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5 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste During Covid-19


5 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste During Covid-19

Disposable gloves and masks liter the floor; People buying more hand sanitizer in tiny plastic bottles than they know what to do with; States banning reusable bags and reverting to using single use plastic bags. This is our new 'normal' and it's not okay. The amount of plastic waste is surging because of the coronavirus and it's not a good thing. While it's true air pollution has been reduced during lock down, plastic waste has gone up. That's largely because of the fact a lot of protective gear is made from plastic, and most of it is being discarded carelessly. But that's not the only problem: The plastic industry is taking advantage of the fear and uncertainty in the world to push suspensions and roll backs of environmental measures to reduce plastic pollution, like plastic bag bans. As zero wasters, this can feel like a nightmare. It can make us feel like all our efforts have gone to waste. But there is action we can take to help better the situation. Here are 5 ways to reduce plastic waste during the coronavirus pandemic.

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    5 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste During Covid-19

    Why should we reduce plastic waste during covid-19?


    First off, I just want to say I understand you're bound to make a little more waste than usual during this difficult time. I am not faulting anyone who needs to buy something in plastic or use a disposable mask.

    However, I do believe we should cut back on the amount of waste we produce during this time wherever we can. And there are so many innovative ways to do that.

    During this time, the plastic industry is taking full advantage of the situation. They're using fear as a platform for their products, insisting their products are more sanitary than reusables. Plastic bags, for example, are specifically being pushed as 'the safer option' during this time.

    Many stores and places have forbid shoppers to bring their own reusable bags. My farmers market isn't allowing me to use my reusable produce bags, for example.

    Some places have even gone so far as to roll back plastic bag bans.

    The fear is that the virus will linger on the bags - but is that completely accurate? Not exactly. While there is some possibility the virus can live on reusable bags, these bags can be washed and thus sterilized.

    Also, research has found that the coronavirus actually persists longer on plastics than other materials. The virus was detected up to 72 hours after application to plastic (and stainless steel). This suggests paper bags might be less risky than plastic ones.

    Also, the plastic bags at the grocery stores have been touched by far more people than the reusable ones we carry to the market. So there's a higher chance of contamination from the plastic bags being marketed as 'safe.'

    The point I'm trying to make is, the plastic industry is going out of their way to market their products as the better option now more than ever. It's up to us to not feed into the fear and continue to reduce our plastic consumption as much as we possibly can.

    This could mean buying a reusable mask, making your own DIY mask, or simply getting innovative. But one thing is clear: We don't need more plastic pollution in the world.

    Ocean Conservancy scientists worry that if the temporary rollbacks to plastic bans become permanent, it will undermine so many efforts to reduce single-use plastic and increase ocean pollution going forward. This is the last thing we need.

    Lets fight for what's right - without sacrificing our health, or the planet's.

    5 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste During Covid-19


    How can I reduce plastic waste during covid-19?

    There are so many innovative ways to combat plastic waste during this challenging time.

    Here are some ideas that will inspire you.

    5 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste During Covid-19

    1. Cook food from scratch


    Use this time to get in the kitchen and cook more homemade foods. When you constantly order out, you tend to produce more waste. The same goes for pre-made, pre-packaged foods.

    I know plenty of people who are ordering out more now than ever. While it's nice to support local businesses every once and a while, we shouldn't rely on them completely to feed our family.

    If you're craving pizza, try making it yourself! Want a burger? Make your own from scratch (extra points if it's plant based).

    My family has only ordered out once this entire lock down and it was recently for Chinese food. It was well worth it, but we typically cook all our dinners from whatever we have on hand. I was raised on home cooked meals, after all.

    Now is a really good time to browse through any cookbooks you have on hand, or discover a new food blogger. I love zero waste chef - she's got some amazing recipes on her blog!

    If you're looking for some recipe inspiration, try these simple buy yummy plant-based dinner recipes that I regularly whip up:


    • Seasonal veggie stir fry with wild rice: Boil some water and a cup or two of wild rice, then let it simmer for 40 minutes. In a pan, stir fry your choice of seasonal veggies with garlic, onion and olive oil until soft. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika to taste. Combine the stir fried veggies with the wild rice in a big pot once both are ready, mix together to combine, then serve. Optional: Add a can of tomato paste to your rice, along with a little water, mixing until a creamy texture is formed for added flavor. 
    • Veggie soup with seasonal veggies: In a big pot, bring olive oil, garlic and onion to a sizzle. Add some chopped carrots, celery, and asparagus (if in-season - can sub with chopped peppers or string beans). Mix together and add some salt and pepper to taste. Add in veggie stock and/or water until it covers all the veggies. You can add better than bouillon vegetable base to transform the water into broth if you'd like. Bring the water to a boil, then set to a simmer. Add in spinach or swiss chard, depending on what's in-season. Kale ripped into small pieces could work too. Add more spices and seasonings as needed - I like to add fresh parsley as well. Let the soup cook on a simmer for at least 1 hour, or until everything is easy to fork. Cook some pastina or rice on the side and add it to the soup afterwards. Remove from heat and serve.
    • Roasted root veggies with quinoa: On a baking pan, add chopped garlic, onions, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and any other root veggies in-season you like. Drizzle some olive oil on them and add your favorite seasonings - I usually coat mine in salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, chives and dill. Put it in the oven at around 300 degrees F. Let it cook, checking on it frequently, for about 40 to 45 minutes. Fork them to see if they are done. As that cooks, boil some water and add in a cup or two of quinoa. Strain it once it's done and add any seasonings you like to it, or some plant based butter. Put the quinoa as a base to your bowl, topping it with your roasted veggies. Serve.

