I’m stuck at home and imagine most of you are too. I live in one of the novel coronavirus “hot spots,” which has prompted our local and state authorities to call for extreme social distancing measures. Restaurants and bars are closed and gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited. Countless events have been cancelled or postponed and schools are shut for the foreseeable future.
All of these actions are vitally necessary to help slow the spread of the virus, but accompanying these measures is a growing emotional unease about being confined at home, along with a healthy dose of boredom.
Even if you’re confined to your home, you can (and should!) practice a green lifestyle as you remain mindful of your health. The two issues aren’t mutually exclusive, so while you’re homebound, try these green and healthy ways to pass the time.
Be safe and well.
Table of Contents
Catch Up on Your (Green) Reading
You probably have some extra time to catch up on your reading, so add some green books about climate change and sustainable living to your reading list. I just created an Environmental Books page with some of my favorite picks for young and not-so-young, along with suggestions from others. Check it out and check back frequently for updates. (I have time to read and add to the list!)
Don’t forget your local library. Most have virtual reference desks and digital library collections. Consult your local library so you can enjoy free reading. For those of you in New York City, the NY Public Library has an app that allows any cardholder to borrow any of their 300,000 e-books.
And of course, there’s always time to catch up on old Green That Life posts!
Learn Something New About the Environment
In addition to books, you can stay current on the latest environmental news with podcasts and periodicals. Here are some to get you started:
- Green That Life’s Recycling Resources page lists a number of news organizations to keep you informed.
- Green That Life’s post on plastic bag laws includes a resources on plastic pollution and waste reduction.
- Environmental Health News has a long list of eco-focused newsletters.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the go-to organization for climate change data.
- NASA. The Causes of Climate Change page is an excellent summary of the causes and lists numerous scientific societies and groups for further information.
- Scientific American. I subscribe to their various free newsletters for up-to-date climate and environmental information.
- Environmental and Energy Study Institute. This non-profit’s fact sheets and issue briefs on climate change are substantive and clear.
You may not be aware, but you can help fight climate change with your food choices, so while you’re stuck at home, take a moment to reassess your typical menu selections. My post on climate friendly food choices will get you started, but one simple way to reduce the carbon footprint of your meals is to minimize meat and dairy products in favor of plant-based foods.
And while you’re educating yourself, get your kids involved by teaching them to make healthy food choices. Looking for healthy recipes and ideas? I like the Cooking With Kids organization’s site with its list of healthy recipes, resources, and how-to videos.
Clean House (or Apartment) the Green Way
You’re stuck at home. What a perfect opportunity to tackle that to-do list that’s built up over the years because you haven’t “had the time.” Well, now you do! Keep it green as you clean by repairing and reusing what you have. You’ll also save some money.
For unwanted items, donate or sell. Green That Life’s Spring Green Clean post will get you started on simple and affordable ways to shed your unwanted items. And for all those items that no one wants, recycle, if appropriate. Just remember to recycle right!
A note about soaps and cleaning supplies: There may be a temptation to reach for the cleaners with strong chemicals. Resist! Studies show that you can get a thorough clean using soapy water. This simple combination is actually a more potent weapon against infectious diseases (including coronavirus) than bleach.
So resist that temptation to blanket your home with toxic chemicals, and instead, keep your surroundings spotlessly clean with green products.
If Possible, Get Outside
Technically this isn’t in the “stuck at home” category, but if you can, take advantage of a beautiful day to enjoy your natural surroundings. Even in large, urban centers, it’s possible to social distance while getting a breath of fresh air with a walk or bike ride.
Looking for where to go? Consult the Hiking Project‘s and All Trails directories for nationwide trails. To encourage your children to get outdoors, try a nature scavenger hunt; an activity that’s fun for all ages.
Further resources can be found on the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s Nature Activities page or Natural Start Alliance’s guide to Nature Play. Both have tons of activity and information sheets to help your child get excited to be outside.
An activity that’s fun and educational for everyone is the iNaturalist app, a social network of over 750,000 scientists and naturalists where anyone can record, discuss, and share their photos of living things. A joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society, iNaturalist allows you to learn something new about your natural world while helping create data for scientific research.
Get Outside – Virtually
Can’t get outside? Try a virtual tour of outdoors and nature-related sites. Some ideas to get you started:
- National Parks. Google Arts & Culture has created virtual tours of five gorgeous national parks: Kenai Fjords, Hawaii Volcanoes, Carlsbad Caverns, Bryce Canyon, and Dry Tortugas. You can also take a virtual tour of Yellowstone and Yosemite.
