Stay sustainable and remain indoors: Our guide to an eco-friendly lockdown

Seven tips for staying green in quarantine

Before the coronavirus outbreak, climate change was one of the most threatening global problems. The focus has shifted now, but the environmental issues did not disappear when the virus took over our lives.

Oxford University has just passed a resolution on banning investment in fossil fuels. And how does Cambridge contribute to sustainability during the lockdown? We are definitely not there yet, but some colleges are working on figuring out different ways to help Cambridge stay green, and you can get easily involved via a click.

Did you know that Clare College put together a resource which can help you minimise your carbon impact by a minimum of 40%? Or have you heard about the online Green Talks by Wolfson Green Society? No worries, I’m here to help you out. There are some simple tips to keep it relatively sustainable during the lockdown, if your circumstances allow it.

You can take this time to educate yourself about green issues. I don’t mean binge-watching all the zero waste influencers as a form of procrastination (yep, do as I say, not as I do), but rather find new and exciting questions you haven’t dived into yet. For example, what is the future of the Arctic? Wolfson College Green Society, which started to organise bi-weekly Green Talks open to everyone, flags this issue in their next Green Talk.  The WCGS, having aspiring plans in the future, thinks big: the first guest is the former EU Ambassador at Large to the Arctic, Marie Anne Coninsx – who happens to be a Wolfson alumna. Catch her talk on the changing Arctic at 5 pm (BST) on 30 April via zoom. The Cambridge Schools Eco-Council also organises Free Online Eco-Seminars on Climate Change to raise awareness of key sustainability challenges, such as consumerism or biodiversity.

Polar bears on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean, near the North Pole. USS Honolulu pictured. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Although sustainability is a question to be solved mostly on an industrial level, you can also get into everyday practices to support your own green principles:

Reduce your carbon impact

Here you can subscribe to Clare College’s guide for achieving the 40% less carbon emission. A surprising number, isn’t it? It’s not impossible and they promise you don’t have to sacrifice your life. They are also going to myth-bust useless actions which are just seemingly environment-friendly, like unplugging unused charges, and rather offer significant ways to reduce your impact.

Not everything has to go to the bin

It is safe to use reusable containers after a proper wash, because simple soap and hot water are effective in disinfecting surfaces from viruses, including coronavirus, and bacteria. And also, with disposable products, you can never know who touched them before you. Maybe it’s not the best time to start a brand-new zero-waste lifestyle, but you can be mindful about it.


Sewing clothes from leftover material is cool and green.

DIY and upcycle instead of buying

I know, online shopping may seem a shortcut against boredom and towards self-care, but this is the best time to get creative instead. Learn to transform your clothes, craft, start baking or gardening. Maybe these hobbies – as well as the tiny tomato plant you grow – will stay with you as sustainable habits even after the virus is gone. Personally, I went perfectly nuts about sewing, and I produce summer garments on a conveyor belt from leftover materials, which obviously I’m unable to wear at the moment being locked in a cold flat for five weeks. It seems Week 5 blues (greens) got a new meaning.

Crafted laptop skin

Actually I’m typing this on my laptop decorated with a DIY and upcycled laptop skin.

Rediscover what you have

Don’t panic if you are not crafty. If you are lucky enough to get quarantined at your own home, this is time to go through your belongings. You don’t necessarily have to mariekondo the whole family flat, but you might find items in your closet which you can appreciate again and be grateful for what you have. If you are brave enough, you can also build a swap or donate pile, which can become a green reason to reunite with friends when the time comes.

Prefer to order from local farmers and businesses

If you are stuck in Cambridge, check out the Cambridge Sustainable Food Directory or the box and delivery schemes collected by the Cambridge Carbon Footprint.

Environment-friendly package

Environment-friendly packed veggies from local farmers are cool and green.

Check if there are environment-friendly packaging options and online invoices

There is no evidence that plastic wrap is safer than paper. Actually, quite the opposite is true: coronavirus can survive a day on paper, but 72 hours on plastic. Although the production of paper bags requires a lot of water and virgin wood, it’s at least biodegradable. You can also choose to use your own clothes bags until you clean them and keep at a separate place after unloading your grocery.

Don’t go crazy with water

There are places where there is not enough water even for hand-washing.  We are getting into the vicious circle of wasting a lot of water in our fear of the virus. Although it is essential to wash everything properly these times, there is no need to run the water constantly. Switch it off while you are not rinsing.

First of all, stay safe, but thinking ahead never hurts.