Rethink Sustainability During the Pandemic: Make Your Change
Surviving a pandemic is new to all of us. There are many things in which we are adapting to and learning alongside each other, whilst balancing our mental and physical health. One thing which we might forget to have a think about is how sustainable we are being through these unprecedented times and the impact our lifestyle choices are having on our environment. Here are a few things to think about whilst adapting to your new lockdown life!
One of the main things people have been experiencing at this time is boredom. With a lack of things to do and an abundance of time, we naturally look for a way to overcome this. One of these things is online shopping. Going to a physical store is much more sustainable than ordering online, however we just don't have that option during the Pandemic. The main reason for this is because of how people shop online: Many buy items frequently but they only buy a few per purchase. Frequent online purchases produce more packaging waste, and online items tend to come from different distribution centers. Both factors result in higher greenhouse gas emissions per item. Therefore, one way in which you can make an online order is to do larger and less frequent orders. Also pay attention as to whether the company advertises eco friendly packaging and avoid ‘next day’ deliveries.
The closest we have to shopping in an actual store at the moment is by safely, and from a distance, buying things from friends, neighbours and acquaintances and you can do this a number of ways. One way in which this could be possible is if you arrange to give each other an item that you already own, and drop the items off at each other’s houses. You can pay online to avoid any contact and leave the gift on the recipient's doorstep, walk a distance away and text them to open the door. If you don't want to have to arrange a swap yourself, or dont know anyone with anything worth swapping, you can download an app called Swapabee and let it do the work for you! After downloading the app, all you have to do is list any items you want to swap and choose someone with an item at a similar value to yours. Through Swapabee, you can arrange a meet place and time. Remember to wear your reusable mask!
Speaking of masks, they have become a real problem for our environment. Face coverings are now a legal requirement in many public spaces around the world. But even before they became compulsory, masks were causing litter problems on land and at sea. One February beach clean in Hong Kong found 70 masks along 100 metres of shoreline, with 30 more appearing a week later. In the Mediterranean, masks have reportedly been seen floating like jellyfish. The main reason as to why it is such an issue is because people don't know how to properly and respectfully discard their face coverings. After entering the sea, animals are able to feed on surgical masks leading them to either choke or if not, they can become malnourished as the materials fill up their stomachs but provide no nutrients.
So what can you actually do about the surplus of masks invading our environment and habitats? Well, the first step is to purchase a reusable mask. You can do this through supporting small, local businesses, as well as making a purchase through the environmentally friendly app Swapabee, as mentioned earlier. Although it has been found that even their specific design and how you choose to clean them has an impact. Machine washing reusable masks with no filters have lower environmental impact than those which are disposable, reusable, and reusable with disposable filters. It has also been found that hand washing them has a higher impact than machine washing, as although it doesn't use electricity, it does use more water and detergent per single mask. Therefore, the best face mask you can purchase is one which is reusable without disposable filters and you should Machine wash them regularly. But how about you are in a situation where you have to use a disposable mask? Don’t put disposable masks in the recycling. They can get caught in specialist recycling equipment and be a potential biohazard to waste workers. What you should do is cut the straps so that if they do end up in places they shouldn't be, they can't get tangled up in the mouths or necks of animals. You should take your masks home with you (put it on a bag if you have to take it off) and place it in a bin with a lid.
With having to stay home comes a lot of responsibility, one of those being that you are expected to cook for yourself every night. 26% of Britons say they have been ordering more takeaways since the virus hit and as a result, the planet is being affected. The packaging used for takeaways might be a cause for concern as the throwaway nature of such items means that millions of tons of plastic waste are created, much of this can enter waterways and oceans. However, it is not easy to ask someone to stop having takeaways, especially in the situation we find ourselves in at the moment, and for that reason here are some tips on how to have a greener meal. When ordering takeout meals, specify that you don’t want napkins and utensils and make sure to Reward restaurants that use sustainable products. This could mean that your food arrives in compostable packaging, or at least recyclables, instead of polystyrene foam. It is important to let them know they are doing a great job, and to those who aren’t, tell them! Another easy way to decrease the carbon footprint of your meal is if you are able to walk to the restaurant to pick it up, then do so. This saves the company from sending out a car to drop off the goods, saving them time and petrol.
After making some small changes to your lifestyle, all sorts of benefits will be seen in the environment around you. Now, hopefully you can start to educate your friends and family on how to dispose of a mask correctly, as well as which takeaways to support or not. Remember that we only make a change with persistence! Stay safe and happy!