Zero Waste in the Time of a Pandemic

August 17, 2020

Living waste-free was challenging before COVID-19 and is even more so now.

Previously, we have worked with local businesses to supply reusable containers for any food or beverage related items we ordered to facilitate a waste-free event. Unfortunately, most of these businesses have temporarily paused the use of personal reusable items over fears of virus contamination. It appears amidst the pandemic; people are reverting back to single-use material in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. For this reason, we sat down as a team to develop these helpful tips for living waste-free in a pandemic.

  1. Wear A Reusable Mask

The increased use of masks has impacted the amount of plastic and waste we consume. Although, there are some areas of society that need these single use items, find, or make your own reusable cloth mask instead. Consider washing them by hand to avoid unnecessary loads in the washing machine.

  1. Avoid Packaging by Planting

Whether you have a backyard space for a vegetable garden or balcony for potted plants take the opportunity to plant things like herbs and other veggies you would normally find in unrecyclable plastic like green beans or lettuce.

  1. Buy Local and In Season

Shopping at your local farmer’s market will help to reduce the amount of plastic in your weekly grocery shopping and lower your carbon footprint. Farmer’s markets generally have less packaging, require less travel than food imported from producers outside your area, which requires less energy to keep them preserved.

  1. Bring reusable bags

Store policies vary but most customers can bring their own shopping or vegetable bags and to bag the food yourself.

  1. Brew Coffee Yourself

One of the hardest challenges of COVID-19 – the ban of the reusable coffee cup. Invest in new coffee machine or French press and brew your coffee at home – you will save a small fortune and may even prefer drinking a cup watching the sunrise. Also consider re-using the brewing paper by simply using a small amount of water to rinse the liner and place it back in the coffee machine for the next morning!

  1. Decrease Take Out and Learn to Cook

What better way to spend your time than learning a new skill: cooking. Forego overly processed and packaged food from restaurants and stores by cooking your own meals. It can be a great way to involve the family. Food cooked at home will generally have a higher nutrient value. You can also control the amount of fat and seasoning.

  1. Buy Largest Size Packages 

There are times when you will not have a choice but to buy something packaged in plastic. Reduce waste by purchasing the largest size. Why buy two or three small bags of sugar when you can buy a large bag – larger packages reduce the overall amount of packaging. Just make sure that the package is right sized for your family to avoid waste.

  1. Sustainable Cleaning

While hand sanitizer is flying off the shelves, washing your hands in soap wrapped in paper is just as effective at protecting yourself from COVID-19. You can also use soap and water to clean surfaces in your home. Swap out paper towels for cloths or rags which can be washed and reused again. The CDC guidelines all suggest you can make your own disinfecting spray with alcohol solutions of at least 70% alcohol or mixing 1 tsp per cup of water in a spray bottle.

  1. Lower your energy consumption

Help reduce the impact of the pandemic by reducing your electrical consumption.  It’s easier than it sounds – turn off the lights, increase the set point of your air conditioning unit, decrease the heat rate on your water heating tank (if your hot water burns your hands…it’s probably too hot!), use a smart thermostat, ride your bike, walk to your destination and collect rainwater for watering your plants (they will appreciate it) are some of the ways you can lower your energy consumption.

  1. Try Composting

If your city does not have a green bin program, try backyard composting!

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