28 August 2020

COVID-19 Edition: Tips on Staying Safe and Going Green

To quote a zero waste blogger Ariana Palmeri, ‘In crisis, we tend to only see what is in front of us and while that is understandable, we can’t lose sight of the things we value and cherish most.’

In the midst of this pandemic, people worldwide are changing their daily routines to accommodate a new normal. It seems like for many, being sustainable and green has dropped on our priority list with more people than ever having food and packages wrapped in substantial amounts of plastics when opting for home delivery and wearing more disposable items such as disposable masks and gloves. 

However, with enough creativity, there are plenty of things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint without jeopardising our safety.

Reuse, reuse, reuse

Though, reusing the same disposable mask every day is an absolute no-no, wearing reusable fabric masks is a great, cost-effective way to minimise waste. There are plenty of fabric masks on the market such as the clinically tested ‘Dr Mama’s’ fabric masks. You can find more information about their masks on this website. 

These reusable masks may need to be washed daily but alternating between your regular disposable masks and fabric masks is a great first step to going green. However, be sure to follow the Ministry of Health’s guidelines on choosing the right face masks and wearing them properly.

While it’s important to practice the 3Rs, keep in mind to continue separating your trash properly for recycling. Be sure to never recycle used masks or other PPEs as they’re not only non-recyclable but can also be a risk to sanitation workers. Remember to follow the guidelines when disposing of these stuff.

Think those gloves are keeping you safe while shopping?

Think again!

Though wearing disposable gloves may seem like a logical choice, unless you’re caring for someone who’s ill, wearing them incorrectly may cause more harm than good. Wearing disposable gloves may lure you into a sense of false security, making you touch more things than necessary. 

So, rather than wearing disposable gloves, our pro tip is to sanitise and wash your hands more frequently. However, if you feel more comfortable wearing gloves, make sure there are no tears in the gloves and wear them properly. Furthermore, opt for plastic-free natural rubber gloves or other biodegradable gloves that are more eco-friendly.

Don’t worry, gloves like these come cheap at places like Mr.DIY.

Minimise the impact of your online orders

With many strict SOPs in place, many people opt to skip the hassle of lines and temperature checks by ordering their groceries and other essentials like toilet paper and toothpaste online. As a result, there’s no doubt that the boom in online orders has increased our carbon emissions. But there’s a simple way to minimise your impact on the planet. 

Draw up a list of what you need and bundle up your e-buys instead of getting things one at a time. This allows your purchases to be boxed and shipped together, cutting down the amount of cardboard, and plastic needed to fulfil your orders.

Ordering food delivery? Reduce plastic by simply asking restaurants to leave out plastic utensils, straws, and napkins when ordering food online. Want to take a step further? You can clean and reuse your plastic takeaway containers for food storage.

Pro Tip:

Though make sure to look out for the recycling symbols on the containers to make sure if they can be reused and for how many more times they can be reused.

Shop sustainably

First and foremost, try not to hoard food and buy only what you need. Hoarding food not only creates unnecessary food waste but leaves less quality produce for the rest of your community. Secondly, while shopping try to bring reusable shopping bags or even your own reusable produce bags so you can skip on the plastic. Just make sure you wash them thoroughly after every use.

Though I encourage all of you to keep these tips in mind and think about how you can be more sustainable during a pandemic, many things are out of our control and the most important thing is to keep safe.

Taking another quote from Ariana Palmeri, ‘How can you care for the planet if you can’t care for yourself?’ So remember, if creating waste is inevitable when keeping you, your family, and your friends safe and healthy, it’s okay.

Huan Kelly is currently completing her Cambridge A Levels at Taylor's College. She is also the Vice President of the Taylor's University Nature Club.

Huan Kelly
Guest Contributor