This quarantine is a difficult but necessary measure to get this pandemic under control. It hasn’t been easy (especially not if you’re restless like me) but after the initial shock, I’ve been able to find a few good things. Read on to find out how to easily be eco-friendly by simply staying home and using things you already own.
My Eco-Friendly Shortcomings in 2019
On this blog I do my best not to sound self-righteous or preachy because there is literally no such thing as perfection. Especially not when it comes to being eco-friendly. It’s a trial-and-error process for most of us. Top top it off it’s always changing as new information keeps popping up. So the best thing you can do is learn from experience and adapt to the things that fit within your lifestyle.
Last year, my lifestyle was very much on-the-go. I decided 2019 was the year of catching flights, not feelings. It was a year of temporary living, of trying a city on for size like a pair of shoes. I hopped from California to New York then back to California then suddenly jetting off to London again. Then I came back to California for the holidays and went on quite a few local trips.
For me, last year’s no-so-eco-friendly culprits were throw-away coffee cups, single-use utensils, and paper napkins as well as traveling by car and plane. (I bought carbon offsets for my trips so I felt justified, I’ll have an article up soon on if this was the right thing to do or not.) These are all things I use when I get take-out on the road… which I did quite a lot since I usually found myself out and about all the time. The room I was subletting was not much more than a place to sleep.
Now the room I’m in is much more than that— it’s my world. And although this isn’t as exciting as a bustling big city might be, it does have its perks. I’m lucky to be able to be with my Californian family during all this, and doing so has afforded me luxuries that I don’t normally enjoy on the road.
Creating Less Waste at Home
Full disclosure: I couldn’t have picked a worse year to try my best to reduce the waste I create. But instead of giving up I’m trying to think of it as a challenge. I can honestly say that being at home has made me the least wasteful I’ve ever been! I don’t need takeout cups for coffee or tea while staying home, I can use my favorite mug instead. I eat all my meals with utensils I wash and reuse. I have cotton handkerchiefs that I’ve been using in place of paper napkins. I’m going almost 100% zero-waste in comparison to last year and it took me almost no effort.
On top of that, having no choice but to stay at home gives me free time that I didn’t even know I had. I’ll admit in the first week or so of the quarantine I used that spare time to binge-play the Sims or scroll forlornly on my phone pretending I was wandering around aimlessly in a city I missed. But now this spare time has encouraged me to cook. Like really cook. I’m used to making food for myself and I take a lot of pride in being independent… but I usually default to meal-prepping and end up rushing everything. Right now, there’s no reason to cut corners on new recipes. I can test them out to my heart’s content.
Also, now that we all don’t have the option to dine-in (which creates less waste since most cutlery is washed and reused) I’ve been avoiding take-out more than usual for environmental and budget reasons. When I go shopping I try to buy foods with as little plastic packaging as possible and have been trying my hardest to only buy as much as I can carry. This of course is becoming very difficult to do since my usual staples of reusable grocery and produce bags are currently banned until further notice in California.
They’re also still implementing the $0.10 charge per plastic bag purchased and most people end up having to buy a couple when they check out. I’m not trying to badmouth these people. Having to buy a bag out of necessity isn’t a bad thing to do. But I made a promise to myself and my stubborn ass is gonna hold all of my shopping out of the supermarket until this is all over. (I’m a mess, I know. It’s all a mess and we can’t wait to be out of the woods here.)
Reusable Masks + Gloves: A Good or Bad Idea?
After seeing all the viral news about face masks being washed into the ocean, I’ve also decided to use a cloth face mask that I can wash and reuse. I am not a doctor or nurse treating COVID-19. I am not in a high-risk group. So this face mask is protecting others from germs I might have, not protecting me from the virus. This works very well for me. It may not work for someone else who may be at risk. Just something to keep in mind in case your situation is different from mine.
I’ve also brought out my wintertime wool gloves to wash and reuse. Full disclosure: I’m also the kind of person who never took her gloves off in the subway if she needed to touch the handrail in the winter. I also don’t eat with my hands until I’ve either washed them or used hand sanitizer. And I never touch my face if my hands are dirty.
Health organizations are recommending that you use a combination of hand-washing, isolation, and other measures of protection to prevent the spread of the virus. Those of us not in any high-risk groups need to be protecting others from germs we may potentially be carrying to flatten the curve. So by doing all of the above I feel I’m able to justify having these reusable things in my anti-coronavirus arsenal.
Again, I’m not advising you do this if it doesn’t fit into your situation. You do you. I’m just explaining what I’ve been doing and why I’m doing it. But also, you should be washing your hands and staying home. At a minimum.
Eco-Friendly Habits I’m Keeping After the Quarantine
The challenge of trying not to give up my eco-friendly habits while still following the recommendations to keep others safe from the virus has been interesting. But I must say that I don’t know if this virus is going to forever change the way we live. I don’t have that kind of clairvoyance.
I hope that when this is all over we can go back to bringing our reusable shopping bags and cups. But I don’t know how how the eco-friendly and zero-waste movements are going to be affected after all this is over. Will all reusable bags and mugs be banned after this? Are plastic use taxes going to be redacted? Do dine-in restaurants need to use disposable cutlery from now on? I couldn’t tell you.
All I know is that I am likely to change my own eco-friendly habits from now on no matter what the rules end up being. I’m already broke as it is and eating out has already become a rare thing for me to do. So making my own food and packing my own lunch is definitely going to continue. If I must have my caffeine fix I’ll bring coffee or tea from home in my reusable travel cups. My DIY zero-waste kits are still coming with me no matter where I travel. I’m still gonna shop vintage and secondhand. And I’ll be damned if I have to buy a plastic bag when I go grocery shopping. I’ll haul everything I can fit in my arms and my purse to infinity and beyond. I don’t care how weird I look.
But I really do hope that we can get our communities back together after all this is over. I hope farmer’s markets come back. I can’t wait to lay out in the sun on the beach all day again. I want to go to another concert, attend another gallery opening, visit a museum again. I’ll admit this quarantine hasn’t been a smooth ride for some of us. Safety at home and mental health are important. Find help and get it if you need it.
Remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it’s hard to see sometimes. It will not be like this forever. So stay strong everyone. The day is going to come when we get told we can gather in groups again and it’ll easily be the best day of 2020.