Moving Forward.

Cover Photo by Daniel Seßler on Unsplash

            Everybody’s situation as we try to flatten the curve is different. If you have more time at home on your hands and are easily able to continue your important efforts towards creating a healthier environment (and public), this article will have some suggestions on how to do so.

The news on environmental consequences stemming from today’s world pandemic is a mixed bag of Skittles. At the top, we’ve got all the red ones with stories of rapidly declining air pollution and newly emboldened wildlife returning to cities to lighten up our feeds and minds in this time. You pluck all those out to do some fact-checking, and you find the green, purple, and orange ones putting a bit of a damper on our recently raised spirits with clarification that wildlife reappearances are exaggerated and that emissions will resurge once everything is back to normal. Then there are the yellow skittles putting it out there that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is suddenly being lax with regulatory requirements on companies and that single-use consumption will soar due to reusables and second hands being temporarily able to spread the coronavirus if not washed or disinfected.

             It’s hard not to feel powerless when these headlines are flooding in, yet you’re stuck in your home or property. One of the best ways to start combatting this feeling is to do something that feels productive. By now, we realize that in today’s globalized world, our actions have impacts that stretch far beyond our silly walls. This means that we can do things around the house and reach out non-physically to the outside world to continue to make progress.

Photo by Jason Abdilla on Unsplash

Within your walls

  1.       Make sure you’re consuming no more energy than necessary

No, I’m not saying to lay on the couch all day.

  •         Make sure appliances not in use are unplugged, since they still take in electricity when turned off.
  •         We may not be able to explore the world right now, but why not your phone settings? Not only will you save a bit of electricity, but also make your phone’s battery last longer in the day and in the long run.

o    Gradually train your eyes to view your phone at minimum brightness even when the lights aren’t out.

o   Be sure to close your apps rather than simply minimizing them.

o   Either turn off location services entirely or for select apps.

o   Set your email to fetch (aka check for new messages) less frequently. This might help a bit with stress levels as well.

o    Popular? Turn off notifications on apps where you don’t need your phone to light up instantly. Not popular? Maybe one day.

  •         Is it still chilly? Keep up the sweatshirts, sweaters, cozy socks, and maybe even beanies before you turn up the heat. Is it hot at your place? For now, reduce the sunlight with blinds and/or curtains, especially in unoccupied rooms. Use ceiling fans before the air conditioner and avoid upper floors if you have them.
  •         Using a PC for working from home or school from home? Check out your power settings to have the screen turn off and then have the computer go into sleep mode sooner rather than later. Turn the brightness down like you just did on your phone.
  1.       Some curbside recycling programs are suspended or delayed and most recycling centers are temporarily shutting down. If both are true for you, try to set aside a storage spot for your recycling in the meantime. What better time to practice consuming less in the first place?
  2.       As plastic products start to wear out, look for alternatives using different materials.
  3. We want to go to the store as little as possible, and we might not even have a choice about limiting our trips. If you’re contemplating online shopping, we have some suggestions, but a general tip to keep in mind is to order as ahead of time as possible. The more time you give shipping, the more time the shipping company has to “carpool” your package with others and thus save a trip.
  •         In dire need of earbuds for a Zoom conference or class? To avoid throwing away plastic when they wear out, you might try wood and recyclable aluminum or bamboo and bioplastic (“plastic” made from renewable materials).
  •         One billion American toothbrushes are thrown out every year to turn into microplastics in our and aquatic life’s food and water. Even full-size they can become, for a common example, an albatross’ deadly meal. They fill developing countries’ “yards” that have become landfills. Switching your little toothbrush to a biodegradable alternative is therefore a quite impactful decision to make in your bathroom—of course, you can find a bamboo one with optional charcoal bristles here! The whitening, bad-breath reduction, and plaque and bacteria absorbance (as opposed to synthetic nylon pushing these around) could count as a quarantine self-improvement project!
  •         Have an old sheet set, or a t-shirt you can’t donate? Turn it into scraps to reduce paper towel consumption—even recycled paper towels have been found to contain high levels of non-soluble BPA.
  •         If you use feminine hygiene products, there might be no better time than now to switch to a reusable menstrual cup over single-use products that require a trip to a potentially wiped-out store.

5. If you aren’t already, what better time to learn how to compost and maybe even grow a garden if you have seeds? You can grow a garden nearly anywhere, as you’ll find in millions of helpful videos, blogs, and social media accounts. (I personally find Pinterest to be the mot practical platform for this purpose.) For example, Growing Your Own Greens is a Youtube channel that answers nearly every gardening question  you could ask, and its host John happens to live on an urban homestead. Mark Ridsill Smith gardens on a balcony and windowsills in London, and he explains how he can fit so many veggies in such a small space in his blog “Vertical Veg.” 

6. Remember that plastic does not mean sterile, despite the mistaken association. You can keep safely using your reusables within your home as long as you continue washing them with hot water or disinfecting.

Photo by Renato Trentin on Unsplash

Outside your walls (while staying home)

I’m typing this post, and you’re reading this post. So, we can both use at least the internet, as well as other communication methods, to hold corporations accountable for environmental destruction even when the EPA won’t by:

  •         Joining a group that’s using digital activism and educating the public on environmental issues that won’t wait for the quarantine to end.
  •         Letting your legislators know that you want narrow decisions by environmental regulators to discern whether businesses are attempting to prevent harm to their environment’s and community’s health as much as possible considering their circumstances.
  •         Counties, stores such as Meijer, and even states are placing temporary bans on reusable bags altogether without allowances for self-check-out lanes. Push against this backtracking by letting grocery supermarket chains and legislators know that their customers and constituents would like to keep reusable bags as an option at self-check-out.
This said, wash your reusable bags after each use. Cloth bags can be washed in the washing machine with detergent that has a bleach compound, and plastic-lined bags should be washed with soap and water.
  •         Be considerate of the wildlife that may be making more frequent visits to your yard with the reduced traffic, keeping in mind that animals alone do not cause the transfer of coronavirus to humans.
What silver linings do you see and hope to see?

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