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Online shopping sprees and home compost feats: RIISE friends share their eco wins (and failures) during lockdown

Photography By Daniel Faro, Mackenzie Freemire

The past year and a half have seen all of our lives change massively. And, as part of that, our sustainability practices have likely shifted too.

Some of us have had extra time to pick up new hobbies, such as composting or joining local activist groups (via Zoom of course). Others are busier than ever, which has made it difficult for them to approach their domestic duties with the same planet-friendly commitment. 

At RIISE we understand the challenges – and opportunities – that come with life in lockdown. So we reached out to readers and pals to hear about what they’ve been working on and see if they have any advice for your next project.  

Hopefully their efforts can inspire…or at least make you feel a bit better about any projects that haven’t exactly gone to plan. 

IMAGE SOURCE HATTIE MOLLOY

Hattie Molloy, floral installation artist

“Roaming lockdowns have meant sourcing florals for my work has had to shift. I began taking more notice of my local neighbourhood and what grows on the sides of the road as I am out for a walk. It has reminded me that one of my favourite pastimes is foraging for flowers amidst the burgeoning gardens of the inner north. Some of the most beautiful flowers can be sourced from the places we look through or past.”  

Dana Lopez, environmental consultant and model

“Don’t tackle too many things at once. I’ve focused on cutting as much plastic out of my weekly shops as possible by shopping at bulk stores. A great way to start is by looking at your trash of a whole week and seeing what you can reduce. From there move onto sections of the house and try changing things around to reduce packaging and how much plastic you are consuming.” 

Agnes Choi, actor and fashion designer

“I suppose my brand counts as an eco project! I started at the beginning of the first lockdown in 2020 and it has grown from commissioned trousers from dead stock and offcuts, to a proper sustainability-driven label. The experience taught me it’s always useful to write lists and set goals so you don’t get overwhelmed by all the things we all should be doing to collectively improve our current climate crisis. Do things that are immediately achievable and stick to it until it becomes habitual.” 

Celeste Tesoriero, RIISE head of sustainability

“I cringe every time a new online purchase arrives at my door. I’ve lost count of the amount of packages I have received over the past two months. As an alternative I try to consolidate what I need from the same place and make a single purchase. Flora & Fauna is a good go-to, as they have so many different essential household bits like toothpaste tablets and skincare. It’s a work in progress!” 

Madeleine MacGillivray Wallace, climate advocate, creative and scientist specialising in microplastics pollution

“My most tangible lockdown project has been vermicomposting. I’ve wanted to deepen my relationship with compost for years, and the conditions didn’t present themselves until I found myself upstate with access to outdoor space. Very serendipitously, a climate comrade and badass, Arielle Crawford, had posted on Instagram that she spotted a perfectly good vermicomposting bin on the street in her neighbourhood. I immediately claimed it and kept the worm bin going for many months, until I made a novice mistake and very sadly left the worms too long without replenishing the compost source. My heart broke for the worms that perished and for my naivete! I very much look forward to starting back up again and fostering a thriving community of squirmy composters. 

“It’s important to do what you love to do – something that doesn’t stress you out. Whatever you can think about and breathe into rather than feel restricted by – do that!”  

Chloe Hill, stylist and photographer

“Just be conscious about what you consume. Do you really need that takeaway coffee cup and that pre-packaged bag of carrots? Or could you find a way around consuming that single use plastic?”

UNSPLASH, KAROLINA GRABOWSKA
Katelin Rice, RIISE editorial assistant   

“Lockdown is a time where you look for something that holds connection and meaning. On the odd occasion that you aren’t watching Netflix or stuffing yourself with chips, it’s a great opportunity to connect with nature. For me, that meant planting a cute little veggie patch. Currently only two types of veggies are living there (carrots and parsley) but it’s a start! Also, I say “living” but my poor carrots are only half alive. They’ve grown around 2cm. But the parsley is A+, so I’d say my formerly non-existent green thumb is now at least a pale lime.” 

