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3 Simple Ways to Start Sustainable Living Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

It’s been more than a month now since we’ve been on quarantine because of COVID-19. I might stop counting the days and weeks soon because I feel that we’re slowly transitioning and adapting to our new normal. The end of this is uncertain, but I’m still hopeful.

We, humans, always definitely find ways to cope. After the pursuit of survival, we also need to move forward by using this disruption to pursue the examination of our lifestyle and consumption towards sustainability. Why? As we’re forced to more simple routines being at home, some say that this time’s a ‘reset’ of the world. But, before we look into the grander scheme of things, let’s look inward to ‘reset’ our own life. Maybe, we need a ‘reset’ of our own daily habits towards sustainability, which a good way to start reconnecting to the world because sustainable living’s ultimate outcome is for the betterment of our world.

Some may have already started their sustainable-living practices and are now rethinking new ways to adapt, while some may be postponing it until after all this is over. There’s definitely still a way to be sustainable while honoring our goal of keeping our health and safety. There’s no one linear way to do it because every journey is personal, but here are options you might consider doing:

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you want.”

Arthur Asche

1. Buy foods and essentials sustainably.

Staying home limits the risks of viral exposure and slows down the spread of the virus to flatten the curve. So, make a supply plan to last for as long as possible. Stock up only on what you need and leave some for others, too. Limit grocery shopping to the absolute minimum, or less frequently than you were used to by preparing well and working out a route that will let you cover all your needs in one trip. Efficiency is key. Find the best day and time when you can shop with the least amount of time, especially for lining up.

Plan your meals beforehand including the quantity that you need to lessen food waste.  Focus on healthy products and locally-sourced foods to reduce the carbon footprint of your diet. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are the food groups with the lowest carbon footprint. They are widely available, less expensive and nutritious. Our food choices, together with a healthy lifestyle, are more important now than ever to strengthen our immune systems to defend ourselves from COVID-19 and other illnesses.

Make your foods last longer by freezing, batch cooking, making sure that you keep your refrigerator clean and at the right temperature (4 degrees C for the chiller; -18 degrees C for the freezer), and cooking simplified and nutritious dishes. Knowing simple tricks for staple food items to make them last longer can be helpful.

Consider online shopping for your essentials to limit your trips outdoors. Shop with a conscious plan to reduce or limit the number of deliveries to the absolute minimum each month, preferably supporting local businesses and green online retailers like humble market.

2. Rethink personal consumption.

We’re mostly spending only for the essentials at this time. We’re spending and consuming less than the pre-pandemic period. We can use this time to reflect on what we regularly buy and why we buy it. Are they vital? Do they add value and meaning to your life? Do they really matter?

You might want to try the concept of minimalism. It’s somehow connected to sustainable living because it is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. In the words of The Minimalists, “by clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution. They recently wrote an article, “Minimalism Renewed,” at this time of the pandemic.

Play their 30-Day Minimalism Game to start with. It’s a decluttering experience, but there’s more to it as you go through your own minimalism journey. I’ve tried it twice and it has helped me a lot, not only in decluttering but in being mindful of what I’m buying and adding to my possessions. Minimalism is not just about owning a specific number of things, but a lifestyle of doing more with less. This game is a fun and learning experience to do with the extra time we have at home.

3. Create. Reuse. Recycle.

Are you thinking of other activities you can do during your free time? Create. You now have the time to create something using old stuff that you don’t use anymore. Make art from recycled items. I have a friend who’s doing it and had seen her create a bench from an old crate, used liquor bottles into glass bottles and old bike parts into a house decoration. The ideas are endless especially if you’re into craftsmanship but it isn’t a requirement. You can also try creating a DIY facemask from reusable grocery bags.

Let’s talk about the plastics and the amount of it that we’re consuming right now. For me, this is negotiable during this time. Health and safety are more important than the number of plastics you use when shopping. There may be no clear data yet on how long the virus can last on surfaces, but it can possibly last from 3 hours to 4 days according to this study from The New England Journal of Medicine, and for as long as nine days according to the study published by The Journal of Hospital Infection. So, I strongly suggest to not risk it. Reuse the plastics the best way we can. But if you will insist, do so with extra precautions of washing every bag before and after using it.

If you still want to learn more about sustainable living, watch sustainability films or documentaries or read books. Start somewhere you’re most comfortable with doing, then progress from there. We might have more restrictions now, but practicing sustainable living is still doable in our own simple ways.

“Disaster pass, living goes on.”

COVID-19 has put us on a mandated low-carbon lifestyle. It has given us the perspective to simplify our lives, spend time on what and with who truly matter, prioritize our health and others’ too, and support our communities. These are, in many ways, steps to sustainable living. This pandemic will eventually end, but the lessons and changes it has brought into our lives will continue on.

Roni Matalog

Roni is a Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian. She completed her certification in Plant-Based Nutrition from eCornell University and T.Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. Her interest in plant-based nutrition, holistic wellness and sustainable living only intensified in recent years, but she has long been passionate about helping individuals make positive and sustainable changes to their health, to be able to live and enjoy a better quality of life while being mindful of the environment and all beings. She founded Plants & Purpose where she offers her services and shares things about plant-based nutrition.

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