zero waste shops stock goods in bulk, allowing you to bring your own containers and glass jars to refill. Not only does this reduce your weekly plastic waste, but it often also means your weekly shop comes out cheaper too. Check out Eco Thrifty Living to find a zero waste shop near you.

2. Work Out Outdoors

Image Credits: Lizzi Philokyprou

We all know that exercise is a no-brainer when it comes to feeling better, and with current lockdown restrictions, it’s one of the few times we can legally leave the house. Yet, it’s a lot easier said than done when gyms, sports centres and swimming pools are shut, and it seems to never stop raining. Running has been most people’s go-to during national lockdowns; but it’s not always accessible or fun for everyone. For a more interesting and modifiable workout, we need to get creative.

Parks provide amazing spaces to work out: monkey bars can be used for pull ups, benches for step ups and elevated lunges, bike racks can be used for leg raises, and any low walls are perfect for box jumps and bunny jumps. Obviously outdoor workouts come with some risks, particularly if you are using communal equipment such as parks. Aim to go when there are less people around (e.g. early in the morning or in the evening) and make sure to use lots of hand sanitizer in between sets and when you get home. Try and change up your workouts to keep yourself interested and motivated – sustaining any sort of exercise routine requires it to be enjoyable as much as it is effective.  

3.   Rethink your indoor space

Lockdown, particularly for those of us living in more urban environments, means we are spending less time than ever outdoors and in nature, which is problematic for both our physical and mental wellbeing. Research shows that inadequate exposure to daylight can lead to a host of problems, from an increased risk of depression and seasonal affective disorder, to increased fatigue and immune vulnerability. If it’s possible, try and arrange your study area to increase natural daylight exposure. You might also want to invest in a house plant or two (if you’re not already a bonafide plant parent); studies show that having indoor plants increases productivity, reduces stress levels, and helps improve air quality.

Image Credits: Lizzi Philokyprou
Image Credits: Lizzi Philokyprou

4. Change your browser

So obviously, we’re all spending a lot more time on the internet, scrolling, searching and watching endless boxsets. A really easy and simple way to make use of your scrolling sessions is by using Ecosia as your browser. This search engine plants trees with your searches, at no cost to you, meaning that you can browse to your heart’s content, safe in the knowledge that your endless searching helps save the planet.  Their replanting projects are taking place all over the world, from ‘re-greening’ the deserts of Burkina Faso, to helping restore and protect woodland areas here in the UK.

Image Credits: Lizzi Philokyprou
Image Credits: Lizzi Philokyprou

5.   Find Your Voice

The current lockdown situation can leave us feeling pretty hopeless, and powerless, with so many decisions about life currently being taken out of our hands in a bid to flatten the curve. A small way to feel seen and heard is to research and get on board with projects and causes you feel most passionate about. There are a myriad of intersecting environmental, social, and political issues which need addressing in today’s world, on both a local, national and international level.

From tackling systematic inequalities and injustices to problematic environmental policies, and supporting environmental and social movements abroad, there’s tons of stuff we can do right now (whilst sitting in our room with our laptops) to make the world a better place. This can range from petitioning your MP, to donating to a local food bank or  writing articles for local, or online publications (such as WILD Magazine) on topics you are passionate about. Finding issues to investigate into and support can take us out of our small, isolated bubbles and connect us to the rest of the world, giving us hope that things can, and will change for the better, and that our voices do matter.

6.   Have a wardrobe revamp 

We might have more time on our hands, but a lot of people are short on cash at the minute. Luckily, there are lots of ways you can refresh and revamp your wardrobe on a small, or in some cases non-existent budget, all of which don’t contribute to fast fashion or landfill. First of all, have a wardrobe raid! Whether you’re locked down with your family, or house mates, see what pieces of clothing they have lying around that they no longer want.

Nearly everyone has a random bag of clothes at the bottom of their wardrobes that’s been patiently waiting to be taken to a charity shop for the past 12 months. Alternatively, you could hold a virtual clothes party with your friends, swapping items you no longer want and sending them to each other. From here you can get creative: upcycle old shirts, embroider jumpers, turn jeans into shorts and shorts into skirts. There are so many YouTube tutorials and Tiktok reals with amazing inspiration and instructions for jazzing up your existing wardrobe.

7. Get in touch with your feelings

Image Credits: Lizzi Philokyprou

We’re all spending more time than ever in our own company, and in our own heads. This situation comes with its pros and cons. Getting comfortable with our own company is a valuable tool that can help us face the trials and tribulations of life with a bigger sense of confidence. To do this, it’s really important to sit down with ourselves, and face our feelings head on.

Work out what it is that bothers us, when the distractions of daily life no longer exist. How do we cope with uncertainty and stress? What problematic habits have come to light during the pandemic, and how can we tackle them? These are all questions that many of us now have the time to address. Yes, it might be difficult and uncomfortable; many of us are not actually that in touch with how we feel, as societal norms have us viewing emotions as problematic and unproductive.

This means many of us grow up learning to either distract ourselves or suppress our emotions via pacifiers (media, games, shopping, intoxicants, constant ‘busyness’), which don’t do us, or our environment much good. If you can, use the extra time afforded by lockdown learning to get to know yourself. Rediscover what brings you happiness, what causes you distress, and make sure to reach out if things feel too overwhelming for you to tackle alone.  

About the Author: Lizzi Philokyprou is a 3rd Year History and Philosophy Student at the University of York, and is WILD’s Deputy Lifestyle Editor.

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