This article originally appeared on VICE Asia.
With anxieties running high because of coronavirus fears, people are now changing their daily habits. Even some of the most environmentally woke people can’t resist the safety of disposable face masks and the convenience of everyday food deliveries.
But experts warn that this mentality could end up harming us more, in the long run.
Break Free From Plastic Philippines Project Coordinator Rei Panaligan told VICE that instead of going back to old habits, lockdowns brought by the pandemic should instead be used as an opportunity to become self-aware and reflect about how we treat our surroundings.
“We can use this quarantine period to really evaluate our lifestyle,” Panaligan said. “We can look into how we could minimize our own carbon footprint or how we can, you know, contribute back to our surrounding community.”
While public health should always come first, he said that there are various ways we can minimize our waste, while keeping ourselves and our families safe. Below, are some tips on how to stay sustainable while on home quarantine.
Prepare a meal plan before buying groceries
Meal plans will prevent you from buying unnecessary products and ensure that you have everything you need. Apart from the financial benefits, this will also help you avoid frequent trips to the market.
Bring your own reusable tote bags and containers
BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) still applies even during the pandemic. These are safer than plastic bags from markets because you know where they came from, as opposed to containers with an unknown source.
While the United States’ Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said that there is a low risk of contracting the coronavirus from food and packaging, you can still disinfect reusable bags as a precautionary measure by washing them and drying them under the sun.
Buy fresh and local produce
Locally-produced food from public markets usually use less packaging because they are not wrapped individually, unlike some fruits and vegetables in supermarkets. Locally-produced foods have a lower carbon footprint because they are not transported from long distances and buying them supports farmers and fisherfolk during this critical period. They’re also much healthier than canned and frozen goods.
Cook the right amount of food for your family
Only prepare food your family can finish to avoid waste. There are also various ways to make the most out of leftovers, like reusing trimmings and broth for the next meal, storing leftovers in refrigerators, serving leftovers to pets, and composting waste for home plants.
Say no to napkins and plastic utensils
When ordering take out, tell the restaurant to leave out disposable utensils and napkins and use what you have at home instead.
Let go of TV and computers
Homes are consuming electricity more now that people are staying indoors. While using your computer for eight hours because of work is unavoidable, taking a break from electronics during your downtime can help conserve energy. Instead of watching TV or playing video games during the weekend, pick up a book, exercise, or try a new hobby instead. These activities are also good for mental health and can relieve anxiety better than screens can.
Set a timer for your air conditioner
Another way to conserve energy at home is by limiting the use of air conditioners. Instead of leaving it on the entire night, set a timer so that it will turn off while you’re asleep. Some units can also switch to fan mode once its set temperature is equal or lower than the room’s temperature.
One hobby worth trying is gardening, which experts say is a good stress reliever. Planting your own produce will allow you to reuse empty containers as pots and waste as compost. To start, grab seeds from fruits and vegetables at home.
Use cloth masks
If you're not a Patient Under Investigation (PUI) or Person Under Monitoring (PUM), you can use a reusable cloth mask when going outside. This is a more sustainable option and will save disposable masks for people on the front lines who need them more.