Lemon juice, legumes and local activism: what green habits have you adopted in 2020?

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Embracing the good life with sustainable eating

We started to order food from the local store for curbside pickup. We went online and bought a freezer. Bought a food vacuum sealer and ordered bulk orders from our favourite butcher and fish monger. Started to stock up on other staples. We have canned and vacuum stored fruit too.
John Dorosiewicz, 65, Toronto, Canada

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Our biggest change has been switching from supermarket shopping to the local shops. We’re on the Isle of Man, so are dependent on UK-based supermarkets importing goods to the island to stock the shelves of their Manx branches. However, during lockdown, not only did the local Manx shops suddenly start doing home deliveries and setting up websites, but local farms and food producers began to make their goods available both as deliveries and also to island shops they didn’t previously supply.
Jean Butterworth, 86, and Kate Butterworth, 53, Isle of Man

We have fully committed to growing as much fruit and veg on our allotment and preserving it for the winter. We will be self sufficient in some items and we never use any pesticides. We’ll also eat less meat and far more fruit and veg.
Janette Jordan, 63, Cambridgeshire, UK

We used to buy most of our fruit and vegetables from a farmers’ market, but we now get a weekly box and top up from local shops – ideally independent ones. Our second source of fruit and vegetables has become local shops which previously traded as cafes, delis and small restaurants. With these sources of income closed off by Covid-19, they turned instead to selling fruit, vegetables, bread etc – items they would have bought for their original trading business. This option keeps local businesses going and hopefully will encourage some to make green grocery part of their ongoing business model.
Judith Russenberger, 59, London, UK

This year, my tenant (who is semi-retired) and I decided to plant as many vegetables as possible. We did a lot of digging and got some compost delivered. It was good to be outside, getting exercise and eating organically. We grew lots of lettuce and swiss chard, garlic and fava beans in the spring. Some of our summer crops have been so prolific that we have been sharing green beans, figs, apples and tomatoes with friends and neighbours. We have also taken up canning and freezing.

We have also gotten to know our neighbours better because we were all around our houses more. Then, in June, my tenant and I decided to build a garden shed from scratch, using many found materials from around the neighbourhood.
Kathryn Ogg, 71, Victoria, British Columbia

In our neighbourhood there is a very nice street-food market where we buy our supplies for the week. The vendors are farmers from the region around, some “bio”, some not. I regularly buy milk from a farm between the woods close by where they raise cattle that have a pretty casual life on the meadows of the valley. When you bring your own bottle you can directly tap the milk from an automat in a little room where you can also buy cheese and sausages.
Geertje Konig, 53, Bonn, Germany

My main change is that I have tried to grow more vegetables in the garden. I have before grown tomatoes and runner beans and have many productive blackcurrant bushes, but this year as soon as the garden centres reopened I went out and bought some broad and french bean seeds and planted them. The french variety were disappointing but broad were OK. I am also cultivating the tomato plant that appeared in the pot where my husband and grandson planted an acorn!
Margaret Elms, 70, Devon, UK

When lockdown began, we built a chicken coop and run for eight chicks – soon to be hens. We are still waiting for our first eggs.
Peter England, 76, British Columbia, Canada

Chickens

Going plastic-free

Aside from avoiding meat, and anything with too much wrapping, I use vinegar and lemon juice to clean as much as possible with the least possible use of any chemical cleaners. I do not buy beauty products tested on animals and keep purchases of cleansing products down to an absolute minimum. I use cloth shopping bags and avoid using plastic bags at all cost. Finally, I will always go for the organic option if finance allows and look for fair-trade marks and other signs that the producer is considering the environment.
Duffy Tomei, 66, Essex, UK

I don’t use teabags which often have plastic in them. And I won’t buy sandwiches from shops using plastic-lined sandwich packaging.
Caroline Quick, 77, Cambridgeshire, UK


Community activism

There is a weekly event on Fridays at my local church. We asked people to give a donation to church funds and expanded the range to include plants, as we had already been sharing spare seedlings and young plants using a WhatsApp group. This initiative reduced food miles and gave people access to fresh, usually organically grown, fruit and vegetables. The meeting soon flourished and became a mini social hub.
Liz Little, 69, Wells, UK

Amid all the chaos and uncertainty of the virus, lockdown was a blissful family time. I truly appreciated for the first time things I have taken for granted – a garden, stable family life, my health. In our local park, Miyah, my youngest daughter, provided me with a moment of total clarity that led me to question my whole way of life: I was trying to stop her picking up a plastic bottle among the litter strewn along the side of the path. She stared at me: “But we can’t leave it here, it’s bad for the animals.” It dawned on me that it really is that simple. I have always felt sad about litter, but never felt it was my job to do anything about it. I felt suddenly ashamed of that attitude and we have since become regular litter pickers in our local park.

