6 Ways To Live More Sustainably During Covid-19
Almost immediately after Starbucks and Dunkin’ announced that they were pressing pause on accepting personal mugs, it seemed as though all reusable items were tainted with suspicion, and stigmatized for being less sterile. As concerns around COVID-19 continued to grow, more and more found themselves asking: Is it safer to use a plastic bag? Should I be stocking up on Clorox Wipes? What about long-lasting, microwavable meals?
While there have been a handful of positive environmental ramifications from the outbreak (think: less air pollution and fewer warming gases as a result of less travel), the pandemic has undoubtedly evoked a new sense of fear around reusables, and many have reverted back to using single-use material.
With the circular-economy taking obvious steps backwards, many are now wondering whether the zero-waste movement will survive this time of uncertainty—and to be honest with you, we’re wondering the same thing. Many of us, who often pride ourselves on our eco-consciousness, have sacrificed our plastic-free values in an effort to prioritize our health and safety during this time. So, if you have also found yourself abandoning certain values and pivoting your priorities, we’re here to tell you that it’s okay. Sometimes (and this is one of those times) short-term personal and community wellbeing supersedes long-term environmental goals.
Point blank: Your health should be your first-and-foremost priority right now. Alright? Ok. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, if you’re still finding yourself in the mindset of wanting to live as sustainably as possible during this pandemic, here are some of our tips on how to do so:
Lower your expectations of what you can achieve during this time.
Accessibility to sustainable products has been severely reduced, which warrants a readjustment. Most grocery stores are no longer allowing reusable bags, bulk food sections have been drained, and plastic-free takeout options are nearly impossible. Rather than focusing on what you’re doing “wrong”, shift your focus to the things that you can still do “right”.
Use this time to audit your current lifestyle and game plan for the future.
Since none of us have exciting weekend plans, use this time to audit your routine, and energize for the future. Look at the plastic you’re currently using: What are your shampoo bottles made out of? What about your toothpaste? Toothbrush? Makeup? Are you mainly eating packaged food (and yes, your natural peanut butter in a plastic container counts)? Are you using plastic bags when buying fresh produce? Do you compost? What materials are your clothes made out of? Is your laundry detergent in a plastic bottle? How about your dish soap? Hand soap?
List out all of the areas in your life that could use plastic-free improvements (scary, I know!), and set a goal to slowly replace them with plastic-free alternatives (that is: only when you run out, use up, recycle, donate, give away or sell what you already have).
First, focus on the food that you already have hiding in your fridge and cupboards. Rummage through your cupboards and get creative with what you have.
Keep using your reusables, if you’re able to. Some grocery stores are still allowing customers to use their own bags and containers for bulk items, and if that is the case, you shouldnt be afraid to use them. Soap and detergent breaks down the outer fat layer of the coronavirus, which causes the protein molecule to break down. So if you’re washing your bags and containers after each grocery haul, you’re safe.
Focus on buying lowest-impact foods (this means plant-based foods, wink wink). When you do (bravely) venture to the grocery store, buy bigger quantities of things that you’ll use. For example: If you typically eat oats, rice and potatoes everyday, given that most bulk-stores are closed, consider buying a bigger bag that will last you a couple weeks. This way, you’ll only be sending one plastic bag to landfill, rather than multiple small ones. But remember to not stock up too much since food waste trapped in landfills is one of the greatest contributors to atmospheric greenhouse gas. Also, if you have access to safe drinking water, you do not need to buy plastic bottles. Your water is still safe to drink!
Avoid microwavable meals food and takeout. Yes, they’re convenient, but they also come with a lot of plastic waste. If you can, make bigger batches of meals, and freeze the leftovers for easy easy (we use Stasher Bags to store our leftovers). If you get takeout, ask for no plastic bag and no plastic cutlery.
We’re all suddenly disinfecting like there is no tomorrow. Since disinfectant wipes are primarily made of plastic, are packaged in plastic (that’s a whole lot of plastic), opt for alternative cleaning products with better ingredients for you and the planet , and use a rag instead of paper towels. Don’t have a rag? Cut up an old t-shirt into squares, voila! To keep your hands clean, choose package-free, bar soap (and remember the 20-seconds rule).
These past few weeks have been a revealing time for our economy, and most small-businesses are struggling. Now more than ever, it’s important to support the kinds of businesses that you want to see on the other side of this. For us, that means supporting ethical, sustainable, small-businesses–not fast-fashion brands with minimal regulations and billionaire CEOs. If you’re able to shop online, support small (www.circularplace.com )
Cozy up on the couch this weekend to these educational documentaries. If books are more your speed, here are some of our favorites. And if you’re looking for something to listen to on your isolated-walk check out podcast on sustainability .
We’re all navigating through this new normal, and we understand that it may feel devastating to take steps backwards in relation to your sustainability goals. Just know that as long as you’re doing what you’re able to (physically or mentally), that is enough. Hopefully these tips help you regain some eco-control, but at the end of the day, remember to put yourself, your community, and humanity first.