Nicola Alpe is a Kiwi living in Los Angeles navigating Americans, motherhood and bad traffic.

Unless you've used this lockdown for a complete digital disconnect, you'll have noticed the good news stories of some of the natural wonders that are occurring across the world. We've seen clear blue skies over industrial cities, animals exploring urban streets and - while largely attributed to the decline in silt churned up by boats - jellyfish swimming down once fetid canals of Venice.

We've read poems and quotes about Mother Earth and because we have had no choice, we have cut down on consumption, travel and waste. New Zealand is lucky in that compared to many countries our air is clear and our water is clean, but because of this many of us are complacent.

Mother Earth is taking a rest: she is breathing, she is resetting and that's all very nice. But how do we build on these unplanned environmental gains whilst clawing back our economic security and our lifestyles? Our lockdown has shown us how perilous our personal economic situations are and irrespective of which nation you choose, how reliant countries are on global partners.


Our time in lockdown has made me respond by purchasing less, reducing waste and making do with what we have. Generations before mine did this because they had to, but mine and subsequent generations have grown up in an era of single use products, a plethora of decently-made, cheap goods to choose from and sometimes a more is more mindset.

Like thousands of other families, we have created meals from what is in the house already as opposed to the dreaded palaver of visiting the supermarket.

Reducing waste in our home has been easy because not only has retail been closed for much of this time, but online shopping, I'm sorry if this offends you New Zealand, is miserable. Having been in the US for some years now, the epicentre of retail and customer service, my expectations are high, I'll admit, but from minimal offerings to no online presence at all, ridiculously long delivery times to not even delivering to where we are currently residing, I have given up and am impatiently waiting for retail to open.

What if this is our environmental clean slate? What if we decided to focus on what we can control, which are the practices and habits that occur in our homes? What if each of us changed just a few of our behaviours to benefit Mother Earth?

Or, for the A-types among us, select one room of our homes at a time and really think about what we can substitute there to make a difference. How about your family decided to stop buying water, soft drink or juice in plastic bottles? Simple things in the kitchen like swapping plastic wrap for beeswax wraps, containers or putting a plate on top of a bowl in the fridge. When you use tin foil, clean it, ball it up and pop it into the recycling bin.

In the bathroom, how about we stop buying hand wash or body wash with plastic containers and pumps which can never be recycled and instead went back to using a bar of soap packaged in cardboard. Shampoo and conditioner bars from New Zealand brand Ethique solves two problems: supporting local businesses and reducing plastic. Look for bamboo or recycled paper toilet, bamboo cotton buds and reusable cotton pads for skincare and make up removal.

While the country and the world start to move again, and we need them to do so, this is the perfect time for us to start afresh. Mass movements stem from the people. Make this our time to affect change with simple swaps. From little things big things grow.