How Sustainability can teach communities to fight COVID19 better

Nothing sheds light on human nature more than an adverse situation. I’m talking about COVID 19, aka Coronavirus. 

I’ve worked with a multitude of people and communities over the last 10 years, and one thing I’ve learnt is “there’s nowt as queer as folk”  (There’s nothing stranger than people). I’m from Yorkshire and have been told I speak in Yorkshire, not everyone speaks Queen’s English. 

I’ve also learnt over these years that times of hardship and abundance can really change human behaviour. A decrease or increase in resources can bring out the best and worst in people.

In these dire times, a sustainable lifestyle can help us get through this and immerge stronger. 

Sustainable living is a way of life I’ve been attempting over the last 12 months with some success.

I’ve followed advice from bloggers, vloggers and bought into the whole zero waste shampoo bar movement, but what’s been most surprising over the past year, is a yearning for a simpler way of life with as little impact on the planet as possible.

My initial motive was to become plastic-free (again with varying degrees of success, especially when my teenagers can’t stop eating crisps). 

Sustainable living and zero waste are not easy ways of life. I’ve spent many years learning how to consume; since birth really. I think we all have. There is a lot of unpicking to do and charting new territories. I’ve learnt a lot about my resourcefulness.

Sustainable living is all about resources, where they come from, how they arrive in our homes, and what impact does production have on the environment.

This is why I think applying concepts of sustainable living to how we approach this pandemic can be helpful.

Even if you have never practised sustainability before, a few tips (that I’ll mention below) can help you and your community. 

I’d like to invite you into what inspired my way of thinking. Sometimes I watch TV, mostly programmes about people living in remote places and being self-sufficient.

They gather, hunt, mend, collect, adapt and understand their resources. They never overhunt because this would result in a decline in next year’s season.

They grow and gather what they can and trade with neighbours. They have a healthy respect for their surroundings and a well-grounded understanding of the impact of them thriving on their environment; they tread lightly.

This way of life may seem a million miles away from city life, and it is, but there are lessons that can be learnt.

Take only what you need – do you really need 18 boxes of toilet roll? You’re only going to flush it away, especially if you have it in abundance and you won’t appreciate its value. If you have less, you’ll make it stretch (but only if you don’t have teenagers).

Have patience – things take time to grow, and opportunities don’t happen when you want them too. You just have to be ready to adapt and cash in on them when they do occur. If you miss out, don’t be hard on yourself — you’re human.

Tread lightly – do you really need new clothes? Can you mend what you have or purchase second hand? Do you need to buy new makeup or new shoes when everyone is homebound anyway?  

Share – Good neighbours and friends are worth their weight in gold. I’m not just talking about gifting that extra bottle of cordial you’ve made, I’m talking about sharing skills that others don’t have, it will pay dividends and save you pounds.

These 4 tips I’ve just mentioned are things that COVID 19 is influencing us to do, but they are things that our ancestors have done for decades. It’s a simple way of caring for nature and other members of our community. 

People are resources too, so is technology and the skills we possess.

They all provide us with opportunity. Take, for example, food preserving — my grandmother used to do this. She would take vegetables grown in the garden and preserve them for winter. I don’t have a vegetable patch, but I do forage for berries and make cordial myself. In this sense, I have a  skill and resources available to me that I can share with others. 

If you have the ability or access to an abundance of a particular product/service, now is the time to share it to those who need it. 

Accessing resources is different for everyone. Are you able to shop locally from ethical sellers? Do you know how to bake and cook from scratch? How handy are you with needle and thread? Or are you reliant on buying in these skills from others?

If you do have those skills, then looking after yourself won’t be difficult. But for those who do not have a pool of knowledge and skill at hand, fulfilling basic needs without going to the shops can be challenging. 

This is where consumerism overtakes our lives, and in my opinion, robs us of creativity. I think I’ll be speaking for the majority of the population when I say most of us don’t know how to make toilet roll, and that consumerism still has a place in our lives. The need to purchase certain things has played out in the panic buying seen over recent weeks. Without this resource, we will have to be inventive (I’ll leave you to think that one over ).

Let’s face it, it can be challenging to be successful at living sustainably. I have yet to get it right. I’m constantly battling with single-use plastic (crisps!).

I believe (as well as your resourcefulness) knowing what you want to achieve, your values and your place in the world are important factors. 

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you strip everything back to basics and stock check what you have, what you need and the value in both.

You can ask yourself, ‘do I want to trade X that took me hours to accumulate Y?’

Having this mindset should prevent you from squandering what you have; it may also help you value it more and in my case if I have a surplus of a resource I like to gift it to someone.

Thank you for reading my story. If you’d like to hear more about my journey and about treading lightly, follow me at Eco Thrifty Sheffield on Facebook, Instagram and online at

My name is Sarah, and I live in the northern outskirts of Sheffield, South Yorkshire. I live on top of a very steep and windy hill. From my upstairs window, I can see the start of the Peak District, which is 10 minutes’ walk away and the dairy cows in the farmer’s field. I love living near the countryside, but it hasn’t always been this way. I grew up in Pitsmoor, an inner city area of Sheffield. Traffic was busy and constant, litter everywhere and fast food was in abundance. This is the start of my journey into sustainable living.

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