Will the Zero Waste Lifestyle Survive this Pandemic?

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With all that is going on in this world, I can help but wonder if the zero waste lifestyle will survive this global pandemic. 

What once was seen as a virtuous practice is now considered risky and suspicious by those of us who are germaphobic. (And we all have reason to be germaphobic right now.)

To be honest, I am a little discouraged for many reasons.  

Obviously, we are all going through a difficult time right now. Many of us are at home and sheltering in place, while others are deemed essential workers and are making great sacrifices to help others. 

All of us are trying our best to avoid the spread of the coronavirus and protecting ourselves and families from contracting the virus. 

Those are clearly the most pressing issues and concerns. 

Yet, I can’t help but be concerned by the halt of many of the zero waste lifestyle practices. 

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WHAT IS THE ZERO WASTE LIFESTYLE?

If you’re new to the zero waste lifestyle movement, you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about and why I’m feeling discouraged. 

At the heart of the zero waste movement is the practice of reusing items as much as possible to avoid sending them to landfills. Individuals who live a zero waste lifestyle also try to avoid buying plastic products, avoid goods wrapped in plastic, and try to aim for a circular economy – where nothing is sent to waste. 

These are goals of course, and not usually a final destination for the majority. 

Our family has many zero waste goals, but I wouldn’t say that we are fully achieving them yet, which I wrote about in more detail in My Zero Waste Fails: Learn to Overcome Eco-Guilt

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Yet, I still have high hopes and goals not only for my family but for our society.  I have been very encouraged by some of the mainstream zero waste initiatives that seem to be taking off, such as reusable water bottles, reusable coffee cups, reusable grocery bag, and the awareness around the danger of plastic, single-use items such as straws. 

I hope that when our life and economy go back to “normal” that we will see the zero waste movement continue where it left off. 

Yet I can’t help but wonder…

WILL THE ZERO WASTE LIFESTYLE SURVIVE?

Currently, the coronavirus pandemic has put a halt on zero waste movement initiatives. No longer can we bring our own reusable coffee cups to the local coffee shop or drive-thru for fear of the virus spreading from our personal coffee cups to others. 

No longer are the days of bringing our reusable grocery bags to the grocery store. Instead, plastic bags are the only choice (in most cases).

While I completely understand the current reasoning, as we try to limit the risk and flatten the curve, I wonder if our society will return to the zero waste practices that had come so far.

Or will people be scared of this experience and stop using reusable items altogether? 

I worry that people will be forever changed by this pandemic. I worry that our society will likely fear the spread of germs/viruses in a way that we previously did not. 

Will we ever go back to bringing our reusable bags to stores and restaurants, or will all the rules change in public establishments? 

I don’t have answers to all these questions yet. Only time will tell. For now, we must be patient and put our safety first, of course. 

WHAT CAN WE DO TO CONTINUE THE ZERO WASTE MOVEMENT?

It’s more important than ever to stay strong in our beliefs and zero waste lifestyle practices. Heed the advice of the health professionals, but continue doing all you can to reduce waste whenever it’s possible and safe to do so. 

For starters, begin in your home – or continue what you are doing in your home. 

Now that many of us are home more than usual, we can continue the zero waste practices that we have already been implementing. Plus, we can take a look at other ways to improve. 

For example, many people are finding it hard to buy toilet paper during this pandemic.  Therefore, it may be the perfect time, and extremely helpful if you really need toilet paper, to look at zero waste toilet paper alternatives

Who Gives A Crap toilet paper

I’m grateful that we had already begun using a more eco-friendly, 100% recycled toilet paper from Who Gives A Crap.  

There are many benefits to supporting this certified B-Corp company, but one benefit that helps us at the moment is the bulk shipment options.  When many people were panicking because they could not find toilet paper in the stores, I had just received our usual 3-month shipment of recycled toilet paper.  We even had enough that I was able to share with neighbors that were running out.  

If you are a zero-waste beginner, these resources will help you get started:

Other ways to implement zero waste (or low waste) practices in your home:

CONTINUE BEING AN ADVOCATE

We can also continue educating others about what a zero waste lifestyle looks like and how they can take baby steps towards that goal. 

As I mentioned, I use the term zero waste loosely for my own lifestyle.  In reality, our family practices a low waste lifestyle – while reaching for zero waste as much as we can.

I still consider myself a zero waste advocate and want to continue teaching my children about how to reduce and eliminate waste as much as possible. 

With Earth Day coming up on April 22nd, it’s a great time to teach our children all the reasons why we need to protect our environment and the entire planet. 

It’s especially relevant right now with the coronavirus pandemic. According to earthday.org, “The virus, which originated in animals, more easily spreads when humans destroy wildlife habitats and sell, buy and consume wildlife in illegal markets.”

In the midst of this pandemic, Jane Goodall shared a message about love and compassion during this difficult time, reminds us why it’s important to protect our Earth, and how some of our actions are impacting climate change and spreading viruses, such as the coronavirus.

So, how can you be a zero waste advocate right now? 

  • Don’t give up! Continue doing all you can and be an example to others. 
  • Continue sharing information with others – without being pushy – because “when you know better, you do better.” 
  • Share facts that can be supported by studies. 
  • Continue your zero waste practices in your home, as stated above, and practice what you preach, as they say. 
  • Continue all zero waste practices that are safe to do right now, such as supporting companies that are conscious of their packaging and are using their companies for good, like certified B-Corporations. 
    1. A few that I love and support are Beautycounter, Plaine Products, and Who Gives A Crap. (other links?)
  • Don’t stop trying!
  • Educate your children. Now is a great time to teach them the importance of protecting our environment with Earth Day coming up. Our three daughters learned about the importance of a Neighborhood Cleanup, even while we are home and practicing social distancing.

At the end of the day, all we can do is the best we can do! Take some of these ideas that resonate with you and are a good fit for your family, and leave the rest.  

Never feel the pressure or guilt that you should be doing more. Do what you can today, even if it’s baby steps – and remember that taking care of yourself and your family is the most important priority right now. 

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Want to save time and money finding the zero waste swaps for your family? Download the FREE guide to 9 Zero Waste Swaps Every Family Can Make!

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6 Comments

  1. April 23 / 9:40 AM

    Many great points and suggestions here! My family lives off the grid in a remote area of Canada’s subarctic and managing our waste (striving for zero-waste) is an ongoing endeavour. Anything that can’t get composted, burned, up cycled or recycled must get hauled out by truck along our one-lane trail to the highway and then it is a 40-minute drive to the dump. And we pay $10.00 to dump!

    • Rebekah
      April 23 / 10:08 AM

      Sarita, I admire all you are doing and envy your lifestyle in many ways. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. April 23 / 11:42 AM

    I can understand the desire to want to grab the quick and easy items right now. It’s something I even struggled with during this time. For instance, this is the first time I bought paper towels in FOREVER! I thought I could make some easy homemade disinfecting wipes for my husband to take along to the hospital… Let me tell you it was a complete fail! And now I have all these paper towels. It really is important to keep your values during this time, but when there’s panic it can be surprising what ends up back inside your house.

    • Rebekah
      April 23 / 1:22 PM

      Exactly! My husband wanted to buy paper towels during this pandemic too. The last time we bought them was in Dec. 2018. I’d like to just remind us all that we are doing the best we can under these circumstances!

  3. April 24 / 10:27 AM

    Yes, it may be more challenging right now, but there are always things we can do to live a more zero waste lifestyle. Thanks for the reminders!

    • Rebekah
      April 24 / 10:34 AM

      So true! We are all doing the best we can in these circumstances!

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