Yes, I know, another article that speaks to Covid-19 or better known as Corona. But I need to get this off my chest. We are just at the beginning of this virus situation with lockdowns and dependency on supermarkets and packaged food likely to increase. Many people have other worries than single-use plastics and waste at the moment. But for those who have the headspace to care for our planet and their personal waste creation, I have put together my thoughts on how we can still be mindful of our packaging waste in these challenging times.
Caveat: you need to make a decision for yourself if, in the current situation, you still want to do some of the things below. Follow the advice of the authorities as things can change really quickly and make sure to keep at least a distance of 1.5m from each other.
The need to be less stringent about our zero waste thinking in times of crisis
Sometimes we need to change our thinking and soften our approach for a little while. That does not mean we are abandoning our way of living and our values. No, not at all. You can still be a zero waster or planet warrior even if you make the occasional exception. That is totally fine in a weird situation like this one where you don’t necessarily have the freedom of choice we usually do. So, if for example you need hand sanitizer and can’t get it in bulk, then please go buy it and don’t feel guilty about it. It’s for your own and other’s safety.
Support your local cafe or focus on your zero waste journey?
This can be a big dilemma for some (it is for me). At this stage, from my personal point of view supporting your local café or restaurant should be your priority over reducing or avoiding single-use waste. It is a hard one, I know. But if you eat out regularly and can still afford to do so now, then yes, please go to your local café or restaurant and buy takeaway from them (including alcohol if you wish). This will give them that lifeline they so desperately need.
Most places are now refusing reusable containers for fear of spreading the virus, so you have to go with whatever takeaway option they are offering. You can still be picky and only go where there is at least cardboard or compostable ware available (if you can compost those at home) or get it in plastic containers if there is no other option. As café owners are stressed enough as it is, I recommend to not start a conversation about zero waste and how they should change to different containers. You can still refuse the plastic bag and any cutlery and napkins offered and then reuse those containers at home.
I was pleasantly surprised by our local burger joint (Beardy’s in Clontarf on the Redcliffe peninsula) who wrapped the burgers in a single sheet of paper and served the chips in a cardboard box. Well done!
You can also choose to order online or over the phone and get your food delivered so you don’t need to go out unnecessarily. It’s better to order direct rather than use apps like UberEats as they charge the café owner a high commission for their services).
Bulkfood stores are still open (and they will hopefully stay open)
All bulkfood stores are still open and they will hopefully remain open as they are providing essential food items, and all without or with minimal waste. They might need to or already have changed the way you shop. Some don’t allow your own containers anymore, but you can still fill recycled paper bags with all the goodies.
Most of them are independent or part of a small franchise, so they will love seeing you there. There are already supply issues as most of their supplies have seen a surge in demand, so please be patient.
The Manly Food Co-Op for example has moved to an app ordering system last week with staff packing everything in recycled paper bags ready for pick-up. A very innovative and unusual way to shop that keeps everyone as safe as possible which is not an easy task in a small’ish shop with generally a lot of foot traffic.
There is nothing better than eating healthy fresh produce and supporting your local farmers, and all of that in fresh air. So much better than an air-conditioned supermarket … Keep your distance, be hygienic and only touch what you buy. The suppliers will generally let you handle your products yourself like putting on the scale and packing in your bag.
Buy from your local greengrocer and independent supermarket
Check these guys out before you head to one of the big supermarkets. They might not have everything you need, but you’ll be surprised what they stock. You also support a local business that really needs your help at the moment, and you are avoiding the crowds in bigger supermarkets. Most will have unpackaged fruit and veg and if not, just ask, they might be willing to sell it without the packaging.
Make things yourself
As you are spending a lot more time at home, cook and bake and ferment and blitz, … You’ll be surprised by what delicacies you are able to create. There is plenty of inspiration on the internet, so start searching.
Why not start making your own beauty products and other items? What about your own deodorant or tooth paste? This makes you rely less on supermarkets and manufacturers. It is such a good time to become more self-sufficient and learn those skills you always wanted to learn.
And just imagine the money (and in some cases packaging) you save. Win win!
These are taxing and weird times
Things change on a daily basis at the moment here in Australia and world wide. You can only do what you can do, so try and stay positive and do your best. Zero Waste Living is a philosophy and way of life and sometimes you just have to go with the times and do what you need to do. And that’s fine. Don’t stress, just try to adapt the best you can to all this change happening right now.
At least, there are good news in this world at the moment when it comes to ecosystems starting to recover. Look at the canals in Venice. They haven’t been as clear and full of fish in decades. Air pollution in China is at a record low (at least for now). With the majority of planes grounded and travel bans coming into place, the world’s carbon emissions are slowly decreasing.
I have hope that this virus will make this world a better place, bring people closer together (not necessarily physically 😉), but in terms of caring for each other and our planet. Am I too optimistic? Probably. As economies crash all around the world, greed and environmental destruction and pollution will come back, but hopefully we will learn from this disaster that is 2020.
What are your thoughts? How do you continue reducing or avoiding zero waste?