The COVID-19 global pandemic brought many changes, some of them including new ways to shop. Out of the sudden, disposable masks and gloves were required, as well as single use plastic bags. As the weeks progressed and the quarantine/self-isolation continued, I thought of the ways I can continue, safely, to practice my sustainable shopping habits. Therefore, I would like to share them with you in the hopes that they will inspire you and perhaps give you some ideas moving forward.
1. I used, bagged and washed my reusable grocery bags
For the first few weeks, I was not allowed to use my reusable shopping bags and had to rely on the plastic ones provided by the stores. This did not sit well with me. Even though grocery plastic bags can be collected at the stores and then recycled, I knew that in the current circumstance they most likely won’t be due to the risk of spreading the infection. So after a while, I kept insisting to use my own, bagging the groceries myself (something I would offer to do anyway) and making sure that I washed them properly after each use. I also made a habit of only going shopping once a week and to a single store, to reduce the chances of contamination. As for the plastic bags that sometimes produce comes in, I simply wash them with soapy water, let them air dry and reuse again and again.
2. I asked for paper containers, cups and bags when using drive-through pick up
I do not eat out very often, nor do I use the drive-through very much, simply because I really enjoy cooking at home.
But, for the odd times when I needed an iced-cold coffee or a salad and had to make a stop whilst driving, I made sure to request, if it was available, all paper/cardboard and no plastic containers. The reason for this is that paper and cardboard will much easily and quickly biodegrade, whereas plastic, in hundreds of years (!). And given that our recycling center is momentarily closed, I wanted to reduce the impact on the environment as much as possible.
3. I brought my reusable coffee cup at my local coffee shops
And asked them kindly if they would prepare my drink in one of their in-house mugs and then, to let me pour it back into my own mug.
Which they did, and I am so grateful for it because it allowed me to avoid leaving with yet another plastic/paper/styrofoam coffee cup that would have ended up in the landfill. You can do the same. Ask your local coffee shop to use one of their own in-house mugs (like ceramic or porcelain) to prepare the drink and then, to allow you to pour the drink into your own reusable mug that you can then take with you.
4. I used sanitizer and washed my hands thoroughly instead of using plastic gloves
Since I rely on a car to get around (there is no city-wide public transport where I live) I knew that sanitizing my hands and everything I touched in the car will be the first thing I need to do after grocery shopping.
Then, washing my hands thoroughly, the surfaces and the reusable grocery bags. This at least allowed me to stop using gloves (which I have done at the very beginning) especially since their use has skyrocketed in the medical field due to the pandemic and continues to do so. I have also washed and reused my mask multiple times. It’s a little thing, but it adds up and balances the increased use of the plastic gloves in the medical field.
5. I washed and repurposed containers
As for the rest of the containers that food sometimes comes in, like glass jars and cans, I made sure to wash/reuse/re-purpose as many as I could, and generally stay away from plastic.
For example, when choosing between two similar products, let’s say peanut butter, I would go for the one in a glass jar, rather than the one bottled in plastic, because I can more easily re-purpose and recycle the glass one rather than the plastic (for example, all of my storage containers in the kitchen are repurposed glass jars). This has been of utmost importance to me since I found out that our local recycling center, which is closed at the moment, has stopped recycling plastic a year ago.
Of course, some of these measures may simply not work in your area, or perhaps you are already using them. However, I am super interested to hear about the ways in which you were able to keep shopping sustainably, if that was even a possibility in your area/city, and what changes you had to make in order to do so.
As always, please be kind to yourself. It has been a hard period of adjustment and for many of us, some of these methods may not work/are not feasible. So, just do the best you can, with what is available to you, knowing that even small changes, like washing and reusing the plastic bags or using reusable shopping bags, have an impact and contribute to a greener, sustainable consumerism.
A really neat thing about the habits mentioned above is that you can start using them now, and continue to do so, even when the pandemic will have finally subsided and we will all go back to a more predictable routine.
So let me know your thoughts on this and much love, and health to you!
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*photo found on pexels.com