Zero Waste Amidst The Pandemic

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen our sustainability-minded community ask: “What does this global pandemic mean for the zero waste movement?” We’ve even come across the question: “is this the end of zero waste?”

In our opinion, the answer is a resounding no! No, this is not the end of the zero waste movement.

It was disheartening to first see our favorite coffee joints refuse reusables, and then it was the grocery stores banning reusable bags and closing the bulk bins. These were the easy sustainable changes we were first taught to make. The gateway into zero waste. Bring your own bag. Bring your own cup. Now it’s disposable bags and to-go cups. Now we find plastic gloves and disposable masks littering the sidewalk. We totally get why it may feel like the zero waste-world is crumbling. But we feel it’s so important to remember that this movement is about so much more than the bag and the cup. Along with the plastic straw, they’ve become poster children for the greater cause. So during this difficult time, we’re instead focusing on the other aspects of zero waste that we have more control over! 

First, it’s so incredibly important to acknowledge how unprecedented and unsettling this time is. Physical and mental health comes first, always. If you find more plastic in your household than usual, please don’t beat yourself up! Our purchasing habits have had to adapt, too. Don’t have the energy or mental capacity to take on zero waste right now? It’s totally understandable and completely ok! Don’t judge others and don’t judge yourself. We’re all navigating this uncharted, and often unsettling, territory together and we’re doing the best we can. 

If you’re looking for ways to continue implementing zero waste goals into your life, we’ve come up with a few below! We hope they help! Anything we missed? Add your thoughts in the comments below! 

  • Try to be mindful of food waste. The USDA estimates that in the United States, between 30-40% of the food supply is wasted. While food loss can occur at all levels of the supply chain - from production to the consumer - we can do our part by reducing waste on our end.

    • Make weekly meal plans – this drastically helps reduce waste by ensuring you’re only buying what you need.

    • Research proper food storage techniques - reduces unnecessary loss due to spoilage!

    • Compost food scraps – start a compost bin if you can (if you space constrained like us, look into local contactless drop offs or pick-up services)

  • Online shopping is tempting, especially while stuck at home. But be mindful of purchases, only buy what you need, and do your research to make sure you’re purchasing from a sustainable brand and avoiding fast fashion!

    • We’ve found it helps to write down whatever it is you want to buy and keep that list around for a few weeks before hitting the checkout button! It helps weed out those impulse buys. 

  • Can’t bring a reusable bag into the store? Load your groceries back into the cart and take it out to the car where your bags will be waiting to be filled!

  • Start brewin’ up coffee at home! Honestly, we love the process almost as much as the coffee itself. We use a French press and compost the grounds. No to-go cups, coffee filters, or k-cups needed! While the bulk section isn’t offered anymore at our local grocery store, the bags that bulk came in are for sale!

  • Choose unpackaged produce (loose greens as opposed to pre-packaged, fruit that doesn’t come in a plastic container)

  • Choose the bigger size when possible (if it can be used before it expires).

  • Bulk at the grocery store may no longer be an option, but you may be able to find larger quantities online! We were bummed gluten-free flour is typically sold in stores in such a small bag! But online, we found a 25-pound bag!

  • Avoid anything individually wrapped or packaged (ex. a plastic bag of trail mix with smaller individual serving-sized plastic bags of trail mix inside)

  • Support your local refill shop (like Without Waste Shop!). Many are offering deliveries!

  • Brush up on what’s going on regarding environmental policy-making, from a local level to a national level. While minimizing your personal environmental footprint is amazing, there’s so much waste produced behind the scenes during the manufacturing process. Policy change is what’s desperately needed! Not sure where to start? We like to stay up to date with the campaigns the Surfrider Foundation is working on. 

  • Learn something new! Pick a sustainability topic and do some research!

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