We find ourselves in a strange and unique time. For many, the current pandemic presents truly horrific and painful realities – illness, death, job and income loss, the cancellation of important life events. Birthing without our support people, funerals without a comforting hug, separation from those we love, deferment of celebrations and trips, loneliness and anxiety are realities many face.
In these times we find comfort in regularity, in routine, in the things we can control. But big or small, many things have been taken out of our control in this time. For those of us trying to live a zero-waste lifestyle, many of our routine zero waste practices in our shopping and dining habits have been disrupted. Your favorite coffee shop no longer allows you to use your own tumbler, and have also done away with their “for here” cups. Curbside pick up means your items are packaged in single-use containers, single-use bags, some of which aren’t recyclable. Bulk sections of many stores are closed, as are buffet, salad and hot bars. Even self-serve coffee and beverage stations are closed to limit any potential spread of germs.
Of course, all of this is understandable. If taking these precautions prevents the spread of this disease, absolutely we should be doing all that we can. It can be disheartening, however, whether you are at the beginning of your zero-waste journey or have been zero-waste for a long time, to accept a plastic bag in lieu of your fabric bags. It can even feel quite icky. I understand. And while we could choose not to get food or beverages from our local shops during the restriction period, those that are still open for business truly need our support during this fragile time. And so, choices have to be made. Choices that don’t always feel like a win at all. And so I say to you – give yourself grace. Recognize that life before Covid-19 looked very different, felt very different, and allowed for different decisions than life during Covid-19 does. Give yourself grace. This will be over, someday in the near future, and life will go back to what it was before, maybe a little better in some ways. But for now, we do what we can, and keep ourselves and our community safe in whatever way we can. Let’s talk about the zero-waste choices we can make during this time.
- Notice and rejoice in all the ways zero waste has made this time a little less difficult. Whether it’s cloth diapers and wipes instead of disposable, homemade toothpaste and household cleaner, rags and handkerchiefs instead of paper towels and tissues, or family cloth instead of toilet paper – zero waste certainly gives us a leg up on the shopping frenzy that has taken hold across the country. I’m grateful in this time that I’ve already learned to live without many of these products that have become scarce in recent weeks.
- Use your own reusable water bottle and tumbler for drinks from home. Go on hikes by yourself or with your family, and bring your own reusable water bottle, coffee cup, snack bags and containers. Have a picnic in a wide open space – no waste required!
- Make your own – whether it’s a meal, a loaf of bread, coffee or a smoothie. The things you typically purchase from a store, see if you can make these prepared goods at home. You’ve never tried before? Now is a great time to learn! It sure beats going from store to store seeking out an acceptable loaf of bread.
- Support local farmers. Many farmer’s markets and roadside produce stands are still open, observing social distancing guidelines while providing fresh and package-free food. Our local producers need our support right now, and nothing beats fresh, local, in season produce. It’s spring and the bounty of food is starting to arrive. I know I’m excited that our CSA (Hilltop Farms) is about to start up – I can’t wait to get all the fresh veggies I’ve been craving and unable to find!
- Recycle what you can. Grocery bags are certainly recyclable, and just like at any other time, try to give preference to products that come in a recyclable or reusable container. Maybe you can’t buy from bulk at this time, and in some places even loose produce is not currently available. When given a choice, choose the most recyclable option. Now might be a great time to research Terracycle if you haven’t before! We are definitely getting more use out of our Terracycle box than usual.
- Be green in every other way. Some of the positive news that has come out of this pandemic is that our reduced emissions (from working from home, schools and businesses closed, sporting and entertainment events cancelled) has already shown it’s effects in reduced smog and improved air quality, water quality, and space for wildlife. Do your part by staying off the roads as much as possible, use less water and less electricity as you’re able to. Plant a vegetable garden, some flowers, a tree. Do a trash pick up on your hike. Use this time to reduce and rethink your shopping and consuming habits. There are so many other ways to be green.
This is a difficult time for all of us in so many different ways. It’s okay if your journey looks different right now. Give yourself grace, make the best decisions when you have a choice at all, and recognize that the path looks different for everyone in the best of times, it will look different for each of us in this trying time as well. Like all things, this shall pass, and we will find a new norm on the other side – hopefully with all the good bits and less of the bad. Take care of yourselves and each other. Stay safe, friends.