I’ve been writing a zero waste blog every January for five years. Usually each blog is a variation on the central theme- tips to help you reduce waste in your life. And then Covid 19! Like everything else, the zero waste journey got more complicated. My blog this year is a bit different. The tips from previous year are still valid. If you are looking for practical suggestions, simple hacks or a place to start, please visit our previous blogs. We recommend 2020 as it has 20 tips.
However, life and the zero waste journey are more complicated this year. Actions that became habits disappeared with the realities of the pandemic. Plastic grocery bags, reusable coffee cups, grocery shopping all shifted. The list of tips have been replaced with general, global ideas that begin with simply shifting our perspective and finding an equilibrium that works for our day to day reality.
Strike a balance- You need to find the balance between the realities of current life with the desire to actually make an impact. A perfect example is food, it is just so much more complicated to shop for groceries. Bulk bins are closed or regulated. In Maine, the plastic bag ban was set aside and for quite awhile reused bags were not allowed in stores. Local restaurants need our support but take away while delicious tends to be trashy. So what to do? There is no simple answer except to try and strike a balance and challenge yourself to make the changes that you can.
Make easy swaps- Easy swaps in your household can help reduce the amount of plastic you use. Easy swaps include shampoo bars for bottles of shampoo, dish soap blocks instead of bottles, compostable sponges and scrubbies instead of plastic based ones. Simple swaps that make a big difference and help reduce the amount of trash we produce.
Shop local and small- As you work on balancing reality and reduction goals one step is to shop local and small. One of my biggest sources of trash was milk. I love to start my day with milky coffee and grocery store milk usually comes in plastic bottles. I’m so lucky to have a local farm supply me with fresh milk and yogurt. I pick it up every week and return bottles for refilling. Supporting businesses that are small or local helps keep our economy diverse. We can’t buy every item from a small business but we can make a commitment to buy what we can from indie businesses.
Wear reusable face masks- the amount of new trash generated by the pandemic is massive. We all need to be wearing face masks when in public, for our and others safety. Reusable, wash able face masks are the ecological solution to this problem. The regular use of face masks is a bit like getting use to reusable bags, you need a few, you need to keep them clean and you need to remember to use them.
Repurpose and reuse as much as possible- if you can figure out a way to use a product more than once and for a different purpose you are producing less trash. I joined Misfits Markets. It was one of those balancing decisions. Fresh produce in rural Maine is hard to come by. Also, I stay out of stores as much as possible right now. I’ve been satisfied with Misfits. I’m eating and planning meals around what’s in my box. I’ve been OK with how they packaged. Most produce is loose and unwrapped. Occasionally something is packaged in a container but the boxes are not filled with plastic. What I do get a lot of is packaging to keep the produce from bruising, occasionally plastic based. I’ve used the packaging for insulation on my chicken coop. When it’s paper based I use it on the floor and put sawdust over it and I’ve tacked it over windows and cracks to keep the coop cozy during these chilly days.
I’m so glad 2020 is finally over and all of us are looking forward to a better year. 2021 will still be full of challenges. Be kind to yourself and others and to our planet.