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Sustainability During a Pandemic

Updated: Oct 11, 2020

COVID-19 has completely uprooted the way we live, work, attend school, and socialize. While most of us are agonizing over the thousands of lives COVID-19 has taken, some scientists are celebrating as they watch greenhouse gas and pollution emissions fall all over the world. As the majority of society practices social distancing and quarantining at home, the amount of driving and flying we're doing has significantly decreased in correlation to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to this, mass-manufacturers, notorious for burning extensive amounts of coal have in many cases slowed production, and in doing so, decreased the amount of CO2 usually released during production.

Across the world, we are seeing numerous positive impacts resulting from a decreased amount of human activity, - Venice’s canals are clearer than ever before, and locals in Punjab, India report being able to see the Himalayan Mountain range from over one hundred miles away due to a mass decrease in air pollution. As our Earth slowly begins to heal, we cannot forget that climate change is still an incredibly severe and complex issue that is nowhere near close to being solved. Small positive changes around the world, - although great for the time being, will likely not be sustained once we return to normalcy. That being said, here are five ways to be more sustainable during the pandemic that you can continue to implement even after virus.

Before we begin, I would like to point out that not everyone is fortunate enough to be working from home, or in the best financial position to practice sustainability. With that in mind, I wanted to ensure that most of the following tips cost little to no money and are easy to implement for anyone, and everyone, regardless of your situation.

1. Minimize Waste From Pandemic Essentials

Instead of using single-use disposable masks, invest in a reusable mask. Although the upfront cost may be slightly more than buying a pack of ten disposable masks, in the end, you actually end up saving money since you can use a reusable mask over and over again. Even when disposed of correctly, disposable masks will often end up harming wildlife, in addition to taking years to decompose. You can take this one step further by buying your mask from a sustainable retailer, or even sewing your own mask!

Hand sanitizer is another essential thing to have during the pandemic. If possible, try buying hand sanitizer in large bottles rather than smaller ones in order to reduce packaging waste. If you already have a small hand sanitizer bottle that’s running low, instead of buying a new one, you could buy a gallon-sized hand sanitizer bottle, and refill your small ones with it. Similar to reusable masks, buying hand sanitizer in a large gallon-sized bottle will have a greater upfront cost than buying it in a small bottle, but over time you will end up saving money since you won’t need to continue to buy small bottles of hand sanitizer. A large bottle of hand sanitizer will last you a long time, so even after the pandemic you won’t have to invest in hand sanitizer for a while.

2. Support Your Local Businesses

Small businesses are among the most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Whether it be a restaurant or an independent book store, try to support your local businesses to the best of your ability while staying safe. Instead of ordering dinner from a multi-national restaurant chain, order from a family-run restaurant. If it’s safe for you and your family, buy your groceries from a farmers market. Small businesses are fighting to stay afloat, so little things can genuinely make a huge difference.

3. Start a Garden

Those of us fortunate enough to be working, or attending school from home most likely have some added free time on our hands. Starting a garden can be a great way to alleviate stress, and have some fun while you’re at home. Not only do gardens help the environment by reducing air pollution, minimizing your carbon footprint, and providing a food source for animals and insects, they have been proven to relieve stress and increase overall happiness. Gardening is a simple thing that can cause a lot of joy, as well as benefit the environment. Even if you live in an apartment, getting a few indoor plants can improve the air quality of your space, along with increase your productivity level and overall happiness.

4. Practice Conscious Consumption

As we socially distance ourselves from one another, some people, are finding themselves buying and consuming much less. On the opposite side of the spectrum, some of us are using online shopping as a way to cope with increased anxiety that living in a pandemic brings. Regardless of which category you fall under, now more than ever is a great time to take a minute to stop and reassess your monthly spendings. Making yourself aware of how much, and on what you are spending your money on, will not only ensure you’re equipped to make financially smart decisions in the future, it will allow you to understand what and how much you are spending on certain aspects of your life. Practicing conscious consumption means really considering if you need something before buying it. In doing so, you can cut down on your spendings, as well as minimize buying things you don’t need, in turn benefiting the environment.

5. Form Sustainable Habits

With the newly found extra hours many of us are experiencing, now is a great time to start forming sustainable habits that you can continue to implement in the post COVID-19 world. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Start a compost bin (it’s easier than it seems!)

  • Bring reusable bags when you're shopping for groceries

  • Pack your food in a reusable container

  • Use a reusable water bottle

  • Try a plant-based diet

  • Get in the habit of turning off the lights when you leave a room

  • Digitalize certain aspects of your life to save paper

  • Ride a bike instead of driving whenever possible

  • When eating at a restaurant, bring a reusable container to put your leftovers in.

Implementing even half of the habits and tips described above will significantly reduce your carbon footprint, and help you live a more sustainable life during, and after the pandemic. Although COVID-19 has proved to be beneficial to the environment over the past few months, if we want to continue to sustain and build on the positive changes in a post-pandemic world, we all need to do our part. After all, when implemented by a large group, small individual changes really do make a difference.

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