The Coronavirus pandemic has brought with it immense suffering and loss for so many, concern for our friends, families and communities, as well as financial worries and disruption to our daily lives on a scale most of us have never experienced. It is human nature at times of crisis to want to pull together but we know the best way to help, is to stay apart.
Whilst we have so many other things to concern ourselves with, much of the advice for eco-friendly food shopping is more relevant than ever in the current circumstances. Supermarkets and shops are adapting to shifts in demand not just brought about by panic buying, but also by a redistribution of demand resulting from the closure of cafes, restaurants, sandwich shops and canteens. The importance of planning our shopping and making a list is greater than ever; to ensure we only buy what we need, avoid additional unnecessary trips for forgotten items and crucially – avoid wasting food.
However, some green shopping advice, for example to ‘buy dry foods in bulk’ and ‘shop little and often’, should be temporarily suspended in the present situation. It is a fine balance to strike, to only buy what you need and at the same time minimise your need to shop again for as long as possible. Every day you avoid making a trip to the shops means one less social interaction for staff and a bit more space around those who do need to restock. The best advice is to buy enough fresh food for two or three days and enough tinned or frozen for the following two to three days. Accept that you may need to compromise around environmental choices on packaging or ingredients while supplies are scarce and choice is reduced. If you are running low on cleaning products, you may well already have the ingredients at home to make your own – have a look at the Cleaning Products Guide.
Check to see which foods will perish in the next few days and plan to use these first or freeze them for use at a later date. Many online recipe sites allow you to search for recipes with a particular ingredient in mind. Don’t be afraid to substitute an ingredient you are missing with something similar, you never know – you might discover a winning combination.
If you have leftovers, freeze these in portions (reused takeaway boxes are perfect for this and stack nicely). You will then have meals on hand for those days when you don’t want to cook, or if you are self-isolating and unable to shop. Many foods can be safely frozen. Vegetables can be part cooked and frozen to be added to dishes at a later date. You can freeze dips and sauces such as hummus, pesto, and pasta sauce. Stock can be frozen in ice cube trays. Bread can be made into breadcrumbs or frozen and used for toasting straight from the freezer (just remember not to squash it too tightly into your freezer or you’ll find it difficult to separate the slices once it’s frozen!). Some fruits, chopped chillies, herbs, milk, butter and grated cheese can all be frozen too.
Many of us have unexpectedly found ourselves at home with time on our hands, and are taking the opportunity to spend more time in the kitchen, trying out new recipes. There are many tasty vegetarian recipes which use cheap and readily available ingredients. We have been adding to our Recipes section, follow the link for our tried and tested recipes.
Our waste collections continue at present, including recycling, glass and garden waste, but with large numbers of us staying at home, these services are under increased strain. This is resulting in more trips to offload waste during the collection and extended working days for staff. We can help reduce the amount of rubbish we generate and alleviate some of this pressure. There are many additional schemes for recycling items which cannot be recycled through the kerbside collection scheme, see the Reuse, Repair, Recycle Directory. These include the Tetrapak collection point which is now in place in Winchester. The temporary closure of the Alresford Refuse & Recycling Centre and other outlets supporting these schemes, along with restrictions on movement to essential trips only, means we cannot access them at present. If you can, collect and store this waste for recycling once the restrictions are lifted, you will help to limit the volume of general waste, give our refuse collectors a helping hand, and ensure the material eventually gets recycled.
Many of us have been using our time at home to sort through things and have a clear out. With the Alresford Refuse & Recycling Centre closed, it might be tempting to put additional or inappropriate waste in your black refuse bin. Winchester City Council is urging people not to dispose of clothes, DIY material, paint, chemical or oil, stones and rubble, garden waste, scrap metal or electrical products in this way but instead to keep these items until they can be disposed of correctly.
Some may worry about how they will manage their garden waste. Mowing your lawn stimulates the grass to grow faster, so cutting it less often and allowing some or all of it to grow long will not only reduce garden waste but will also encourage more wildlife into your garden and benefit insects. Grass cuttings can be composted, and if you are looking for a project to fill some time, you could try constructing a compost enclosure from old wood and wire mesh. Weeding, mulching, and feeding are gardening activities to focus on at this time of year. If you can, make the most of the opportunity to get to know your garden a little better and consider how it could be improved to benefit wildlife, or perhaps start some home growing. You might not be able to make changes at present, but planning future improvements is a positive thing to do. Have a look at the In the Garden section.
There is little doubt that one of the few winners from this global catastrophe, at least in the short term, will be the environment. With up to a third of the world’s population in lockdown, airports closed and millions of car journeys avoided, the air above our cities is clearing and our carbon emissions must have plummeted – but there is much more we can take away from this experience. An appreciation of local communities and businesses, reconnection with the simple pleasures of cooking, gardening and walking in the great outdoors, perhaps a shift towards working from home, and most importantly of all a reminder of our ability to work together in adversity to tackle the challenges that face us.
We wish you all well, encourage you to stay safe, and we continue to support community initiatives taking place within Alresford.