Staying sustainable in a strange new world
It seems not too long ago that humanity began to grapple with the understanding that many of our habits and lifestyles are causing damning damage to our planet. We had begun to implement lifestyle changes and were just getting good at practising our new and improved habits, when the Covid-19 pandemic stuck. Suddenly it seems we have been swept into panic-buying (with many fresh foods expiring and being wasted), stockpiling bottled water (even in clean water areas of the globe), and boycotting loose fruit and vegetables in favour of their plastic protected counterparts.
But, what are the side effects of these actions, for us and for our planet? For example, our hyper-sanitised surroundings are now leaving us feeling safe and secure, but effectively wrapping our immune systems in cotton wool.
Below we explore how we can stay sustainable in this strange new world.
Consider your litter
It seems that single use PPE, face masks and gloves are giving plastic bottles a run for their money as our most discarded item.
The best solution is to invest a little extra in reusable face coverings for yourself and your family. Ensure you have more than one, so that these can be gently washed in between uses. There are also many great tutorials online on how to make these yourself using old t-shirts and it’s a fun activity to do with the family!
If you do need to use a disposable mask, please make sure you are disposing of it properly and that it doesn’t end up in nature.
If you are concerned about any littered PPE that you see, please ensure you are using gloves to pick it up or inform your local council or park so they can assist you.
Embrace the bar or rep the refill
As you are washing your hands more than usual, you will notice how much more handwash you are getting through! To minimise your waste embrace bar soaps - ideally ones that are packaged in paper that you can pop in the recycling or compost. Alternatively, look up your closest refill store and take your container along for a top up!
A consciously clean home
During our worldwide phases of lockdown, we have been spring cleaning and re-cleaning, ensuring that our homes remain virus free. But along with creating a lot of single use plastic, some of our household cleaning products can be more toxic than we realise. Many cleaning solutions such as window and toilet cleaner can be home-made using simple white vinegar, essential oil and bicarbonate blends in a reusable spray bottle. If you aren’t comfortable making your own just yet, there are lots of clean alternatives in most zero waste stores and good supermarkets.
Scale back the online deliveries
The boredom of lockdown has left many of us craving newness and excitement. As humans, somehow nothing brings us more joy than the anticipation and arrival of something new. However now more than ever, we must be mindful of our consumption. How about getting creative with upcycling, repairing or second hand? If you are buying new, do some research into ethical brands that work with organic or repurposed fabrics and are taking responsibility to have a lighter footprint on our planet.
Re-think the way you eat
This one is tough! During the global pandemic, many supermarkets are now refusing to allow shoppers to bring their reusable bags into stores. If this is the case where you live, simply load your groceries straight into the trolley, wheel it to the car and pack it into your reusable bags there. If you don’t have a car - transfer your items into your reusable bags by the trolley return stand.
Single use takeaway containers are taking a huge toll on the environment. If you are ordering takeaways, leave a note that you don’t need cutlery included. Or if you are collecting - ask whether you can bring your own containers. Or even better, consider whether you really need to buy takeaways! Whilst many of us aren’t able to dine out like we used to, fun can still be had by discovering fruit and vegetable boxes nearby to support local farmers. You could even try growing your own food or foraging (safely) whilst on nature walks.
It’s clear to see that amid the chaos, it’s easy to forget our roles as trustees of our planet’s future. Take a breath, slow things down and have a think about how you can be more conscious. During the many challenges of this year, humanity has united more than ever before for many important causes - let’s keep it going!