There’s no hiding from the fact that COVID-19 has been an absolute shitter.
But if there is one positive that we can all take from it, it’s that it has forced us to re-evaluate the way we live, and to focus on what’s really important. Scientists are already predicting that the cultural and societal shifts of the last 12 months have changed the way we will see and interact with the world forever.
To gain insight into what these changes could mean for sustainable living, Hubbub – a creative campaigning organisation – polled 3,000 people from a cross-representation of society, asking about their New Year’s resolutions.
Promisingly, concern for the environment ranked highly in people’s priorities; of the 3,000 people surveyed, 1 in 6 people are resolving to reduce their impact on the world around them by looking at changing the ways they shop, cook and eat. Over half of this group said they plan to recycle better (the most popular environmental resolution), whilst 49% want to eat less meat, and 36% aim to waste less food.
With this in mind, I decided to put a call out to see whether people in Cardiff were making green resolutions, too – particularly when it comes to food. And this is what came back…
More focus on local, seasonal food
A 2020 survey by the Sustainable Restaurant Association suggested that Welsh diners are more concerned about environmental issues than ever before, and the number worried about issues such as climate change and deforestation has risen by 32% since the start of COVID-19.
So it makes sense that people would use their new year’s resolutions to try and make some positive changes. Amongst my friends, there is definitely a collective trend towards wanting to eat less and better meat, but also to source what they do eat from farms and suppliers who are closer to home.
Shani Freeke is planing to eat more local, seasonal food – but not just meat, fruit and veg too.
She said, “I have made a resolution to buy the majority of my produce via an organic veg box delivery service to ensure that I eat a wide variety of seasonal plant species, support local farmers, and reduce plastic waste.”
- If you plan on doing the same, check out my Instagram Guide to Cardiff’s local veg box schemes, and look out for my monthly blog posts on what’s in season when (here’s January’s post to get you started).
More plastic-free shopping
John McCrory is a qualified engineer, a research associate at Cardiff University, and a Director at Repair Cafe Wales. Though John’s Repair Cafe events already do a lot to reduce waste, teach skills and build resilience in the community, he said he plans on making more of his own personal changes this year, including “…purchasing more of food and day-to-day things things from sustainability-focused shops, using my own containers, i.e. buying my oats and coffee beans from Ripple.“
The UK alone produces more than 170m tonnes of waste every year, and much of it is food packaging. Zero Waste shops offer a way to lessen the individual contribution to a truly global problem, and supermarkets catching on, too; trial ‘refill’ schemes are popping up in big name stores all over the UK. But whilst it’s great that the big retailers are putting sustainability on the agenda, it’s important to remember that supporting local, independent zero-waste shops will keep more money in your the local economy as they are able to work with local makers and producers in ways that the big brands can’t.
- To find plastic and packaging-free shopping opportunities all over Wales, check out the updated Refill app
More sustainable kitchens
Caroline Lloyd has committed herself to making 12 sustainable changes within her home as the year goes on.
She explained, “I’ve not got fully into the specifics yet but my plan is to take small steps as the year progresses rather than try and do it all as one whole change. I like to think of it more as a evolution than a resolution! Basically the idea is to change one thing each month, so in January do one thing differently and have that ‘set’ as a change by the end of the month. It’s only one thing so the pressure is low.
For me this month it’s using less cling film (Christmas always makes me realise how much I use). Then in February I’ll change one more thing, while sustaining the change I make in January, and so on through the year so that by December I’ll have made 12 more sustainable choices in my everyday life. It worked quite well last year, I didn’t keep track of it in the same way but just made gradual changes as and when I could, and those habits have stuck.”
- If you’re looking to make your kitchen more eco-friendly too, check out this BBC Good Food guide to sustainable kitchen swaps.
More sustainable businesses
The World Economic Forum has suggested that the majority of people worldwide want to make the world fairer and more sustainable after COVID-19. Even in the most change-averse nations – the United States, the Netherlands, Germany and South Korea – 79% of people agree with the statement, “I want the world to change significantly and become more sustainable and equitable rather than returning to how it was before the COVID-19 crisis”.
So it makes sense that businesses who want to keep their customers happy in 2021 will need to get their own sustainable systems in place – and fast. Luckily, anecdotal evidence suggests that local entrepreneurs are keen to make changes to their business operations this year.
Thought not a foodie resolution, Anita Mattson-Hesketh from Lush Blooms Bespoke Floristry said, “I’m a florist and I’ve made a resolution to use more sustainable materials and foam free techniques. I want to be as eco-friendly as possible to do my bit for the planet.”
Meanwhile, Dusty’s Pizza recently put out a post detailing the sustainable changes that they are looking to make in 2021, from “managing food waste better and keeping this to a minimum, to reviewing energy use and installing smart meters where appropriate, and ensuring that any packaging that comes in via our suppliers and outwardly to you is biodegradable and/or recyclable.”
- To find a sustainable restaurant near you, visit https://www.foodmadegood.org/members.
Will 2021 be ‘The Great Reset’?
I know as well as anyone that new year’s resolutions often fail to make it past the first month, but to me, it feels 2021 has the potential to bring a tidal wave of positive change when it comes to sustainability.
With the first chinks of light at the end of the COVID-19 nightmare now visible, there seems to be a real, collective desire to use the opportunity to commit to a greener way of living.*
I’m crossing my fingers and staying quietly hopeful that 2021 might just be the start of better things to come.
*For inspiration on making sustainable changes on a much grander scale, give the Green Squirrel founders Becca and Hannah a follow. Last year they decided it was time to take the plunge and find a place where they could have more outdoor space to grow food, be closer to nature and start to become self-sufficient-ish. They have moved to a small farmhouse with two acres of land not far from Cardiff and have lots of exciting plans which you can follow along with via their @bryn.ysgafn.farm instagram account.