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Month: March 2020

How to Cope with the Covid-19 Lockdown in (Green-ish) Style

This is not a Covid-19 article for your eyeballs to panic scroll through. 

This is not a list of educational resources. 

This is most definitely not an article exploring the very serious impact of C-19 is having on the NHS, care and medical workers, retail and restaurant workers, vulnerable people, people with disabilities, children, the elderly, people with mental health issues and underlying health problems, gig-workers, the self-employed, freelancers, small businesses…

This is not an article giving medical advice.

This is a light-hearted post on how Emma and Tamara are trying to survive the lockdown whilst still trying to be green.

This post is not a good idea. 


When Emma suggested an article on how to survive the lockdown, Tamara’s reaction was to hide under the duvet. For Covid-19 is serious stuff. Here at Shades of Green, we discuss how to live green in Portsmouth. We can be serious at times, yes, but not global pandemic serious!! 

Covid-19 is impacting on all aspects of life- how we eat, how we shop, how we work, how we play, how we exercise, how we parent, how we socialise, how we date, how we sleep. Like literally, everything! 

And writing about it, even for you Dear Reader, is scary. It makes it real. And that is why Emma coaxed Tamara from out under the duvet and together, we are writing this. 


For many in Portsmouth, their lockdown began last week on Friday evening when the UK Government instructed all clubs, pubs restaurants, bars and gyms etc to close. This is also true for people with kids and for those who are self-isolating. For the rest, this week has been the start of Covid-19 forcing us to change how we carry out our daily routines.

How the bloody hell will we survive the lockdown? Together. (Except, you know, apart.)

With the possibility of social-distancing and self-isolating lasting months rather than weeks, we (Emma and Tamara) wanted to share our small perspective on how we are attempting to maintain our equilibrium in these strange and worrying times.


But first, an even bigger disclaimer than usual: 

1. Keep yourself informed on up-to-date UK Government advice as well as local Portsmouth City Council advice.

2. Ask for help. If you need assistance, please contact the Hive helpline: 

☏ Hive Helpline: 023 9261 6709

Hive are leading a coordinated local community response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Portsmouth and are working with Solent NHS, Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group and Portsmouth City Council.

You can also call the Portsmouth City Council dedicated helpline if you are in need of support during the coronavirus outbreak and can’t find help online:

☏ PCC Helpline: 023 9268 8004

For more informal help and support, join the online Facebook group “Portsmouth Coronavirus Support Group. This group was set up and is run by local people and members ask for and offer informal, ad hoc support. 

3. And finally, remember that we are writing from our own individual perspectives as child-free people with relatively few physical health issues and fairly secure finances. (Even if Emma is self-employed!)  Hopefully, elements of this will be relevant to you, whatever your personal situation may be, and do take everything we say with a pinch…nay…a handful of salt! 


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Keep to a loose schedule

Think back to the last time you didn’t have a fixed schedule (i.e. having to be somewhere most days for a particular time and duration). This might be during the summer holidays at school, during parental leave, or it might be during a period of unemployment in your adult life. For Emma, it was way back when in 2012, before she got an adult job. (In an office, ya’ll!) (She just realised that’s not a massive deal for most people.) 

When you don’t have a loose schedule it can mean that you are getting up later than you normally would, not having regular meals, and perhaps not practising the self-care that you need to. The last time Emma wasn’t in employment, she woke up at about 11 am most days but she guarantees it was after lunch on some days. That doesn’t do you any favours at all and the readjustment will be hard after a few weeks. 

Get up a little later than you normally would but not so late that it messes up your sleep schedule. Try to strike a balance between doing fun things, like binge-watching a show you’ve been meaning to catch up on or reading that book, with stuff that you need to do but generally don’t get the chance. (Emma’s neighbour is probably really looking forward to her tidying the garden.)