    Sometimes you'll catch me whipping up these recipes, and more, on my Instagram account. I'd love to have you follow along!

    Note: These recipes are easy to whip up and taste best when using seasonal, locally grown, fresh produce. Make sure to compost any veggie scraps you're left over with! I've made them several times during this pandemic, so they're my go-to dinner choices that never fail!

    5 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste During Covid-19

    2. Get a reusable cloth mask and reusable gloves


    I recommend investing in a reusable mask, if you haven't already. I got mine from Totally Taylored - an online sustainable shop that transforms fabric scraps, otherwise destined for landfill, into reusable items.

    My reusable mask is super cute and very comfortable. I love the fact I'm helping support a small business too. You can use the code GREENIFYME10 to get 10% off your purchase in Totally Taylored's shop.

    Hopefully, the day will come where we won't have to wear masks in public anymore. That would be amazing. But until then, here are 4 sustainable shops selling reusable cloth masks. If you're good at sewing, try making your own mask.

    If you need gloves, get reusable gloves made from natural rubber. I have these reusable gloves by If You Care - they're all natural and biodegradable. The same cannot be said for single use disposable gloves!

    What's fantastic about If You Care gloves is that they're so versatile, so even after the coronavirus pandemic is over, you'll get a lot of use out of them. You can use them to wash dishes, clean around the house, and garden with them.

    I bought the medium sized gloves, but they also come in small and large. They fit me quite nicely. The inside is lightly dusted with cotton for comfort.

    You'll receive two pairs of gloves in a cardboard box which is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified.

    Make sure to wash your mask and gloves on a regular basis after use. The masks can be hand washed and air dried. My mom also sprays down our gloves with this zero waste disinfectant spray for good measure.

    5 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste During Covid-19

    3. Make your kitchen and bathroom zero waste


    Since we're staying home a lot more than usual right now, now's a great time to make some zero waste kitchen and bathroom swaps.

    I find the kitchen and bathroom to be the most wasteful places in the home. Think about how much time you spend in there, and how many products you go through in each.

    From toilet paper to paper towels, there are so many products that produce tons of waste in these areas of our home.

    Here are some swaps you should consider making to green your home even more.

    Kitchen:




    Bathroom:


    Related: How to Have a Zero Waste Bathroom

    5 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste During Covid-19


    4. Grow your own food, or buy local produce


    I recently joined a community garden and I'm so glad I did. Growing your own food is about as local as you can get! It also comes with zero plastic wrapped around it, so there's that.

    When you have your own garden, you can get access to fresh produce, all without any packaging waste, in your very own backyard.

    If you don't have space to grow a big garden, I suggest looking into square foot gardening, growing a windowsill garden, or joining a community garden. Maybe do a mix of the three. I'm growing herbs on my windowsill and a lot more plants in my community garden.

    I've never had a backyard before, so joining my local community garden just felt so right. Now I can grow my own produce - something I've always wanted to do. Gardening is great exercise, connects you to the earth, and is an invaluable skill to possess. There are so many benefits, so I really recommend giving it a try if you haven't already.

    If you don't feel like you have a green thumb, adequate sunlight, or enough room, you can still get locally grown produce. Try finding a farmers market near you, or seeing if there are any farms selling their produce by you. Here's 9 incredible benefits of going to the farmers market.

    It's usually pretty easy to get food plastic free at the farmers market. There aren't any produce stickers on the produce - at most there's rubber bands around big leafy greens. Lately though, since Covid-19 hit, I haven't been able to pick my own produce, and they haven't been letting me use my own reusable produce bags - which is a total bummer. Still though, they let me put everything into my own tote bags so that counts for something.

    You can also look into CSA boxes and find out if there are any in your area. A CSA box helps support local farmers and delivers the food to you, or will be available for pickup. You don't get to pick what the exact produce inside the box will be, but it varies depending on what the farmer grows and the season.

    All of these options will help you lessen the amount of plastic waste you produce. You won't need multiple plastic bags to take home all your produce, and it won't come to you wrapped in plastic film either.

    Personally, I like to do a mix of things. I get produce at my local farmers market, grow a windowsill garden, and also belong to a community garden. Find something that works for you.

    5 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste During Covid-19


    5. Get into zero waste cleaning


    Now is a great time to switch over to more zero waste cleaning practices. You don't need harsh chemical cleaners to protect your household from viruses and germs.

    All you really need is some zero waste disinfectant spray. It's relatively easy to make and I did a lot of research into it before making it myself. It will help disinfect your surfaces - and that includes killing viruses (like covid-19) on impact.

    Along with that, here are some of my favorite zero waste cleaning products:


    You could also switch over to a more zero waste laundry routine during this time, to further reduce your impact.

    5 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste During Covid-19

    So, what do you think of these tips for reducing plastic waste during covid-19?

    I think it's important we reduce waste where we can and remember not to be so quick to fall into old habits simply for convenience purposes.

    Also, it's very important we watch out for fear mongering, and the plastic industry is doing a lot of that right now. So please, where you can, reduce your plastic waste and don't feed into the fear.

    That said, make sure you stay healthy and do what it is you have to do to keep your loved ones healthy too.

    And please - do not beat yourself up over the waste you produce during this time. That's not what I want for you. Just do the best you can, where you can, and keep what I said in the back of your head to make more educated choices.

    5 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste During Covid-19

    How are you reducing plastic waste during covid-19?

    For more tips during this challenging time, check out my guide to staying zero waste during the coronavirus outbreak.

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