10 eco-friendly habits we should keep after the COVID-19 crisis

June 17, 2020

10 eco-friendly habits we should keep after the COVID-19 crisis

Photo by Erik Mclean

The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to change many habits in our daily lives. Some of them, such as the use of plastic gloves, bags or disposable wipes and masks can definitely not become the new norm.  Yet some others are worth keeping for the sake of our health and the environment after the coronavirus crisis.

 

A better diet for us and our planet

It’s safe to say that our food consumption has been one of the habits most impacted by the lockdown. Restaurants and bars had to close their dining rooms and quickly pivot to home delivery and curbside pick-up. Pasta, bread, flour, and meat have been difficult to find at grocery stores after everyone stocked up on food and beverages. As a result, most people have found themselves cooking more than usual, as shown by the surge in cooking and recipes websites traffic.[1]

1. Grocery shopping efficiency

With fewer trips to the grocery store to limit our exposure to the virus, we’ve had to get more organized and rethink the way we make our grocery shopping list, plan our meals for the week, and store fresh food.

Because of that, we now spend less time wandering supermarket aisles, which means less temptations, and we’ve mostly been focusing on purchasing necessities.

The extension of home deliveries and curbside pick-up have become very convenient and felt safer especially for people at risk. Here in Charlotte, NC, Farm Fresh Carolinas does a great job bringing fresh local and organic produce directly to homes and offices. I have personally reduced drastically my plastic waste and number of trips to the grocery stores as Farm Fresh Carolinas uses reusable insulated bags and accepts my reusable produce bags to pack and deliver delicious fruits and veggies. 

Another great resource for the Charlotte area readers is Lake View Farms, they are your good old milkman guys, who deliver hormone free, antibiotic free, free range dairy in glass bottles that are sanitized and reused for other home deliveries.

Local producers are feeding their community and deserve all of our support. On top of supporting a small business, local products are full of flavor and nutrients as they don't travel long distances to reach our kitchen, while their carbon footprint is significantly reduced too. 

The support to local farmers and shops has provided a sense of community. During the pandemic, there has been a shift to communities that has helped local businesses carry out initiatives and give back to the world. Locally, The Loyalist Market, a restaurant downtown Matthews, NC coordinated with other businesses, the distribution of a free sandwich to any child eligible for free lunches in the North Carolina school system, feeding up to 700 children a day! 

2. Homemade baking and cooking

Your social media feed has likely been filled with mouthwatering images of sourdough breads. During the lockdown, people have rediscovered the joy of cooking and baking. Google even shows recipe trends by state: pound cake in North and South Carolina, crepes in Utah, pancakes in Vermont, egg salad in Colorado. The most-searched recipe in America during the confinement was the banana bread.

Home-cooked meals help to save money and have a positive impact on your health by reducing "chronic diet-related illnesses, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity".[2] 

3. Grow your food

Home gardening bloomed around the world with quarantine. U.S. seed company W. Atlee Burpee & Co sold more seed in March 2020 than any time in its 144-year history[3]. There are different reasons for this sudden enthusiasm: some are concerned over food security and try to be more self-sufficient, while others are looking for a soothing activity (though the two aren’t mutually exclusive).

Growing plants boasts many benefits. It lowers stress and improves overall mood, releasing dopamine and serotonin in our bodies and is a great way to get moving. 

If you would like to grow your own food or have already started your small corner of paradise in the Charlotte, NC area and think you could use some advice, Erin at the Patio Farmer is your go-to person.

4. Compost

What's better than feeding your garden soil with your food scraps?

About 30% of our kitchen trash can is made up of food scraps. Once discharged in the landfill, this organic material gets trapped with the rest of our solid waste and lacks the oxygen it needs to decompose. It produces methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide and is the main cause of global warming. 

There are many ways you can deal with food scraps. If you live in an apartment, the Bokashi or the worm bin are great composting systems for small spaces. And if you don’t want to start your own compost, see if one of your neighbors (or perhaps a farmer) has one and would be interested in your food waste. If you live in Charlotte, NC, check out Crown Town Compost Services!

A caring lifestyle

1. Exercise

Because most gyms and parks are closed, streets have been filled with people of all ages in pursuit of some exercise and fresh air. Cities like New York, Seattle, Oakland or Charlotte even opened vast stretches of their streets to walkers, joggers, bicyclists and others seeking outdoor space. We all know that exercise has many benefits on our physical and mental health. If you have started exercising during the confinement or just kept practicing an activity, continue as it is a great way to support your immune system and mental health. 

2. Slow down

Lockdown also rhymes with slow down. We’ve suddenly had more time to enjoy the simple things, like having a nice chat with a neighbor, watching the plants bloom, and calling friends and relatives.