A lot of people online are saying that you shouldn’t be advising people to be productive during this time. The way Emma sees it, if she gets the curtains washed now and all of those other fun chores on her to-do list, then once the lockdown is lifted, she can make the most of the time with her friends and family. 

Photo Credit: The Gender Spectrum Collection 

Limit your exposure to the news and social media

Be selective. As a journalist, Emma is not telling you to not be informed. She’s saying that there is so much information out there that it can be overwhelming and depressing. It’s not going to do your mental health any favours to be watching the news constantly or scrolling incessantly on your phone and seeing the myriad of stories (fake and true) being shared on social media. 

Where possible try to schedule a specific time to look at the news and seek out unbiased sources. Did you know that UK TV news is legally not allowed to have bias whereas newspapers are? So opt for ITV, the BBC, Channel 4 News etc.

And only watch once a day. 

Emma’s chosen to watch the evening news, so it’s not so early that it will depress her during the day and not so late that it’ll make her anxious at bedtime.  She’s also deleted all social media apps from her phone, so is keeping in touch with friends via text and WhatsApp only. Tamara followed her example, deleted Facebook from her phone and felt an instant relief.

Photo by Prateek Katyal from Pexels

Stick to your routine wherever possible 

If, prior to the lockdown, you got up early to go for a run every morning, try to do that still (while maintaining a healthy distance). Prior to the crisis, Tamara was working on controlling her diabetes through exercise and was love-hate-running through the free NHS Couch to 5K plan. She has continued this safely during the lockdown as current government guidance allows for once-a-day-exercise outside.

If you and your bestie go to the movies every Tuesday, you can have a watch party and check out something on any of the multitude of streaming services. (you can even share a streaming service to save money.) Tamara and Emma are both huge fans of Canadian comedian Mae Martin and had a digital mate date night with wine and whiskey and watched the first episode of Martin’s excellent new show Feel Good

If you usually get drinks with friends on Friday nights, try to Skype/Zoom/Facetime/HouseParty and digitally connect with them and learn to make yourself a cocktail. (Or just Whiskey and Coke.)

If you normally go out for dinner as a family on Sundays, order in from that restaurant. (Many local businesses are now offering takeout options and it’s great to support them.) 

Keep connected

Covid-19 has forced us inside and to physically distance ourselves from our loved ones and frenemies. Luckily, we are in a digital age and the internet offers us a myriad of opportunities to connect. 

Tamara is having group video chats with friends and also spending time with her godson, who lives abroad, by doing a weekly Whatsapp reading session together. She’s also started doing PE with Joe with her friend J, who is also doing it with her nephews. She has also discovered the joy of playing online games with friends and has been playing the game Ticket to Ride almost every night with one friend or another. (She has yet to win a game.)

She is also enjoying a week-daily ‘Coping with Covid-19 conversations’ live Instagram stream by her favourite self-help guru and podcaster Gretchen Rubin and has plans to try a local online pub quiz with Dan Churchley. Joining an online book club is also an idea, and local independent bookseller Pigeon Books are considering setting up one with Sam’s Place (if you are interested, let Pigeon Books know via their FB page or Instagram).

Though we are in a digital age, remember not all of us are online. Tamara’s mother is phoning all her friends and family old school style – using her landline. Classic! (Also, a great way to reduce the strain on mobile networks, which are seeing spikes right now. Not overwhelming spikes, but still.)

The UK Government also says there is no evidence that the virus can be passed via post and no extra precautions are needed when handling, so you can still send letters, gifts, and cards; particularly if it’s someone’s birthday.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Put on your (metaphorical) oxygen mask  

Like those airplane safety videos, first put on your own oxygen mask. 

If you are a parent with children at home, keeping them safe, happy and entertained and yourself sane is more than enough to be getting on with.  Perhaps you are overwhelmed and scared, or a key-worker dealing with a lack of safety equipment, experiencing financial difficulties, living with mental health issues, supporting a relative or friend who is self-isolating – only you know your situation and circumstances.