- Virtual Dives. National Marine Sanctuaries allows you to immerse yourself in the ocean and your national marine sanctuaries without getting wet! The virtual reality voyages use 360-degree images to highlight the amazing habitats, animals, and cultural resources you can find in each national marine sanctuary.
- Zoos. A number of zoos offer virtual tours and live webcam viewings of their animals. Check out Atlanta Zoo’s panda cam, the Houston Zoo, the Georgia Aquarium, the San Diego Zoo, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
- Birdwatching webcams. Check out the Sierra Club’s list. You’ll be set to vicariously enjoy springtime migrations.
- Field Trips. Take a field trip with Discovery to see polar bears in their Arctic habitat. The site includes pre- and post-viewing activities along with a polar bear chat Q&A. You can also try a farm field trip, this one in Canada!
- Historic Sites and Parks. The New York Landmarks Conservancy has a terrific set of videos on New York City treasures, including colonial landmarks, parks, sacred sites, and historic houses.
There are several sites that offer tons of games and activities designed to make your child more environmentally aware while you all are stuck at home. A few suggestions:
- NASA Kids has a variety of games, activities, and educational videos about the environment and climate science.
- USDA Forest Service‘s activity guide offers fun and engaging activities for young children.
- The National Recreation and Park Association‘s activities for teaching kids about conservation are terrific. Among their awareness-raising activities they include a “litter hike” and building a compost bin.
- Water Use It Wisely‘s game page includes interactive games and quizzes to teach kids about water conservation.
- Nature Art for Kids will keep your child occupied for hours with nature-related art activities.
For older kids or adults, I just read about the board game, Energetic, a four-player cooperative challenge in which you work to decarbonize New York City in time to meet goals for the Paris Agreement. I haven’t yet played it, but would be interested to hear any reviews from those who have.
Plant a Green Garden
Connect with nature by planting a garden or start small with just one houseplant. Even if you live in an urban environment, you can always find space in an apartment, small yard, or rooftop to grow herbs, flowers, or even a few vegetables. If you have more backyard space and time, order some (heirloom, non-GMO) seeds and supplies online and start your garden.
Make sure to care for your new garden with natural techniques, using natural remedies for combating pests while feeding the soil and plants with natural fertilizers and soil amendments.
Wondering what to plant? Try a well-being garden to optimize the therapeutic effects of nature. Some books to get you started:
Your Well-Being Garden: How to Make Your Garden Good for You by DK
Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces by Daniel Winterbottom, Amy Wagenfeld
The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature by Sue Stuart-Smith
Herbal Remedy Gardens: 38 Plans for your Health & Well-Being by Doris Byers
Help the Environment From Home
You’re probably spending a lot of time these days online. While there, consider donating to green causes, whether it’s your local nature center or an international environmental organization. If you’re shopping, Amazon Smile’s Environment Charity Lists are a great way to shop for yourself and donate at the same time.
For donations that have the most impact, consult reputable charity rating agencies, such as Impact Matters, for climate change non-profits, or Charity Watch for environment charities. A recent New York Times article about smart environmental donations lists a number of vetted organizations.
In these uncertain economic times, every dollar can help an organization committed to conservation or climate action.
You may be stuck at home, but that doesn’t mean you have to be isolated from friends and family. Check in by phone or video chats (all the more reason to dress for the day!), and try to find other topics to talk about other than coronavirus (difficult, I know).
One social activity I’ve reduced is connecting on social media, where I’ve seen an increase in rumored stories and unnecessary finger pointing. It’s important to stay abreast of the news, but my suggestion would be to consult reputable and trustworthy news sources for accurate information.
Take Time for Yourself
As important as connecting with others is to take time for yourself. If you have a moment, let your mind wander and disconnect from the myriad tech devices that constantly divert our attention. It also helps boost creativity: Apparently, our brains need to “meander” in order to recharge and spark new ideas.
Taking care of your emotional well-being is just as important as keeping your physical body in shape. This is an unprecedented time and it’s vital to stay emotionally resilient for our personal health and to be strong enough to help others.
To help you, try meditation or mindfulness techniques. Headspace is one app to get you on your way. Or, try some soothing songs to self-isolate with.
Our lives have been disrupted by this public health crisis and our top priority must be staying healthy while safeguarding the health of our loved ones. Environmental protection and climate action may seem unnecessary distractions, but these issues will remain once this crisis passes. So be well and stay green.