Covid-19 has undoubtedly changed most of our lives in the last 2 years. In the beginning, it also affected several sustainability initiatives, to avoid the spread of germs.
These included plastic collections at your local supermarket, bringing your own reusable bag, or even bulk shopping to name a few examples.
In addition, the amount of waste we now are “forced” to produce has increased through the use of disposable masks, disinfecting wipes and other personal protective gear.
The Good News
Still, there is good news! Even with covid-19 lingering around, there are ways to be environmentally conscious that are doable, entirely safe, and highly encouraged.
Below we have identified 13 ways that you and your family can continue being sustainable throughout these times.
Before we begin, I encourage you to take this moment for yourself. Maybe this means taking a deep belly breath in, and a deep belly breath out. Thank yourself for being here, and taking the time to learn something new to improve your life and that of the planets.
Quickly identify why you have embarked on this journey of sustainability, and what benefits it will bring to your life.
Are you just missing nature? Did you watch a documentary or read a book that sparked an interest? Maybe you’ve noticed plastic or trash around your neighborhood, and you feel like you’d like to do something about it, but not sure how? Maybe you’ve experienced or witnessed the health issues coming from poor air quality or endocrine disruptors in our environment?
Whatever it is, don’t fret. There is a solution for all of your desires.
When you read through the below, always check in with yourself about whether you think it’ll bring additional joy to your life. If only one thing feels good to your soul right now, stick to that. As you learn to master one, you can continue on to the next. Bookmark this post and come back to it whenever you’d like.
Alright, let’s dive in. We’ll begin with the basics but stick around till the end for some more unusual ones that you might have not thought about.
Refuse the status quo
This normally refers to when you’re out and about, at an event or walking on the street, and people are handing out and waving free flyers, t-shirts, or other collateral in your face. Although sometimes you may actually be interested in taking it, oftentimes we really aren’t and it ends up on the ground or in the bin.
In post-COVID times, we encourage you to reflect on whether you are really interested in that item, otherwise know that it’s okay to say “no, thank you” with lots of love, and walk away.
However, during COVID, these events aren’t really happening as much, so refusing could look a bit different:
This could mean looking at the packaging that your favorite delivery services use and encouraging them to invest in more sustainable material for their packaging. In a way, you’ll be “refusing” the packaging they are currently using.
This could also mean you try to “refuse” bags and packaging that you come across in a grocery store. Instead of using the plastic bags they provide in the produce section, consider investing in your own reusable produce bags, so you don’t support the plastic industry.
Another way you could indirectly refuse the packaging in the store is by looking for glass, metal, or cardboard packaging of a certain item you’re desiring. For example, sometimes you find spinach in a “ziploc” bag or a plastic box. Usually, the box will be recyclable in your curbside bin, while the ziplock bag won’t. Don’t get too worried about this, but it’s a fun thing to know and consider.
Remember you are the consumer and you have a lot of power in influencing change.
Reduce your resource use
Each item has a full supply chain behind it that uses up large amounts of energy and natural resources. Although there are starting to be more sustainable companies out there, reducing your consumption can continue to create greater change.
Not only does it help out Planet Earth, but there are several other benefits that you may receive when reducing your consumption. Think about it, if you reduce your consumption, you have less stuff to tend to, therefore you have more time (& money!) for the people in your life, the experiences you’ve always wanted to have and you won’t get as anxious or stressed. A cluttered space is often associated with a cluttered mind.
Although it would be wonderful to not have to ever buy or spend money on an item ever again, it’s not really realistic. Therefore, after you’ve taken some time off shopping, and have narrowed down what you really do need in your life, consider the following systems that have been created by incredible people in our society, to help us support a circular economy.