Whatever your situation, don’t beat yourself up for not doing more or worrying you are not doing enough. We understand the impulse. Tamara has a lot of guilt from feeling she should be doing more. But she will do what she can, when she can. For now, to keep her mental health on an even keel, she is being mindful to put her own (metaphorical) oxygen mask on first before offering out her help. Just trying to cook a meal a day, be kind to family, connect with friends, do a bit of exercise, do something useful or productive no matter how small and not face plant into a bag of crisps is enough for her at the moment. Soon she will look outwards, but she can’t yet. And that is okay.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Help others 

Portsmouth is a fantastic place to live and Covid-19 highlights this. Neighbours and strangers are reaching out to those who are vulnerable, self-isolating or alone. People care. 

Check on your neighbours

Check on your immediate neighbours. Assuming you are not self-isolating, pop a note through their door letting them know that you are there and you care. Click here or download from below for a free printable template ‘Viral Kindness’ that you can use.

Many thanks to Becky Wass who designed the Viral Kindness template and made it available and free to print, share and download online.

Offer your support

Last night, Clap for our Carers brought a tear to many an eye. We have seen this kindness and community spirit strongly in the online communities that have popped up, like the Portsmouth Coronavirus Support Group on Facebook, which is where Tamara first heard of the Clap for our Carers idea. The group aims to be a space “where those who are affected can share what support or supplies they need, so for those of us who have been unaffected so far, can offer help. This includes everything from dropping off food, hot meals or supplies to those who are isolated – as well as emotional and peer-to-peer support.” It is a fantastic local way of connecting people in a scary time. When Tamara finds it overwhelming, she steps back but knows it is there when needed.

Volunteer with hive

People are so kind in offering their support and if you have the headspace and capacity to look further than your immediate family and circle of loved ones, you can sign up to volunteer through Hive who is coordinating a community city response. You can donate time, food or money or all three!

Volunteer with the NHS

The NHS are also looking for volunteer responders and you can still volunteer even if you are in a higher-risk group (including those over 70, those who are pregnant or with underlying medical conditions) as you will be able to offer support by telephone.

gIVE BLOOD

Give Blood. You can still give blood! (obvs restrictions apply.) The NHS and vulnerable patients still need blood and there is no evidence of any type of coronavirus being transmitted through blood donation. Check the Give Blood website for more information. Emma is keeping her appointment to give blood in July, although she does hope this will be over by then anyway.

Image by monicore from Pixabay

Eat what you have

Yes, that means all the tins at the back of the cupboard and the random frozen meals that you have no idea what they are because you didn’t label them. Hey, it will be a lovely surprise. Looking to Tamara’s friend E. as inspiration who ate a random homemade frozen meal that past-her had lovingly cooked but omitted to label. She had no idea what it was – curry maybe, or possibly stew? But it was delicious. Seriously, E. is winning at life.

Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

Buy only what you need

Tamara has no dependents and so only needs to worry about feeding herself and her partner, and sometimes her mother who lives with her. (She realised that makes her sound like she is starving her elderly mother. Be reassured, she’s not, her mother prefers to cook for herself and also hates it when Tamara calls her elderly!) Tamara is trying to continue to shop as low waste as possible and this means seriously thinking about if she truly needs something. 

Emma also has only adults living in her house, but due to advice that people with certain health conditions shouldn’t really be going to the shops and there being no online delivery slots for the next three weeks, Emma is slightly worried about running out of food. (Don’t worry, Tamara and one of Emma’s neighbours have picked up bread and milk for them, but please keep in mind that there are people much worse off than Emma, who will either run out of food or risk going to the stores and catching coronavirus.)

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Minimise food waste

Tamara’s partner (The Dutchman) has been making bread using back-of-the-cupboard-and-out-of-date yeast and Tamara made soup from cauliflower leaves and broccoli stalk. The bits she normally put in the compost are edible! Who knew? Probably most people, but not her! 

