Life during a pandemic is not conducive to waste reduction. When anything you touch, or something touched by others, could carry traces of a virus - suddenly single-use items are looking pretty good.
Before the COVID-19 shelter in place order I was working at a coffee shop. Over the past few years the shop developed a sustainability program founded on a dedication to reduce waste. Coffee grounds were sent to a local farm, to-go cups and lids were made from a compostable material, and all leftover food items were donated to a homeless shelter/food bank.
When the coronavirus situation escalated, the shop made all orders to-go, employees wore latex gloves, and stations were wiped down regularly with sanitary wipes.
Overnight all sustainability efforts went out the window. Suddenly I found myself throwing away numerous items. I even stopped bringing in a reusable drink container.
It is important to be safe, sanitary and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The desire to utilize throwaway products during this time makes a lot of sense. In our last blog post I wrote about how nature is making somewhat of a comeback while humans are shut away in their houses.
We need to remember that when this is all over, and it will be, reducing our waste generation is still important.
Let’s talk about ways that a jenniearle bandana is a great reusable item, and how you can maintain, and remember, to reduce your waste creation for Earth Day.
No, this is not going where you think it is; I’m not going to suggest that you use a bandana as toilet paper (although you can, if you find yourself in such a situation). I’d like to take a moment to address all the toilet paper hoarders out there.
The coronavirus is a respiratory virus, not a gastrointestinal disorder. Although some patients do show symptoms that would call for toilet paper...it still doesn’t warrant cleaning out the entire aisle at a grocery store. Now that stores have been cleared out of toilet paper, by a subset of people, a cycle has begun that will almost guarantee that toilet paper will remain scarce for the rest of the pandemic. Here’s the math:
Someone sees a person buying toilet paper on the evening news COVID-19 headline + that person and millions more decide that they too need to stock up on toilet paper = no toilet paper for everyone.
People who did not hoard toilet paper now cannot find any (and they only need a few rolls) + mildly restocked toilet paper shelves = non-hoarders are now going to clear the shelves out of genuine necessity. And the cycle continues.
So don’t be that person.
Everyday, on a non-pandemic day, 27,000 trees are cut down to make toilet paper. Who knows what the number is now that demand is so high. Reduce your waste, and impact on the planet, please!
bandana face mask
reduce waste: throwaway masks
Yes yes yes! We shared quotes and articles from medical professionals that establish a bandana - or any double layer of high quality cotton - as a safe and high-performing face mask option. We also made a video to help you fold and prepare for your journey to the grocery store.
bandana as a protective barrier
reduce waste: sanitary wipes
In addition to a face mask, a bandana is a great item to keep in your purse or backpack during the COVID-19 pandemic. Need to open a door? Use your bandana as a barrier between your hand and the door handle. Need to punch buttons on the self-checkout screen, or the credit card reader? Cover your finger! We talk about this and other wellness ideas in this post.
bandana as a snack pouch
reduce waste: plastic bags
I’ve noticed impromptu picnics during my walks these days. I see friends sitting in a circle, yards apart, eating lunch or drinking cool drinks in the sun. Co-workers circle their cars in a parking lot and sit on their bumpers to enjoy some social-distanced quality time.
A bandana is easily tied into a large, or smaller (fold it in half) pouch for snacks. When I hike with my mom I notice that she pulls the corners of the bandana through her belt loop before tying in a knot. Her snack pouch hangs at her waist, close by for quick munch.
compost your food waste
reduce waste: give back to the earth
Most of my garbage is food-based. A few months ago I started an open-air composting pile in my backyard (no, it doesn’t smell). I felt proud, and more balanced, knowing that my waste was not going to the landfill, but back into my yard soil.
Food waste does not break down in landfills. Landfills do not provide enough oxygen to breakdown waste. Oxygen is necessary for aerobic decomposition; the kind that happens in nature. Anaerobic decomposition, which occurs with a lack of oxygen, is what primarily happens in our landfills. This produced noxious, smelly gases.
If you’re in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County in North Carolina, you can check out Gallins Family Farm’s residential compost pickup service! For those of you elsewhere, see if your neighborhood has a garden, or research small farms in your area. If you’re brave (really it’s not too hard) you can start a pile in your own yard and use it for your garden next season.
There are still things we can do, even during a pandemic, to help our planet.
Happy earth day.