Sustainability - Green Notes

How to be Sustainable During a Pandemic

clipart of students wearing a maskIt can be very difficult to find ways to keep up with sustainability in the midst of a pandemic. Reusable items are now being discouraged from public places such as grocery stores and coffee shops. Also, take-out/delivery is sometimes the only option when eating out. The increase in non-recyclable items (masks, gloves, styrofoam to-go boxes, etc.) during this pandemic is at an all time high. This is understandably so; however, it makes saving the planet much trickier. Just because something may not seem attainable does not mean that we should not give it our best attempt! With all the odds against the world right now, I have managed to gather some helpful tips on how you can maintain a sustainable lifestyle during a pandemic. 

Masks are very important in reducing the spread of viruses, however, disposable masks are non-recyclable and have been filling our oceans and land at a rapid pace. These disposable masks have a lifespan of roughly 450 years, and the need for a mask will not be going away for quite a while longer. With that being said, invest in a reusable cloth mask. Just like clothing, these masks can be worn over and over again as long as they are properly taken care of (make sure to wash your mask!!). These masks are sold for very cheap—around $5-$10—on many different websites. Plus, they come in such fun colors and patterns! One way to make this even more eco-friendly is to make the masks yourself! This cuts out the middle men involved in the shipping process which means less pollution caused by you! Here is a helpful video to walk you through sewing your own mask! If you are not big on sewing, here is a helpful no-sew option! You can also use scrap fabric or old clothing to make them if you do not want to go out and buy new fabric. That is another way to keep this as environmentally friendly as possible! Wanna take it one step further? Make your own reusable mask out of eco-friendly fabrics such as cotton, linen, hemp, or bamboo!

During these uncertain times, it is crucial to support and uplift one another. One way to do this is by buying food from your local restaurants. Not only does this support local businesses, but getting takeout is great for simply getting out of the house for a little while. For many restaurants, takeout is the only option they offer, and with takeout, comes a lot of single use items: straws, plastic utensils, to-go containers, cups, napkins, etc. A simple solution to this is to politely ask for no utensils, napkins, straws, etc. Also, you could just drink something from home to avoid getting a plastic or styrofoam cup. Many places have started to use—or have been using—compostable or recyclable takeout containers and utensils. If you are unsure about whether or not a restaurant uses compostable or recyclable takeout ware, give them a call and ask! If the answer is no, tell them how important it is to you to only use takeout containers that are good for the planet. Businesses care about what their customers have to say. Do not be afraid to use your voice to let them know what is important to you; chances are that other people share this same belief as you, and they are just unsure of how to make a change! 

My final tip that I can give you today is to reduce your overall reliance on single-use things such as plastic. I know, in today’s climate, single-use anything seems like the best option. However, there are a few simple ways to reduce your reliance on plastic during this pandemic. Since many grocery stores are asking that you do not bring in your own reusable bags, plastic (or occasionally paper if it is available) may seem like the only option. How about instead of taking the plastic bags, ask your bagger to simply place the items directly into the cart. I know what you are thinking…”there is no way that I am going to carry in each item one by one,” but hear me out! Once you have arrived at your car, pull out your reusable shopping bags, and pack your items up yourself! That is one simple fix to the grocery store dilemma! Now, sometimes, you may forget to tell them that you do not need a bag, so what do you do now? Here is an incredible link to show you all the ways you can reuse plastic grocery bags! Other things that you can safely reuse or repurpose include: reusable water bottles, peanut butter jars, shampoo bottles, and so much more! Check out Pinterest for tons of other ways to safely reuse and repurpose plastic!

It is important to remember that this is a very hard time for everyone—the planet included. So much waste has been accumulated over the course of the pandemic, and it can be a very disheartening thing to realize. I encourage you to keep up with all your sustainable practices even if they may not always be accessible; this pandemic will not last forever. Let us all work together to stay safe, healthy, and sustainable! What have you been doing to stay sustainable during the pandemic? Have you adopted any new practices? Have you had to say goodbye to some? We would love to hear from you! Feel free to email us (, and let us know!   

Lydia Young
Tennessee Tech University
English Literature

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