Emma’s mum has been making soups out of “out-of-date” fresh veg, cooking fresh and wilted spinach as a veg for dinner, and they have actually started using the lasagna sheets in the cupboard. Don’t want lasagna, but the sheets are the only pasta that’s available? Break them up and boil in water.

We’re not suggesting that you eat gone-off food. Use your noggin. But with panic buying and supermarket restrictions, we are trying to eat the food we already have in the house. 

(Also, regarding cat food, which Emma is finding harder to find on delivery. If someone has selfishly bought enough cat food to last them until the end of time, you can order from specialist pet food stores, but if you run out before then, you can make your cats a special meal of boiled chicken and rice. (Note: Cats require taurine in their diet and the internet informs us that you should only make your cat this basic meal infrequently.))

Try reusable toilet cloth

With toilet roll becoming a black market commodity, perhaps now is the time to give reusable, washable toilet cloth a try.  Emma wrote an informative post a while back, which you can read here, with her advice on using cloth instead of disposable toilet paper.

Emma suggested this to her parents, who grimaced.

Embrace other reusables

If you have a period or live with incontinence, you might be finding it hard to get the products you need.

You can read a past post of ours on reusable menstruation products here and get reusable products from various small businesses. In the past, Emma has bought from Thinx, Ngozi Sews, Cloth Mama, and Age UK

cat figurine on toilet

Skip cat litter

In addition to milk, Emma is finding it hard to get cat litter, which is particularly hard as Tiny Tim is an indoor cat (and Rooney is not allowed out after dark, but still needs to use the little cat’s room). She has enough at the moment, but if that runs out before she can get some in, she will look at tearing up newspaper for their trays. (If the poop is scooped into the bin, she thinks this might even be compostable..? The internet is very divided on whether this is safe.)

Image by bluebudgie from Pixabay

Store your recycling and donations

In Portsmouth, collections from textile and clothing banks have been suspended. Many charity shops and direct donation places have closed their doors.  We are sure many of us are using our enforced time at home to do some sorting out and decluttering. (We know because Emma is and contacted two direct action groups, who said they couldn’t collect now.)

Keep your donations at home until the lockdown is lifted and normality has resumed. Charities will need your help more than ever in the months to come.

At the time of writing, kerbside rubbish and recycling collections in Pompey are unaffected however we wouldn’t be surprised if collections of kerbside recycling and that of cartons and mixed plastics banks is also limited/ suspended. If that happens, wash your food packaging and store them at home, if you are able. (You can probably store this in boxes in your car if you’re not using it right now.)

Don’t forget that the council makes money off recycling and will need this money in the next year.

Make sure to crush tins, cans, plastic bottles, and cardboard boxes to get more stuff in your green bin. If your green bin gets full, it will be safer and easier to store paper and card in your house, while keeping your green bin for cans and plastic bottles.

Emma also suggests that if you have a compost bin, you can compost paper and card, especially stuff that is perhaps ‘contaminated’ with a small amount of food waste and can’t go in the recycling.

A number of Tamara’s friends with children reminded her that the more difficult items to recycle (i.e. yoghurt pots) can also be used in crafts and in the windowsill/ garden.  

A. + S. planting seeds in the lockdown using toilet rolls inserts.
Photo used with permission from their mum E.
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Support local small businesses

If you can, please support our local small business in Portsmouth, especially those who have been forced to close. This is invaluable to the traders in keeping their business alive. Many local restaurants and retail shops have switched to offering home deliveries, which is perfect for customers who are self-isolating.

Tamara treated her partner to the final book in a trilogy he is reading from Pigeon Books and bought some shampoo bars from Southsea Bathing Hut. Emma bought her niece and nephews their birthday presents from Pigeon Books, who gave her a contact-free delivery. (This is not a sponsored post by Pigeon Books – we just adore them.)