The quarantine pushed some of us to reflect on our lives that can feel like a hamster wheel sometimes: run from one place to another, jump from a meeting to the next, attend as many events as our agenda can fit, wait for the weekend, rest and repeat.

A lot of people question the desire to go back to this “normal”. Maybe we don’t need to put so much pressure on ourselves, maybe we don’t need to fill every moment with a commitment.

Of course, for some other less privileged people, the lockdown did not mean more time to reflect on life but instead meant more work and more stress. 

Nevertheless, we all need to take time to slow down from time to time and think about what makes us feel good instead of rushing through life with closed eyes.

3. Care for others

The Covid-19 crisis was another demonstration on how everything in our world is interconnected. In response, we have shown that we can come together as a worldwide community to protect people at higher risks, including our elderly and all of the front-liners, and look out for each other. Donors have shown an incredible generosity during these unprecedented times. More than $1bn-worth of charity was given by individual Americans at the beginning of May, 2020.[4] 

In the South Charlotte area, our community has raised, between mid-March and beginning of June 2020, over $60,000 to help our neighbors in need, feeding 65 families that couldn’t count on the school cafeteria to provide free meals to their children anymore.

This is a sign of hope that shows the world’s capacity to make a difference.

Hopefully, these changes have contributed to nurture our mental health and urged us to reconsider our true priorities.

Conscious consumerism

1. Homemade - DIY

The lockdown, not only, encouraged us to cook more but also to try to make our own cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer as well as sew our own masks. Many people realized it’s easier and cheaper to DIY instead of buying. 

2. Rethink our purchases

Staying home has also allowed us to reflect on our consumption habits and reconsider where we want to spend our money. Many of us have been supporting local retailers, avoiding purchasing items that are manufactured at the other end of the world. 

Also not succumbing to the temptation to buy gadgets or clothes probably helped many to realize that their consumer behavior is about instant gratification, not lasting happiness. Happiness is not for sale, it’s hidden in simple things.

People had also more time at home to sort out their belongings and sell online those they don’t use anymore. The second hand clothing market now represents $32 Billion which pushed Walmart to partner with ThredUp “a resale marketplace for used fashion items ... to sell through its online platform”.  The fashion industry is the third most polluting industry in the world, so that's good news for our planet.

Making our products, buying second hand and purchasing less, reduce our impact on the planet by limiting the amount of natural resources extracted for Earth, the energy necessary to produce and transport those items and eventually  the demand on companies to produce always more and cheaper. The cherry on the top: your wallet thanks you!

3. Work from home

Up to half of American workers are currently working from home versus 15% pre-Covid-19.[5]

Beyond the multiple positive effects that working from home has: no commute, increased productivity, more flexibility, drop of CO2 emissions, less gas... It also has several positive outcomes on goods consumption. We use less paper, energy, coffee cups’ lids, beverage bottles, utensils, food packaging, plastic bags and apparel!

Work from home has eliminated business travel almost overnight and the need to commute for most of us. Transportation accounts for 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and light-duty vehicles are responsible for 59% percent of the transportation sector's emissions, way ahead of aircraft (9%), work commute plays its part in it.  Remote work reduces greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel consumption and improves air and water quality.

The benefits for the workers, the companies and the environment will likely change the way we work and travel for business post Covid-19.

***

Nobody wants to see people lose their lives, their loved ones, or their livelihoods. But crises bring changes, and not all of those changes are bad. Times like these give us the opportunity to take care of our physical and mental health, improve our quality of life, and protect our planet. It’s important to seize this opportunity and develop new ways of thinking, new behavior, and new habits. If you are thinking about becoming a more conscious consumer and lower your waste at home, sign up for a free zero-waste online class.

The changes we’ve had to make come with many positive outcomes:

- Reducing food waste

- A healthier lifestyle

- Saving money

- Spend time on what makes us happy

- Decluttering our lives from the unnecessary

- Reducing pollution

It’s worth keeping those habits, don't you think? What habits from the confinement will you keep?

As I write this blog post, numbers of cases are still increasing in North Carolina and other states in the USA. Please wear a mask, stay six feet away from each other and be safe.

 

[1]https://www.adweek.com/digital/cooking-websites-see-a-traffic-boost-as-people-are-urged-to-stay-home/ 

[2]https://time.com/5827315/coronavirus-diet/

[3]https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-gardens/home-gardening-blooms-around-the-world-during-coronavirus-lockdowns-idUSKBN2220D3

 [4]https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/05/06/how-generous-are-americas-rich

 [5] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/06/09/magazine/remote-work-covid.html







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