Taylor Dee Hawkins, Foundations for Tomorrow managing director

“To be honest, in the face of watching so many local businesses close down around me and the increasing personal need I had for comfort, I decided to order the takeout and use it to fuel me to be more capable in my advocacy work. As we all know, me stopping eating takeout isn’t going to save the planet but our government changing their policies will certainly help.” 

Jade Sarita Arnott, Arnsdorf founder and designer

“I’m interested in creating new things from offcuts or upcycling things no longer in use. My seven-year-old daughter was recently given a small sewing machine so I’ve been bringing home offcuts from our Arnsdorf Atelier and teaching her how to sew. She’s got quite a talent for it and has been making clothes for her toys. I like the idea of introducing and empowering the next generation to make things and to think about ‘waste’ as a valuable resource.” 

Lucy Oehr, neuropsychologist

“I work in a hospital and have to follow pretty hardcore PPE guidelines, so churning through multiple disposable masks and shields a day has been sickening. I was able to arrange a reusable face shield and started a bit of a trend within my team, but the masks – I’ve had to accept the waste and try to minimise it as much as possible.  

“To compensate I’ve gotten more hardcore about recycling everything else I possibly can and have switched to solid shampoo, compostable cling wrap and toothbrushes. Making every small change feels good.”  

Bianca Gregg, Del Rainbow co-founder and global sales director

“Despite being in lockdown we’re still working long hours. This means lots of takeaway coffee. We try to do our best by bringing our own reusable coffee cups and containers. It’s a small gesture, but every bit helps. Plus, we get the feel-good factor by supporting local businesses who have been impacted by lockdown. Though we’ve been so impressed with their determination and are so happy to support if it means a delicious takeaway pizza or two…sometimes three coffees a day!”  

Hannah McElhinney, creative director

“I freeze all my vegetable scraps and would normally take them to my parents’ house to put in their compost bins. However with the 5km limit drawn around my Collingwood apartment, I quickly had a freezer overflowing with scraps I couldn’t bear to bin. I put a post on Instagram asking if anyone in my area had room in their compost bin and got so many responses.  

“I found a community waste sharing platform called ShareWaste that pairs people with scraps with people who compost. I connected with a few people in my area and now I have a small community of compost bins – it really helps you see your neighbourhood through a different (dirtier) lens.” 

Hermione Underwood, JSHealth Vitamins UK CEO 

“Lockdown allowed me the time to go through my preloved pieces of jewellery and fashion. I decided to sell and give away any clothes I wasn’t wearing or loving. I’d highly recommend utilising the time to do things that you usually put off like clearing out those drawers, reaching out to that contact, updating your resume…keeping busy and putting yourself in a great place for success!” 

Hannah Rasekh, digital entrepreneur and sustainable fashion advisor

“I think by avoiding public places and most shops being closed, everyone’s biggest sustainable challenge was online shopping. I made sure to only shop for necessities and pride myself on not having bought any new fashion purchases during lockdown. I had a ball restyling old clothes.” 

 Lucianne Tonti, regenerative fashion journalist and writer

I am writing a book about changing the way we farm natural fibres like cotton, linen, wool and silk to incorporate regenerative agriculture principles that restore soil health, biodiversity and sequester carbon – in theory we can make beautiful clothes that have a negative carbon footprint.”  

Editor’s note: No hard feelings if you haven’t been as productive as Lucianne!

Wendy Syfret, RIISE editor in chief

“I’ve tried to clear more time for activism. Even though in-person meetings, protests and demonstrations are off, I’ve found my commitment has deepened. It’s about setting a routine and making a habit. Across the week I keep a list of things I’d like to take part in: mutual aid funds to donate to, food drives to cook for, petitions to sign, letters to write to MPs, articles to read, podcasts to listen to, etc. Then on Friday afternoon I block out a few hours to sit down and do them all. It takes less time than you’d think to get a lot done!” 

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