Five signs of hope from 2020 that we're taking into 2021
Let's face it. It can be hard to feel positive at the moment. And it can be hard to think about anything other than Coronavirus, and how we’re going to get through this.
But with a difficult few weeks ahead, on top of an incredibly challenging year, we wanted to reflect on some of the good stuff too - and think back to some of the things that we saw as positives in our work at Zero Waste Leeds during 2020 - and which we think we can build on, together, during 2021.
The power of community
The challenging times we're living through have made many of us more reliant on others for help.
They've also provided people with the opportunity to reach out to help, and to join up with others to make things happen where we live.
There are so many examples of this that we could point to across Leeds. One that we have been part of is Leeds School Uniform Exchange - a project we set up last year.
With our support, people from across the city have got organised to sort out swapping school uniform. Parents have set up Facebook groups, local community groups organised events, and schools have made sure that any surplus lost property doesn't go to waste.
It's a wonderful example of people just getting on and doing stuff. And a reminder that in tough times, even when we might be struggling ourselves, many of us want to find ways to help others. This is something that we'll need to do in the coming weeks and months - and the years ahead.
Cutting down on food waste
Back in March, our lives were turned upside down in ways that most of us have never experienced before.
Much bigger, and more important things than waste reduction were centre stage.
But with more of us at home much more, we were forced into - and in some cases decided to adopt - new habits.
With eating out off-limits for months, we tended to cook at home a lot more. And with a bit more time on our hands, many of us cooked more things from scratch.
And with shopping more of a chore than usual, we got into the habit of checking our freezer, fridge and cupboards before piling more things in the trolley.
Research suggests many of us ended up wasting less food last year as a result of all of this. There’s every chance that this is a habit that could stick - with big upsides for our household finances - alongside environmental benefits.
Sharing stuff with neighbours
In the early days of last year’s lockdown, people across Leeds set up WhatsApp groups, to keep in touch and to offer help to anyone who needed it.
This was part of a much wider mutual aid movement - with local communities coming together to support each other in ways many of us have never seen. In such dark times, they were a beacon of light.
And as the months went on, more of us used those groups for sharing stuff. With charity shops closed, the groups gave an easy opportunity to pass things on.
And many WhatsApp groups ended up being used to share stuff too - whether that’s a set of ladders, a drill or a tray for a (downsized) Christmas turkey.
Many of us are fed up of having so much stuff in our lives. Stuff we often end up using once or twice. Our neighbourhood WhatsApp groups have given many of us an easy way to share, rather than buying something new. That’s definitely something we can keep going into 2021 and beyond.
Learning to fix stuff
Research suggests that one of the reasons we often end up buying something new, rather than trying to repair what we’ve got, is that we lack the necessary time & skills.
But 2020 was a year when many of us spent some of the extra time we had on our hands to learn a few new skills.
For most of us, this meant something simple like a small repair to an item of clothing - particularly valuable last year as it was so much harder to buy new clothes. Or maybe learning how to repair a puncture on our bike - given that bike shops had waiting lists stretching into months.
You only have to watch The Repair Shop to understand the joy that fixing things can bring. And many of us experienced those little moments of joy that can come from mending. That’s something we can certainly take with us into 2021.
Tech for good
With children and young people learning at home for months last year - and back to it again this month - we’ve become increasingly aware of what’s often called the digital divide - and how many families are struggling to provide opportunities for their children to do their school work at home.
Last year in Leeds, local people stepped up to fill gaps left by the Government’s slow and inadequate programme to get laptops to families who needed them.
During 2020 local not-for-profit organisations Tech Angels and Digital Access West Yorkshire were set up - to take donations of laptops and tablets that people no longer need - so that they can be wiped clean and then donated to local people who need them.
This month’s lockdown has reminded us once more how vital it is that people can get online at home - and we’re grateful that there are practical ways that we can all help - by supporting groups like Tech Angels and DAWY.
Why not join us in 2021?
Our online community, across our Zero Waste Leeds Facebook page, Leeds Zero Waste Living Facebook group, Leeds School Uniform Exchange Facebook group, Leeds Fashion Futures Facebook group, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn now has over 15000 members. We'd love you to get involved.