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'When life gives you lemons...': What sustainable living can teach us about COVID and lockdown

At TBWY, we are all about transforming adversity into opportunity.

Give us a batch of rescued food, and we’ll whip up a delicious meal for everyone to enjoy. Got a bunch of overripe avocados? That’s alright, we can make guac!

We operate on the belief that life isn’t so much about what you’re given, but about what you choose to do with it instead.

Nevertheless, the last few weeks have gotten us all feeling a bit off-kilter. With COVID numbers rising again and The Netherlands back into partial lockdown, we have found ourselves wondering:

What happens when the batch of spoiled goods we’re given is something far bigger and much worse than old food?

Something like, say... a global pandemic?

Can we still apply the same principles of sustainable living to protect our mental health?

And can we be ‘zero waste’ with how we use our energy during this crisis?

Work with the ingredients you’re given

To use our beloved food example, it’s not about pretending that overripe fruit tastes as fresh as the stuff you get from the supermarket.

That doesn’t, however, render it useless – in fact, it can make it even better for certain purposes.

Think about it – spotty bananas are ideal for baking exactly because they are sickly-sweet and mushy. They might not be what you wanted or what you asked for, but they can still be turned into something nice.

So yes – lockdown might not be the time for big celebrations, socializing, or making that next move in your career. And that sucks, there’s no denying it.

But lockdown can still be a period of growth – a chance for you to take more time for yourself and focus on your passions.

Ask yourself – what’s something positive that I can do under these circumstances?

Less going out can allow you to save some money. Or perhaps you can use the evenings at home to work on that writing idea you have.

And sometimes, you might just want to enjoy the extra peace and quiet while you can – read a book, meditate, or simply stay in the moment.

Take your time

It’s OK to take time figuring things out – and what better chance to do that than now, when the whole world has been stilled to a halt?

Sustainable living is all about trial and error. It’s based on the belief that change takes time, so progress is more important than perfection.

This is a principle that can be applied to the current semi-lockdown. It doesn’t matter if you’re struggling to establish a routine, missing your time out with friends, or simply feeling anxious about the whole situation.

It’s completely normal to feel a bit rattled, and it’s fine if you need time to adapt.

Be easy on yourself as you navigate these strange new circumstances.

Try something new

Another core principle of sustainability is openness to change. Whether it’s upcycling an old jar into a vase or finding a package-free alternative to your favorite product, green living is all about doing things differently.

Environmentalism allows you to slow down and get deliberate with your choices, asking questions like Is there another way to do this? and What better/ more sustainable options are out there?.

Try taking this open-minded approach to lockdown as well. Maybe now is the time to engage in ‘slow living’ and explore new ideas – start a new hobby, try doing yoga, or simply test a new zero-waste recipe (the TBYW blog has a few for you to choose from!).

On top of allowing us to grow and learn, trying out new things can inject some much-needed variety back into our lockdown lives.

As the COVID pandemic continues to flip our world on its head, things can start to seem hopeless. At times, positivity can seem like a far-off goal.

While they're not a cure-all, these three principles of green living – working with what we have, slowing down and trying out new things – can help us seize control of our mental health during this crisis.

And maybe – just maybe – we can emerge on the other side stronger than before.

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