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Stay Home, Stay Safe, and Stay Sustainable

As the world enters into the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, a question that is likely to be on many people’s minds is: “when is this going to be over?”. But while we sit here and wish time to pass more quickly so we can return back to the way things used to be, what is often being overlooked is how our new adapted way of living is damaging the environment. 

It is not news to anyone that a lot has changed in the last 9 months. Socializing, traveling and consuming all looks vastly different to what it did at the start of 2020 mostly in an effort to protect the population and get this virus under control. Unfortunately, many restrictions and policies that have been introduced to bolster health and safety, have also resulted in a spike in the use of harmful plastics and unnecessary waste. For example, reusable cup programs have been discontinued in by coffee shops; more restaurants are using disposable items rather than items that need to be cleaned and reused; online shopping (which consequently comes with large amounts of plastic packaging) has increased exponentially; and the list goes on. In fact, our plastic usage has increased somewhere between 250% - 350% in 2020 alone!

The effectiveness of the measures being enforced to contain this virus is undeniable, but what is even more obvious is the detrimental effect they have on the environment. The world has suffered so much this year. Our economy has taken a hit, we have experienced emotional trauma from the loss of loved ones, and we have adapted to a completely “new normal”. We have all made sacrifices in an attempt to live a somewhat normal life, but does this mean we should sacrifice our commitment to sustainability and reducing waste? It is true that the policies introduced are to enhance our safety, but since many of them are associated with higher levels of waste, we should be actively searching for ways to reduce plastic waste in other areas. 

Here are three things any individual can do: 

  1. Cut off elastics on disposal masks before throwing them away OR buy a reusable mask;
  2. Be selective when shopping for groceries online and lean into options which use less plastic;
  3. Research companies that are making a conscious effort to reduce their use of plastic.

Abraham Lincoln famously said, “this too shall pass” and so will the COVID-19 pandemic. As the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter and brighter, we must all remember that the actions which we take now will have effects that will be fully visible when we get to that light.

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