Another Way to Live
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world on its head. Changes that governments and businesses claimed were impossible have been introduced at the drop of a hat. Paying millions of workers through furlough schemes and home working wherever possible are just two of the initiatives that demonstrate how quickly we can move to create big change in our society – if the political will is there.
Some of the results of these actions have been unexpected and extraordinary. We’ve seen real gains in the fight against global warming as an accidental by-product of humanity’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past six months.
Lockdowns in countless countries have meant a huge reduction in air travel, vast cuts in the number of people commuting to work every day and people trying to eat more healthily (and cheaply!) with a move to plant-based diets. All this has led to remarkable improvements in air and water quality all over the world.
Lessons from lockdown
With lockdown easing in many countries, now is the time to ask ourselves how we can continue this progress in combating climate change. There’s a lot of talk about the ‘new normal’ – the everyday life we can expect once lockdown is eased – that will stay in place until we create an effective vaccine.
At the moment, most of the talk about the ‘new normal’ is understandably about topics such as face masks on public transport and in shops, the number of children it’s safe to have in a classroom and whether you can meet up with relatives indoors without spreading the coronavirus.
However, the ‘new normal’ will continue for a long time and it would be a mistake simply to try and get as close to our old way of living as possible, without understanding the lessons we’ve learnt from the pandemic and the real options we have to live more sustainably.
On 1 June, over 200 top UK firms and investors signed a letter to the UK government urging them to use the COVID-19 lockdown as a “springboard to propel a green economy” and tackle the climate change crisis. This followed a plea by environmental scientists, calling for the conservation of nature to be at the centre of the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic
As our founder, Dave Vince, says: “If you really need to make seismic changes, you can make seismic changes – we can have a great standard of living in a green economy and be living more sustainably and in harmony with the climate.”
Activist also Greta Thunberg recently stated that "the world needs to learn the lessons of coronavirus and treat climate change with similar urgency" and hoped that the world treated the climate crisis "with necessary force" to ensure real changes are made.
Is it really possible to live another way?
As individuals, we’ve seen that even amidst a pandemic, some of the changes have been positive – both for us and for the environment. With lockdown easing gradually, a lot of people are asking how they can avoid returning to their old habits.
Here are our top five tips to help you continue to live in a sustainable way in the ‘new normal’ and beyond:
1. Change the way you work
The environmental benefits of less travel have improved air and water quality globally – can we continue this trend to help save the planet?
We’ve seen cleaner air in UK cities, a dramatic drop in pollution over Northern Italy and in Wuhan, where the coronavirus first appeared, levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide dropped by 10-30%.
The good news is that returning to normal doesn’t have to mean going back to our offices every day. Commuter traffic is a major contributor to air pollution – many businesses are now talking about having people work from home and come to the office part of the time (by cycling, if possible), even when the pandemic is over.
Dale Vince, in a recent interview with the Observer, says: “I don’t want to rush back into ‘business as usual’. Some of our functions have worked really well during the lockdown […] We’ll operate a cycle of working from home and from the office, where we will arguably end up with half as much space.”
Of course, working from home means that the amount of electricity and gas you use is increased – if you find yourself in this position, be sure to check out the advice in our guide to saving energy when working from home.
Non-commuter travel for work is still affected by the pandemic restrictions. There’s no reason for the benefits of video calling not to carry on after lockdown restrictions are lifted – think of all those flights and long-distance car journeys to meet people when, it turns out, many can be done quite easily over the internet.
Keeping emissions down isn’t just important for climate change - a cross-party report from MPs recently concluded that air pollution must be kept at low levels to help avoid a second peak of coronavirus infections.
2. Change the things you eat
The pandemic has made a lot of us look at the way we live our lives. A big part of this is diet – what we eat and where we buy it can make a genuine difference in the fight against climate change.
If you’re looking to make the biggest individual difference you can with your food choices, eating a locally sourced plant-based diet is about as good as it gets. Not only are you saving money and eating more healthily, your spending is contributing towards your local community, something that’s more important than ever in these turbulent times.
You can go one step further by ensuring your energy supply is vegan. All our electricity and gas is generated without using animals, cutting carbon emissions and supporting ethical energy production. We’re the only UK provider that can make this promise, even amongst ‘green energy’ providers. You can read more about the benefits of vegan power in our recent blog 'The Vegan Power Revolution'.
3. Change the way you socialise
The strict lockdown meant that we missed out on each other’s company for far too long. Even now, social distancing rules mean that things won’t be ‘normal’ for some time with only outdoor activities permitted for the foreseeable future.
There are lessons to be learned here, as well. Many people have scheduled regular video calls, quizzes and other activities and, in some cases, seen far more of their friends and family than they normally would.
There’s nothing that says we have to do away with these calls once we can meet in the flesh again. A regular video calls certainly beats travelling 50 miles on a busy motorway to see someone for a half an hour!
Of course, sometimes we all need real-life company. If you, like us, took advantage of the ‘one hour a day’ exercise window, try to keep it going. There are huge physical and mental health benefits to regular exercise – and now you can meet friends at a safe distance and make it even more pleasurable.
We don’t know when other countries will welcome tourists from the UK or when it will be safe to go abroad given the pandemic. If you’re thinking of going on holiday this year it makes sense to ditch the flights and see what this country has to offer. There are hundreds of amazing places waiting to be discovered in the UK - and you’ll be doing the climate a huge favour, too.
4. Change how you use energy
We recently published a blog on how to save energy around your home and these are things you can do all year round to not only save yourself some money – but reduce your energy consumption and your carbon footprint too!
Turn off standby - you can save up to £30 a year just by turning your appliances off at the mains
Turn your heating down - more than half the money spent on fuel bills goes towards providing heating and hot water. You can save up to £80 a year by turning your heating down by just 1oC!
Turn off lights & fit energy saving light bulbs - you can save up to £49 on your annual energy bills by switching off the lights and switching to energy saving light bulbs
Do laundry on a cool wash - you could save up to £52 a year just by dropping to a 30°C wash
Block up those draughts - according to Which?, you can save up to £20 a year by draught proofing windows and doors
Save energy in the kitchen - you can save up to £31 a year by using your kitchen appliances more efficiently.
5. Change to green energy
Fossil fuels are one of the biggest contributors to climate change, and we need to stop mining for coal, oil and gas in order to save our planet. Switching to green energy means you can cut your personal carbon emissions and put cleaner energy back into the grid.
The only way to increase the amount of green energy in the national grid and help the fight against climate change is to increase the number of renewable energy sources and to stop using fossil-fuels.
Ask your current energy supplier about their eco credentials and their fuel mix. Many energy suppliers who claim to be green either simply buy their green energy or buy certificates that says its green when it’s not. This is called greenwashing. Read more about it here.
Together, we can live better
Over the past months, we’ve been supporting our team, communities and the NHS in the fight against COVID-19. That fight goes on but we must not forget about the even bigger battle that’s still raging over climate change, even if it has been pushed off the front pages for a while.
The pandemic restrictions have led to a temporary respite in ecological damage but can we carry this can-do mentality into the fight against climate change? We believe we can, by focusing on the lessons learned and doing what we all can as individuals to make a difference.
We’re keeping a close eye on the government’s advice regarding Coronavirus/COVID-19 and if you have any concerns about your energy supply or topping up your pre-pay meter go to our support pages.
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