With handwashing going up by a gazillion percent, why not buy some soap bars from the aforementioned Southsea Bathing Hut, or Wild Thyme who Tamara regularly buys naked Faith in Nature soap bars from or Herbies health store (the new-old Southsea Health Food shop). Shop local and still be green!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Read for pleasure

As mentioned above, Pigeon Books are doing contact-free delivering! (We promise, not a sponsored post. Just buy their books!)

Though libraries are sadly closed for now,  you can find a great selection of books and audible books on the free library app Borrow Box.

This together with Pigeon Books means Tamara is not tempted to buy e-books for her Kindle e-reader (She’s boycotting Amazon, which is why the betrayal of The Dutchman subscribing to Prime to watch the new Picard is just…..divorce!!!.) (Emma asked if she could borrow their Prime login to watch the new season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and Tamara locked her out of the blog.)

You can also access newspapers and magazines with another free library app Pressreader.

And finally (though, Amazon) we thought you might like to know that Audible is offering free selected stories for all ages. Take the free stuff and run! Run I say!

eBooks is an Ethical Consumer Best Buy e-book alternative to Amazon so why not give them a try instead?

Go outside (safely and if you can)

Tamara moved house just before Christmas (read about it here) and is super privileged to have a garden. After a good tidy-up, she has been chillaxing on a sunlounger that Emma kindly lent her.

The Dutchman’s regular exercise class with Portsmouth Outdoor Fitness has started live-streaming exercise sessions on Facebook and this morning he was burpee-ing away. Tamara drank coffee. 

At this time, government guidance allows for an outdoor once-a-day exercise and as mentioned earlier, Tamara has been doing a daily-ish run. She tries to go very early in the morning and is stringent about maintaining social distance from others. In anticipation of this becoming restricted,  she has been adding in indoor Yoga with Adrienne and PE with Joe Wicks. She may have to join The Dutchman in the burpee-ing. Ergh.

The Dutchman burpees
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Plant something

A lovely friend of Tamara’s dropped off some rocket seedlings for her to ultimately kill. That’s ok, fun will be had in trying to grow them.

Try window-sill gardening for those of us who do not have access to outdoor space. Tamara also intends to sow some wild flower seeds and will let you know how it goes!

Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Move your body

We have already mentioned exercise throughout this article so far. But the most fun Tamara had was when she put on some music and had a boogie in her kitchen. Obvious advice, we know. But it really helped boost her mood when she was feeling overwhelmed and anxious about life, the universe and covid-19.

Friends with kids have been playing classic games like the Floor is Lava and trying ballet with The Ballet Coach There are so many free exercises and dance videos available online like this to pick from. Whatever floats your boat, give it a go.

Photo by Magdaline Nicole from Pexels

Do Something Creative

You can draw, colour, paint, cross-stitch, write, or anything else you want to. Creativity is calming and gives you something else to focus on. (Emma is writing a book, something she shoehorns into every conversation now.)

See if any local hobby shops, like The Stash By The Sea, are open for online orders and deliveries. You can even get creative with your trash, i.e making necklaces out of sweet wrappers. 

Be Kind

Image by reneebigelow from Pixabay

And finally, be kind – to yourself, your loved ones, neighbours and strangers. It is an understatement to say that these are tough, strange times.

Be kind, wash your hands and stay at home.


Photo by Kelly Lacy from Pexels

And that is it from us folks. Let us know in the Comments section what you are doing to keep your head in this crisis and bonus points if you have parental, green or eco-tips to share!


Written by Emma (l) and Tamara (r)
I’m Queer. I’m Brown.
And we’re both Feminists.

How to eco hack your home office

As some of you may know, I (Emma) work from home. (Normally in my pyjamas, as part of a quest to fulfil the stereotype!) I love it because I have no commute, no dress code, and no ‘suggestions’ about me wearing make-up.

This article will be about how I make my home office (read: corner of my bedroom with a desk) a little more eco-friendly. Although, a couple of the biggest contributors to your typical carbon footprint at work (commute, on-the-go food) are already taken out of the equation because I work 10 seconds from my bed.

