It has been a priority of mine in the last couple of years to reduce my waste, as evidenced in these posts: Low-Waste Lifestyle: 7 Simple Changes and Low-Waste Guide: Helpful Links. But, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has not been my number one concern, I’ll admit. Staying safe and sane are my main concerns and that’s okay, I think.
With all that being said, I think I need to rededicate myself to lowering my waste, even though we are experiencing unprecedented times. Here’s why I am motivated to do so:
- We don’t have time to take a break from being low-waste. Scientists are almost unanimously predicting that we have 10-12 years left to reverse the effects of climate change before it is too late and we will be swiftly headed towards global catastrophe. Every single thing we do to reduce our waste and lessen our impact on the environment is a step in the right direction.
- The world is still producing tons and tons of waste. There were moments in 2020 when we celebrated clear waterways and a decrease in carbon emissions, but we are still creating a lot of waste even if it is in different ways than in previous years. Whether it is medical, restaurant or residential waste, tons of trash is being sent to the landfill every day. For example, we may be using less paper in our offices, but we are ordering from Amazon more often. (Source)
You are probably thinking: “What the heck can we do about that? It’s too late! The world is going to end!”
It may end and you may not make an impact on a grand scale, but we can all, at the very least, try to make a difference. If we all felt like we weren’t going to make a difference therefore we didn’t try, nothing would ever change and nothing would have ever changed in our history.
So, here are six things you can do today, right at this moment to lower your waste and lessen your impact on the environment.
- Eat and drink at home and cook your meals at home. Not only is it safer to stay at home right now, but it is less wasteful to stay at home and make your food at home. Restaurants are not using their typical reusables because of COVID-19 cleaning protocols and they are also not accepting reusable items to substitute for single use plastics, i.e. coffee shops are not allowing you to bring your own cups and restaurants are using only paper menus that get thrown away after every use. I know that there has been a call to support small businesses during the pandemic, but being conscious of how much waste we create when we are eating out is important.
- Shop less. As I mentioned previously, we are doing a lot of shopping right now. We are also buying a lot of clothes that we can’t try on before we buy them. Even if you are safely shopping in-person, dressing rooms are frequently closed. Focusing on shopping less and repairing what we already have in our possession is a good way to reduce our waste right now.
- Shop smart. When you go grocery shopping, as always look for foods in glass containers, aluminum cans and cardboard. Avoid plastic, if you can. Also, bring your reusable produce and grocery bags to the grocery store with you that will cut out some more unnecessary plastic. If you have access to farmers markets and bulk bins, utilize those.
- Wear reusable masks. This probably sounds stupid, but wear a reusable mask that you can wash and rewear. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development “estimates that 75 percent of pandemic-related plastic waste will end up in landfills and the sea.” (Source) Wearing reusable masks will save you money in the long run and will create less plastic that could enter our waterways.
- Don’t forget to recycle. There may be “more important” things happening right now, but recycling is an easy thing to do. Look up your local recycling policies and follow them!
- Spend some time thinking about how you can make a difference after this whole thing is over. There are a lot of very wasteful events not happening right now, like parades, festivals, parties, concerts, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I still want those events to happen, but this seems like a good time to think about how we can make those events less wasteful. (My family and I managed to throw a wedding and a bridal shower with relatively low amounts of waste and I’d be happy to write about it, if that is something you all would be interested in.)
- Pick up trash when you are outside walking or running. If you are already being active outside, bring some gloves and a bag with you to collect trash in. Every little bit of trash picked up off the streets that doesn’t make it into our waterways is very important. (Don’t be surprised at the amount of crap you pick up in a short period of time.)
I am looking forward to hearing what you all implement into your routines and what you can tell me to add to my life! I, of course, am still doing many of the things that I have talked about before like using cloth napkins and metal straws and reusing things when I get the opportunity. But, I think it is nice to refocus on issues that are still important even though we are experiencing uncertainty worldwide.
I think reducing use of single use products and plastics is the best approach here. Recycling is not the panacea they sold us on in the 80s. Here in Harrisonburg and RC, the only materials being recycled are cardboards and aluminum. 1 and 2 plastics and glass are being buried separately at the landfill until they can find buyers for recycling. Any other plastic goes into general landfill. I just started a subscription with Blueland for hand soaps and cleaning products. All products are in dissolvable tablet form and come packaged in paper. That will help a bit, but I am stilly buying clothes detergent, fabric softener, and shampoos packaged in plastic. I tried going back to bar soap and couldn’t do it.
In Winchester, 1 and 2 plastic is recycled, but no glass. I have yet to find bar shampoo and conditioner that I like, but I do have a resource for buying hand soap in bulk. That’s a start!