Is Covid-19 Killing the Zero Waste Movement?

Sep, 09, 2020

I get a lot of questions about whether our family still practices zero waste and how we are still able to reduce our waste during this pandemic. 

We surely have been challenged during this crisis, first with no access to bulk foods and now with very limited access. And in some places, being allowed to bring our own bags and reusable cups and containers is at risk. The good news is that there are still plenty of ways to reduce waste at home. 

For our family, a zero waste and minimal lifestyle has been a great advantage since it makes us very adaptable and self-sufficient. We’re lucky that at the beginning of the lockdown we already had large quantities of staple foods like oats, rice, beans, lentils and flour. And since we grow a lot of our food, our garden provided lots of fresh produce for each meal. Before covid-19, some people looked at us with skepticism, but now they see the advantages of our lifestyle. 

The big question is whether covid-19 will kill the zero waste movement. No, I really don’t believe so. We just have to be creative and adapt a bit. Here are the ways our family still try to practice zero waste:

Food shopping—We order our dry staple foods in large 25- and 50-pound bags, which usually are recyclable, from our local co-op. We shop for fresh fruits, coffee, tea, nuts and vegetables at our farmers’ market, where we can use our own reusable cloth bags. If none of these options are available to you, choose grocery packaging wisely and opt for foods packaged minimally or in paper that can be recycled or composted. 

Grow food—Growing your own food, any food, helps and is zero waste. I have grown all kinds of food indoors, on a patio, and now on a larger scale in our garden. If those options are not possible, why not join a community garden if that option is available? I have written many posts about how to do so, both indoors and outdoors.

Use reusable face masks and gloves—Masks, sometimes even gloves, are essential or perhaps even required these days. Make sure to invest in some good reusable masks, maybe two in order to always have a clean one available. 

Make coffee and tea at home—Brewing coffee and tea at home isn’t that hard, and it saves money, time and the planet. 

Bring reusable straws to restaurants—You still can refuse straws or bring your own.

Use toilet paper made with recycled paper—When the lockdown happened and everyone was scrambling for TP, I was slightly amused. TP is one of those products that we could survive without. If we had ended up with none, we still could clean our bums because there are many ways to do so. Luckily, though, we buy TP made from recycled paper, and it comes in plastic-free packing. 

Use beeswax wraps, mason jars, sandwich bags and plastic-free containers for food storage.

Invest in a good water filter instead of plastic water bottles.

Make your own household cleaners.

Make your own hand sanitizers.

Buy shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and ingredients for beauty products and household cleaning from a zero waste store—Most zero waste stores or stores that offer shampoos and other products in bulk are open. So, even if bulk food is unavailable, beauty and cleaning products are still being offered in bulk.

Bring your own food when out—We always pack snacks, lunches and drinks when we go hiking, to the park or to the beach.

Bike or walk instead of using the car.

Minimize online shopping—It’s so easy to click away and shop online, but really think about whether you need to order that item or if you can buy it locally. 

Refuse junk mail. Contact all the people who are sending you junk mail and tell them to stop.

Start composting

Use reusable cloth paper towels and napkins.

Buy used clothes.

Fredrika Syren

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