Hopefully, some of these tips will inspire you to cut your carbon footprint, whether you work at home or not.

Cutting electricity

As a writer, I spend about 7 hours a day typing on my laptop. As my laptop is from 2012 and the battery is dead, I’m sure this uses a lot of electricity, so I try to cut my usage elsewhere.

(Before you comment, I did buy a new battery in 2016, but it died within a year and I’m not keen on doing it again.)

Unplug items when you’re not using them

The towel I failed to crop out is where my cat sleeps while I work

As you can see from this photo, I don’t have electronics plugged in when I’m not using them because even when the item is switched off, it still uses electricity. My printer, phone, coffee maker, and lamp only get plugged in when I need them, which is maybe one item once a day.

Also, the coffee maker is one of those horrible capsule ones. I got it from my nan’s house and I’m just using the capsules up before I sell it. To dispose of the used capsules in an eco-friendly way, I’m:

  • removing the lid and placing it in the bin
  • putting the coffee grounds into a jar and either using it as a body scrub or putting it straight in the compost
  • putting the plastic bottom into the Sainsbury’s Mixed Plastic bin

Work with natural light

laptop on desk under window

I work directly under a window (I live in the attic like Cinderella), so I rarely have to turn either the ceiling light or my lamp on. Except when I work before 7 am or after 5 pm, which doesn’t happen often anymore because I’m getting better at this whole work-life balance thing.

Minimise heater and fan usage

cat in  blanket
An accurate representation of me today

As I live in the attic, it boils in the summer and freezes in the winter, but I try to cope with this without using the heater or the fan. (I mean, the radiator’s in the wrong place and I never feel like the ceiling fan works, but I’m still going to count this.)

During the summer, I open the window and, sometimes, soak a t-shirt in cold water at several points during the day. In winter, I wrap myself in hoodies and, occasionally a blanket.

Restricting emails

I recently learned that emails have a carbon footprint because the internet is held up by huge data-processing sites. Therefore, I’m trying to send fewer emails (i.e. one email with all of the work from the project rather than several), clear up my inbox, and unsubscribe from all of those mailing lists I find myself on.

This is harder than I thought. The Inbox Zero struggle is real.

Of course, a neat way to offset this is with search engine Ecosia, which plants trees when you search for something.

Cutting waste

As mentioned in a previous article, I’m exceptionally cheap. Thus, it won’t surprise you to know that I’ve kept every workbook and gel pen from my school days so I don’t waste products that could be used for writing or that I hoard used A4 paper in case I need to print anything and small bits to write my daily to-do lists.

Another way that I prevent waste is:

envelope of scrap paper
The envelope was also used as a to-do list and to note down everyone I had to tell about my broken phone
  • Putting all smaller pieces of used paper into an envelope to be recycled so that they don’t gum up the machinery at the recycling plant
  • Refilling printer inks at the Ink Store and, when needed, recycling them with Portsmouth Green Party
  • Borrowing or buying used anything that I need for work, like the tilted platform my laptop rests on
  • Making my own pen holder from a Primark bag and an empty washing powder tub
  • Recycling pens with Milton Cross School
  • Composting pencils when they’re down to the last little nubs (don’t worry about the graphite, a small amount won’t harm the soil)

Going green

two cacti
My plant babies

For my last point in this article, I was once told that having plants in your office makes you focus more and work harder. I don’t know if that’s exactly true, but I do now have two cacti on my desk. (Normally, placed out of the way of the cat.)

Even if I’m not incredibly focused, I do like that it’s helping to take some CO2 out of the air. (Even if Tamara’s husband recently told me that it works the opposite way at night, so my bedroom is essentially filling with CO2 after the sun goes down.)

Okay, well that’s it from me. If you have any ways to eco-hack your office, let me know in the comments.


Written by Emma, a Queer Freelance Writer