Big Issue Vendor

Vegan food, LED lights and staycations: hashtags reveal Brits’ eco habits

Lockdowns gave people across the UK a chance to rethink their home habits. Research into Instagram hashtags showed protecting the planet was a top priority
Hashtags on millions of Instagram posts showed people were going vegan and upcycling old furniture in lockdown. Image: Pexels

Well over a year of stop-start lockdowns saw people across the UK take action to improve their home lives. And for millions, new hashtags research has shown, it meant changing their habits for the planet’s benefit.

Analysis of hashtags used on Instagram highlighted the country’s top priorities when it came to cutting their household’s carbon footprint, including upcycling old furniture and cooking more vegan meals.

“Lockdown has encouraged many people to think about their own personal goals as well as how they contribute to society and the planet,” said David Holmes, founder of Boiler Guide, which conducted the research. 

“It’s been great to see how creative residents have become to ensure their properties are as sustainable as possible, particularly while many of us have been stuck inside them more than usual over the past few months.”

Researchers analysed the terms used most alongside “#ecohome” and “#greenhome” between October 2020 and May 2021 to reveal the nation’s go-to methods for helping slow the climate crisis from home.

Eating vegan

Speaking to Times Radio earlier this year, Kwasi Kwarteng – the UK’s business secretary – said more people going vegan could help the UK reach net-zero emissions by 2050. With 21.6 million posts using #veganfood alongside either #ecohome or #greenhome, that seems to be exactly what Brits are doing.

Holidaying at home

The government put tight restrictions on travel for most of the past year, meaning plans for sunny getaways had to be put on hold. Instead, people found ways to take restful time off close to home, with 4.7 million posts tagged #staycation.

Indoor plants

Getting out into nature was a silver lining for many during lockdown, but those living far from green spaces and without gardens weren’t so lucky. Many decided to bring nature inside, with searches for house plants more than doubling during lockdown plus 4.5 million uses of “#houseplants” recorded on Instagram.

Upcycling

Charity shops were closed and families could not travel far from their homes to dispose of bulky unwanted items. Instead, people were busy upcycling – transforming old possessions for reuse – and researchers found 2.4 million #upcycling hashtags during lockdown. Another 4,036 posts were tagged with “#ecofriendlyfurniture”, showing Brits’ increasing consciousness of sustainability when upgrading their homes.

Boosting the look of home offices with LED lighting

For those working from home, there was plenty of time to adapt flats and houses to be more pleasant places to be productive. There were 1.5 million uses of #ledlights, showing how determined Brits are to cut their carbon emissions as well as making their homes look good, and a huge 396 per cent rise in searches for LED lighting compared to last year.

LED lightsbulbs are more than twelve times better for the environment as halogen bulbs, can significantly cut energy bill costs and produce far less waste than conventional bulbs. That’s why the UK government is banning the sale of halogen lightbulbs this September. 

Grow your own fruit and veg

Brits had to get domestic with their hobbies in lockdown, and plenty tried their hand at growing their own fresh produce. There were 23,025 Instagram posts tagged “#easytogrow”, with Boiler Guide researchers also noting an increase in popularity for chillies, pea shoots and spinach – better for our health, the planet, and for cutting plastic pollution.

Another 2,501 posts were tagged “#homemadecompost”, showing households were cutting down on the amount of food waste they created too. Banana peels, vegetable skins and tea bags can all be thrown in a compost heap, helping create rich soil which is great for plants and suppressing pests, and which is better for the environment than compost made from peat.