There aren’t a lot of upsides to what is happening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lost jobs, financial insecurity, isolation, health worries and cracks in our state structure feel overwhelming and ever-present. However, staying focused on ourselves and our homes can have a simplifying effect that makes us reconsider our past habits. With fewer distractions and fewer consumer options, it has become much easier to reduce waste in our daily lives. We’ve picked a few changes you may have already made, without even know you were helping the earth!
Wear the Same Clothes 2-3 Days in a Row
Maybe you’re thinking: I’m WAAAAAY ahead of you as you snuggle into your most comfortable PJs. But even if you’re not wearing your pajamas all day, you’ve probably shifted gears about how you’re getting dressed. Being away from the judging eyes of the public makes you realize how much getting dressed is about how we appear to others. It also means a lot more laundry. Wearing the same outfit for a few days not only saves you on loads of laundry, it also makes it simpler to get ready in the morning. I realized that after two months, I haven’t even looked at about 80-90% of my closet. You can still feel good about how you look and wear something comfortable. Imagine…two to three outfits a week! It’s so simple, it HAS to work.
Air-Dry Your Clothes (now that you have time to hang them)
Speaking of laundry, one of the biggest drawbacks to air-drying your clothes has now vanished: the time to do it. Temperatures are warming up and it’s the best time of the year to let the air and sun do the work of your electric or gas dryer. You’ll save on electricity or gas, plus give yourself a reason to spend a few minutes outdoors (hopefully) in the sunshine. Even if you live in cooler climates, you can efficiently dry your clothes on a line or drying rack. We even provided some tests on how quickly clothes will dry in different conditions and how much money (and energy) you can save. You’ll reduce your energy waste and save a few dollars.
Reduce Food Packaging Waste by Cooking More
Again, you may be thinking: I’m WAY ahead of you as your time at home has allowed you to explore your inner chef and baker. It seems everyone has their own sourdough starter now. When we cook more, using ingredients that we tend to buy in bulk (flour, sugar, oil, beans, etc) we reduce the waste we would generate if those portions were individually packaged. By eating less takeout and going to the store less for quick meals that are all wrapped in plastic, we put less in the landfill that is already overwhelmed with food packaging waste.
Lost jobs and income due to COVID-19, combined with doubt that our food supply will be consistent, have caused many people to consider growing food for the first time. Responding to the huge boom in seed sales and Instagram pics of newly-dug earth, we even drafted a few tips for beginner gardeners to get them started. It is unlikely that most people have enough space to actually sustain themselves and their own family but, growing a garden has a lot of other wonderful side effects.
Primarily, you reduce package waste for produce you would buy in the store. You also pick only what you’re eating, versus buying an estimated amount you’ll use and potentially letting part of it go to waste. You’ll also likely start to compost since it’s one of the most reliable and sensible ways to add nutritious, organic content to your soil. This means that all compostable content including food, newspaper, yard waste, cardboard and more can go into your compost pile and not into your trash can or recycle bin. Believe it or not, you may also reduce your use of water by developing soil that retains water better (a “soil sponge”). This means less wasting water on lawns or ornamental plants that don’t improve the quality of your soil and create a lot of runoff.
Save on Your Car
Do we really need to say it? If you are driving a gas-powered car, staying at home has HUGELY reduced your gas consumption. Reports of clear skies and lower pollution levels only highlight how much our driving habits have an effect on air quality. As much as some have tried to explain it away, it is clear that our skies are clearer thanks to fewer cars on the road. You’re also saving on wear and tear, oil changes, damaged tires, chemical leakage and so much more.
Whether your motives are to save the earth, save some money or just save on laundry, your time at home can shift standard habits and ways of operating. We can begin to see how having less in some ways can give us back more in other ways, while helping to reduce our overall waste. This could be the beginning of a new understanding of what our core values are and how we could live with less, wasteful distractions that may cause more harm than good.