We started off the spring with the best of intentions, committing to small changes that would add up to a big impact, to do our daily part to take better care of the Earth. With the pandemic hitting the US hard in March, refillable containers became unsafe and were no longer allowed at grocery stores, and the CDC issued recommendations to wear gloves and masks, many of which are single-use and waste-creating.
It hasn’t been all bad. Some of us have learned how to grow and prepare our own food, eliminating packaging waste and carbon emissions. We’re driving less, and looking for ways to be more sustainable.
Still, we figured that it’s time to take stock of the situation and have a closer look. What have you learned about your own habits through the pandemic? How have your buying and food habits shifted? What’s changed, and how can we all commit to continuing the positive changes we’ve made even after the economy reopens? We want to hear from you—tag us on Instagram and let us know!
Before the pandemic took hold, how did you move toward a more sustainable lifestyle? What changes, if any, did you make or plan to make to leave less of an imprint on Earth?
“I purchased a water filter so that even when home (and away from our beloved FloWater) I could eliminate waste produced from purchasing single-use glass and plastic bottles.” — Alyssa Shapiro (she/her), Los Angeles
“Prior to the pandemic, since I traveled a lot for work, I would carry my own wooden utensils and reusable straw that were gifted by an amazing colleague. So, I was doing my best to eliminate single use plastics whenever possible. — Su Lee (she/her), New York
“Pre-pandemic, I got super focused on where my food was coming from and how much waste was created by the way I was eating (bye, Postmates). Farmer’s markets, CSA boxes, and growing our own food helped ensure our dollars were supporting independent farmers (no pesticides + helping family businesses) and helped reduce our overall carbon footprint.” — Madeline Davis (she/her), Los Angeles
“I have water filters in my apartment. I use reusable straws, carrier bags, napkins, glass bottles, and utensils. I recycle everything that I can. I belong to a neighborhood CSA and shop at the farmers market whenever possible. I also preach the importance of “Reduce Reuse Recycle” to all who will listen.” —Janine James (she/her), New York
“I was practicing all the usual sustainability go-tos: reusable produce bags, no single-use coffee runs, bringing my lunches to work, and buying dry goods and cleaning supplies in bulk with upcycled jars. I also committed to eliminating fast fashion from my wardrobe.” — Kimmie Torgerson (she/her), Los Angeles
What positive changes did you make when under lockdown?
“I don’t view them as positive changes, rather mindful shifts in my thinking around what sustainability means to me. It has been very hard to continue my practice of less packaging waste + overall waste consumption during the pandemic, as lots of my favorite bulk shops have unfortunately closed down. Grocery stores banned the use of reusable bags (understandably) which meant I’ve needed to use their supplied plastic produce for sanitary purposes. A mental shift that has happened during the pandemic is understanding how important intersectional environmentalism is, and how my sustainability journey needs to be more than just focusing on people’s physical imprint. We must dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement, and that to me is a positive change I am willing to take on. — Kimmie Torgerson
“My family started sprouting our nearly used-up scallions, regrowing them in upcycled mason jars. We bought a raised garden bed and planted spinach, cilantro, and kale. — Alyssa Shapiro
“Buying essentials in bulk (oats, quinoa, flour, and the like) helped reduce plastic waste + made it easy to cook ALL of our meals and drastically reduce plastic + paper trash. — Madeline Davis
“Since staying home, I’ve made a conscious effort to not spend money, so that definitely eliminates unnecessary carbon emissions from shipping. If I need to order anything online, I try to make sure I buy in bulk or consolidate the orders. — Su Lee
“I've made a conscious effort to always hit the “less packaging” option when ordering online and to buy in bulk when possible. I also use reusable face masks.” — Janine James
What sustainability challenges have you noticed as our precautions continue?
“One sustainability challenge I’m currently facing is the inability to completely eliminate pre-packaged goods. With Covid, I feel safer with packaged goods to avoid possible contamination as we learn more about this virus and how it’s being transmitted. Prior to the pandemic, I was consciously making an effort to purchase loose produce instead of bagged produce, but now I’ve gone back to bagged. — Su Lee
“I think there is a tendency towards single-use anything right now because it offers a veneer of safety for people concerned about contamination, which is understandable when anxiety about our health is running high. I wish it were possible to bring your own containers to the grocery store again!” — Madeline Davis
“I find myself using single-use latex gloves and single-use cleaning wipes.” — Janine James
“Single-use everything. Glove and mask pollution littering the streets. The demand for online ordering, food deliveries, and the inability to shop for things in person (thus depending on shipping and extra packaging waste). — Kimmie Torgerson
Will you make any new commitments to doing better for our planet while staying safe?
“I’ve recently purchased a pair of reusable gloves that I’ll bring with me when I have to touch suspect surfaces! Gas station pumps, ATMs, etc.” — Alyssa Shapiro
“I bought this gadget that allows me to engage with high touch surfaces, such as door handles and elevator buttons, without actually having to touch them with my hand. Purchasing bulk items when possible, like hand sanitizer, has allowed me to avoid excess single-use plastic waste.” — Su Lee
“All of my masks are reusable, which is a nice start, and even though cooking (+ cleaning) has me exhausted at times, I’m keeping it up!” — Madeline Davis
“I’ll continue with all of my sustainable efforts and will definitely make an effort to grow my own food in my New York City apartment!” — Janine James“Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, I am committed to educating around intersectional environmentalism. I am learning ways that I can amplify BIPOC voices in the environmental industry while also bringing awareness to the injustices that are happening to marginalized communities currently and also historically.” — Kimmie Torgerson