- Borrowing from a friend
- Buying from thrift shops (local would be great, but online works too)
- Goodwill, Buffalo Exchange (in-store)
- Depop, Poshmark, Mercari (app or online)
- Sustainable and ethical stores (such as Impact Everything)
Reuse, Repurpose it or Upcycle Materials
This is quite a fun one for those of us that are more artistic, but it can be a great creative outlet for anyone. Although I recommend going on Youtube and looking these up on there, to get a more visual experience, here are some examples you could start out with, to be eco-friendly during a pandemic.
Glass or Plastic Containers
When you buy an item that is in a glass container or plastic, use it up completely, and then put it in the dishwasher. Once it’s out and clean, dry, and ready, use it as a container for anything else you may need a container for. We use it for nuts and seeds and other homemade sauces or food that we make, but you could even use it to just hold your toothbrush and toothpaste, or your pens and pencils. The sky’s the limit. Use your imagination and have fun with this!
Although there is definitely a point where some clothes are just too far gone, and you may need to give them to a proper disposing company, you can also engage your creativity with your clothes and re-create something new. Some examples include making bags out of t-shirts (no-sew).
Another thing you can do to upcycle your t-shirts, which is something I’m trying out currently, is Project Repat. You ship your old t-shirts to them, and they sew a quilt for you.
Other things that fall into the reusing category can be:
Re-sell what you can
This isn’t something that we typically see on the “refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle” loop but it’s sometimes better than donating it, and I personally find it super exciting because you can earn passive income. There are several different apps and websites you can use for this, but first let me share some tips.
Yes, you will have to factor in some time taking pictures of the items, adding a quick description, and posting it, but it’s quite simple after that.
I personally put a reminder to check if there have been any orders, just once a week or you could do every 10 days and take action then. Don’t make my same mistake and get so caught up in looking at your notifications every day, it’s not worth it, you won’t sell out of your items right away, you’ll need to gain a few followers (by following other people) and time.
Another quick tip!
If you don’t sell an item within the next 4 to 6 months, try something else. There are physical stores near you that buy clothes (Buffalo Exchange in Sommerville, Boston or NYC). Yes, this means you would have to go in person with a mask, appointment, and social distancing. If you don’t want to do that, you could try a yard sale and finally donate.
Some places you can sell your clothes online:
- Facebook Marketplace
- Buffalo Exchange
- YARD SALE!
Rot the rest
This is quite a fun one. Although anything that is labeled biodegradable is unfortunately not always compostable. There are a lot of items that I didn’t know were biodegradable until I did some research.
You will have to double-check your town’s compost rules. But I’ll share what Black Earth, does. With them, you can compost things like paper towel and toilet paper rolls, paper towel themselves, napkins, anything that’s made of light cardboard, newspapers (yup newspaper too!), and every piece of food that you can’t or don’t end up eating (yup that stinky leftover can be gold for our environment).
Enjoy this one, and have fun with it. Don’t forget you can also have your own compost bin at home if you don’t have the opportunity with your town. Then you’ll have another reason to start your own veggie garden. If this interests you, you could check out this new indoor compost solution that Pela is creating: Home Composter by Pela.
Recycle the proper way
With this, unfortunately, there might be things you’re putting in your bin that are not supposed to be in there. I won’t add a link to another article that explains why, because it’s definitely sad news. We want to remain positive and use our solution spectacles here.
In order to do this, check out your town’s website. Look for the recycling section, and get reading on what they accept. They may accept paper, cardboard, glass, and plastic, but not all plastics.
I ended up even calling my representative and confirming what the case was, because on one page on my town’s website it said they accepted plastic #5, on another page, it said no.
It turns out they don’t. If you have time and find the courage to make the phone call and check-in, you could be helping the environment tremendously, from the safety of your home.
If you don’t want to, can’t, whatever, that is okay. Do not create stress over this, we also do have to realize sometimes we may forget things, and that is okay, we are humans. Forgive yourself.
Eat a balanced or home-cooked meal
The number one factor in climate change is soil degradation. Although this is a whole topic that we could talk about for days, regenerative agriculture is the solution, and this is how you can participate:
- When possible, eat organic. You’d be surprised that sometimes organic alternatives are not that much more expensive than the latter. Also for your personal health and wellbeing, it’s okay to eat just 80% organic and leave the rest for some nights out and enjoyment.