I also wrote to my MP for the first time, requesting that he support the climate and ecological emergency bill, which was recently brought to parliament and offers real hope for a better future. Talking to people on my street made me realise that many people share these feelings. We started sharing ideas, it was empowering. We have now organised a community recycling project in our street. We collect a range of plastics not accepted in our kerbside recycling collection to take to Terracycle collection points. We hope this idea might spread.
Jenny Norbury, 39, Manchester, UK

Saying no to fast fashion

I wanted to tell you about my local Soroptimist club in Chester whose members have committed to not buying new clothes from the start of lockdown until the end of 2020. Buying from charity shops, and essential supplies (underwear!), is allowed, but otherwise we have committed to each other to try to reduce the clothes and shoes we felt we were buying unnecessarily.
Geraldine Garrs, 48, Chester, UK

I have been involved with climate change for a number of years, most recently spending five and a half years as chair of trustees of Operation Noah, a faith-based charity devoted to climate change. I have used the lockdown to try to reduce domestic single-use plastics even further. I have never purchased bottled water and a few years ago gave up even the very occasional spontaneous takeaway tea in favour of only ever using my reusable cup. I have not bought either hand sanitiser or disposable face masks, relying instead on hand-washing and washable cloth masks.
Nicky Lyndon Bull, 66, Hertfordshire, UK

Rethinking transport

The biggest change we’ve made during lockdown, thanks to a Guardian article on the Money page a few Saturdays ago, is to trade in our old car for an electric car. Now we can look knowingly, but not too smugly I hope, at other electric car drivers when we come across them, rather like we look at other Guardian readers when buying our paper!
Mike Smith, 66, Southampton, UK

Since July 2020, I decided to share my Tesla Model 3 with our employees – our Italian physiotherapists – so they can visit their relatives without buying a car, and without using air travel.
Felix Niedermann, 55, Lucerne, Switzerland

Tesla Model 3

Making the switch to solar power

Early this year we decided to switch to a more sustainable source of heating. Our house is now heated by an air source heat pump.
Wiebina Heesterman, 83, Birmingham, UK

We installed a 6.4kWh solar PV system (heats the hot water, provides power through the day and exports large volumes to the grid, even in the UK!). We had the house cavity wall insulated. And we gave up a passionately loved hobby, skydiving – powered by fossil fuels unfortunately.
Michael Grant, 60 and Alice Grant, 64, Hampshire, UK

We have done lots of little things to help. I set the thermostat low, put on more clothes if it’s cold, have solar and hot water panels to maximise electricity production. In addition, we’ve installed triple-glazed windows to keep heat in and cold out. We also make our own elderflower cordial and of course drink tap water, never bottled water.
Caroline Quick, 77, Cambridgeshire, UK

A year ago I went all electric, having an air source heat pump installed and replaced the gas cooker with an induction top electric cooker. Six months ago I had a small room super-insulated inside the external walls, insulation under the floor where the boards were replaced by sheets of water resistant fibre board. These were glued together and sealed round the edges so were draught-proof. Finally, the roof insulation was topped up. It is now a warm snug little sitting room, having previously been the coldest room in the house.
Nan Howitt, 80, Leeds, UK

Shopping locally

Lockdown meant that the money we usually spent on travel, dining out, concerts, etc built up in our bank accounts. We took a conscious decision to spend that surplus on those goods and services suffering most economic damage, buying much more online and giving work to local builders and tradesmen.
John Davies, 79, and Jacqui Davies, 74, Wales, UK

I’ve been trying not to buy anything, especially technology coming from “far away”. I spotted drill-bits made in Austria and saw refills made in Mannheim [Germany]! Above all I hate it when labels are missing the “made in” information. We can make anything in Europe. If I can’t find it, most likely I will buy nothing, invent something instead, sew old clothes etc.
Flavio Ferlitz, 70, Austria

Travelling (not) by air

I live in Montreal, Canada and during April and May especially we enjoyed wonderful fresh air and quiet in our suburb. The large international airport is about 16km away and the planes don’t usually fly over our neighbourhood, so we hadn’t realised how much noise was emanating from that airport! The peace and quiet set me thinking about other airports and what noise we produced when we took flights going here and there on vacations all over the world. Even though one of our daughters and her family live in Sweden, we have decided to think twice before hopping on a plane.
Diane Campbell, 74, Quebec, Canada

Last year, I took 37 flights. I haven’t taken a single flight in the past six months. In short, if I can go by plane, I can also go by bus, for the vast majority of the travels I do. I hope now that 2019 was the peak of my flight fuel consumption.
Anna Sawicka, 28, Vilnius, Lithuania

Since the end of March, we have decided to reduce or stop completely travelling by air. We will spend holidays in this country or in places that can be reached by train.
John Harris, 80, and Christine Harris, 78, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK


… And a scythe of relief

The footpaths near where I live traverse marshland, so quickly become overgrown. I’ve always been outdoorsy so decided to have a go at mowing with a scythe. It ticks all my boxes – it gets me outdoors into the fresh air, lets me see the wildlife not often observed – such as owls, foxes, mice, frogs, butterflies and wildflowers (which of course I mow around, allowing them to flower), it’s free exercise, provides a great sense of purpose, keeps the public footpaths clear and open, and as an ornithologist I delight in seeing the winter arrivals of geese, ducks and migrant birds.
William Hancock, 68, Suffolk, UK

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