My wife and I were talking over dinner last night, marveling at what is possible while “trapped” at home. “Even without a five year old, we’d find it hard to get bored”.
We are 8 days into self isolation in France and as a family we are settling into some sort of rhythm. Home schooling, short dog walks, Netflix, online drawing courses, Youtube PE lessons with 800k participants, checking in with friends on Zoom, checking social media for updates, the list goes on. A lot of what we’re doing at the moment involves technology or the internet.
Even so, as a household we are missing our outdoor time. The sun has been out for the past week and there should be lovely spring conditions in the ski resorts 800m above us. Our dog is getting short walks with added frisbee-ing rather than long walks in the woods following his nose. My running shoes look at me sadly from the shoe rack by the front door.
The flip side is that our enforced downtime does provide opportunities at home as well. It’s the ideal time to catch up on that online course we’ve been meaning to take, or sit down as a family to learn how to draw cartoons from a children’s author and illustrator like Rob Biddulph.
While we are spending so much time online and using technology we should all be mindful that there are things we can be doing to make our lock-down activities as green as possible.
Here are some suggestions of how to make the next few weeks (and beyond) as low impact as possible:
If your inbox is anything like mine, it’s filled up with emails from companies showing off their caring credentials while at the same time trying to sell you a new product.
Each automated email has it’s own carbon cost (something I’ve discussed before) and it’s almost always never read or deleted. At the end of your first week in self isolation, check your inbox and make sure you unsubscribe from any emails you’ve received that you didn’t want to.
If you have more time on your hands, why not have a full tidy up of your inbox per the blog post above.
Downloading vs streaming
If you’ve got young kids you’ll know all too well that they love to rewatch the same films over and over again. They just can’t seem to “Let It Go” for some reason.
If this is the case in your house and you find that you are continually streaming the same thing over and over again, think about downloading it. It’s much less energy intensive to download once and re-watch than letting the broadband take the strain.
Auto-playing videos on Social Media
You are going to see memes, parodies, newscasts and lots of other videos on your social media feeds in the coming weeks, probably more than usual.
Every time a video auto-plays on a website or in an app it increases the amount of energy consumed by your device. Take control of what you watch and reduce the carbon footprint of your browsing by turning auto play off.
On Facebook (in browsers) you can switch it off by clicking on the triangle on the right hand side of the toolbar and selecting the Videos option at the bottom of the list. Change the Auto-play Videos option from “Default to Off”
On Twitter (in browsers) click on the “More” option on the left hand side, then “Settings and Privacy”. Under “General” click “Data Usage” and under Autoplay click the option for “Never”.
You’ll find similar options in any apps you use on you phones and tablets.
Bookmark web pages your regularly visit
You might find that in the next few weeks you keep checking certain sites for updates on Corona Virus numbers or to access resources to keep you or your family occupied.
Rather than checking back on the Facebook post you saw it on or searching for the page each time, bookmark the page instead. Each click and scroll you don’t need to make is a reduction in the energy required to check the page!
Turn your devices off (when not in use!)
The final piece of advice is the simplest. Turn your devices off when you aren’t using them. Switch your phones, tablets and laptops off over night and don’t leave them on standby.
Stay safe in the coming weeks. Our first 8 days in France have had their ups and downs but we’ve stayed connected with our friends and family and kept occupied.
Stay home, stay positive and seek help and contact when you need them.