- See if there are any local producers you can support (recently I learned that if you go to your local farmer market and go towards the closing hours, you may find cheaper prices of this higher quality food).
- Consider trying out grass-fed meat or dairy
- Plant your veggies (start small if you’re new, so you don’t get discouraged)
- Join a community garden
- If there are certain staples you buy all the time, consider learning how to make them at home and save yourself some money and packaging. For example, during covid, I learned how to make granola bars and they were even more delicious.
Spend time in nature
Hug the trees, talk to the trees, send them love and carbon while you speak to them, so they can grow and give you the oxygen you need in order to breathe in clean air.
Take your time when you’re out there and remain intentional and present as much as you can. Nature is magical, cyclical, and full of wisdom. If you’re interested in observing nature like John Muir, the king of the environmental movement, check this resource out.
Use a reusable grocery bag
At the beginning of COVID, using your own reusable bag was not allowed. However, if you hadn’t heard, grocery stores are allowing them back in. The difference is that some places may only take them if you bag them yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, consider using plastic bags and then recycling them at a grocery store near you.
Use (COVID-Safe) Green Cleaning Products
Therefore, don’t fret, you could look into alternatives and still be safe for both your family and the environment.
Assess your energy & water usage
If you have the time, you could re-consider the energy and water usage your household or business is consuming, and adjust and find alternatives to increase the efficiency of the equipment. Some suggestions include:
- Change all fluorescent & incandescent bulbs to energy-efficient LEDs
- Fix leaks in toilet tanks
- Replace filters such as air and oil filters in your vehicles, air conditioning units, and swamp coolers, and even in your vacuum cleaner.
Engage in Conscious Netflix shows
Make sure you are mentally prepared for what some of these documentaries touch on. Do not feel like you are responsible for it all, and that this climate issue is too big to solve, etc. Try to remain positive and have faith, remember there are a lot of people out there like you and I that are doing our part.
Stay strong, and stay on your path, your education and awareness are already incredible and very helpful in the cause. Some conscious Netflix shows you could invite your family to watch are:
- Seaspiracy – Netflix
- Chasing Coral- Netflix
- Cowspiracy- Netflix
- Plastic Wars– PBS
- Before the Flood- Netflix
- Riverblue – YouTube (rent or purchase)
- Artifishal – YouTube
- The Anthropocene – Amazon (rent or purchase)
- Kiss the Ground – Netflix
Google “COVID Safe Environmental Volunteer Opportunities Near Me”
I have personally not done this yet, but I plan to soon. I’m thinking something like a beach clean-up, or neighborhood clean-up to get out, meet some people, socially distanced and with masks and all.
Try the Litterati App
It’s good for both IOS or Android and it’s free. How does it work?
Step 1 Find a piece of trash and take a picture of it
Step 2 Dispose of it where you think it goes (trash, recycle or compost – if you can)
Step 3 Tag the photo so that the community, towns, and government agencies can learn where there is most trash, so they can take action
Step 4 Invite or challenge others
Step 5 Use the LitterData to Inspire Change
Did you find an activity here that you liked?
Or, is there something else you’ve thought about that we haven’t listed? Let us know in the comments below.
Share the post with your friends and family and encourage your loved ones to participate in the above activities with you, safely. Lastly, always check in with yourselves and make sure you are all doing it with lots of joy.
Sending love, prayers, and light to all of you! Stay safe and healthy! XO
Valentina Gambino is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, where she earned her B.A. in Travel & Tourism and Hospitality Management. Her major interests include researching and writing about sustainability, environmentalism, and its connection to our health, spirituality, and more. She is a soon-to-be certified Health Coach through IIN and hopes to change the world one moment at a time. If you’d like to follow her beginner sustainability and slow living journey, check out her blog!
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