Editor’s column: Living sustainably while living under quarantine

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Earth Day serves as a platform for thousands across the world to demonstrate and speak out about the importance of environmental protection, something that is important as contemporary environmental problems from deforestation to water pollution continue to grow more severe and expand. While the international holiday is often characterized by national and state park outings, cleanups, marches and demonstrations, streets and parks will be much more silent this year due to COVID-19.

Though, there are still ways in which we can show our appreciation and respect for the environment while also respecting stay at home orders and social distancing. To get inspired, here are some ways to live more sustainably while living under quarantine.

Start a garden

Gardening is a great way to stay productive and reduce stress while at home. Whether you have a whole yard or a small balcony, mid-April is the perfect time to start a new flower or vegetable garden or to tidy up one from previous years. 

Not only are gardens great ways to get access to fresh food or beautiful flowers, but. growing plants is also a great way to help support local pollinator populations. Pollinators such as varieties of bees, butterflies and moths contribute to maintaining healthy ecosystems that wildlife of all sizes rely on for food and shelter.

To begin, you will need either some yard space that receives sunshine or containers with either holes in the bottom or rocks placed inside for drainage. Other essential items include garden soil or potting mix, a garden trowel and seed packages, which have instructions on the back to specify how to care for them.

Though, if you are not too confident about growing plants from seeds, you can also pick up seedlings from a local nursery for a head start. 

It is very easy to get started, and once you do, you might discover you have quite the green thumb!

Upcycle clothing headed for the donation bin or trash

Certain items do not last long in any household, but that is especially true for clothing as trends come and go, sizes change and favorite pieces are worn to rags.

While the average lifetime of any piece of clothing can be up to three years, we buy 60% more clothing items than we did 15 years ago, and only keep them half as long. Not only is this cycle wasteful as perfectly good clothing finds its way into landfills, the production required to make them in the first place is energy-intensive and by-products of production contribute to environmental degradation. 

Before parting with a piece of clothing, consider ways that it can be re-imagined into something new for you to wear or admire. A simple search through platforms such as YouTube or Pinterest offers hundreds of ways of transforming pieces of clothing into something new or as decorations through relatively simple DIY projects. 

Channel your creative side while also keeping an item from entering a landfill prematurely!

Make some home improvements

Summon your inner Tim “The Toolman” Taylor as stay at home orders open up extra time that can be used to start home improvement projects that can be beneficial for both you and improving the environment. 

Leaky faucets, drafty windows and doors and energy-intensive light bulbs are both our enemy and the environment’s. A leaky faucet over the course of a year wastes more than 3,000 gallons of water, equaling 180 showers. Energy used to heat your home can be lost due to the presence of gaps and spaces between doors and windows, requiring you to keep the thermostat cranked up. Lastly, incandescent light bulbs need to be changed more often compared to LED lighting that can last up to 25 times longer

Keep busy while also improving your home and your environmental impact by fixing leaks, installing weather stripping to windows and doorways, and replacing incandescent light bulbs with more durable, less energy-intensive options. 

An improved house also means an improved life for both you and the environment.

Cook dishes without meat

Meat can make an excellent addition to a meal, though, try incorporating more recipes to your diet that fill your plate with fruits, vegetables and grains instead. 

Raising livestock is one of the leading causes of mass deforestation in providing space for livestock to roam and to grow food for them to eat. Deforestation results in the extensive loss of habitat of wildlife that has specifically evolved to these environments, contributing to mass extinctions of species worldwide. 

A recent study illustrated that without consuming meat or dairy, farmland would be reduced by more than 75% worldwide while still adequately feeding all 7.7 billion of us, freeing land equivalent to the size of Australia, China, the European Union and the United States combined. 

While dedicating yourself to a vegetarian or vegan diet can seem daunting, even cutting out a few meat-based meals a week can make a huge difference. 

Invest in environmentally sustainable products

Stocking up on items such as toilet paper has proven to be a big concern for citizens during COVID-19. Why? It is an essential part of everyday life, similar to other hygienic products.

Though, approximately 27,000 trees find themselves flushed or in landfills worldwide every day after being manufactured into toilet paper. This number is only expected to increase with populations growing and sanitation improvements across developing countries.

Other than toilet paper, there are plenty of other items considered essential parts to completing everyday routines. Though, with consumers becoming more environmentally conscious than ever before, businesses look to meet customers’ demands, making environmentally-conscious products easier to find.

Businesses like Lush, Ethique and Biome create bath products that come without plastic packaging and, when you need to stock up on more toilet paper, Who Gives a Crap produces toilet paper, facial tissues and paper towels from sustainably-sourced materials.

Shop for Fair-Trade Certified™ products

Other than filling your carts with environmentally-sustainable hygienic products, when you go on your next grocery trip to stock your pantries, try to look for products with the fair-trade certification. 

Often in food production, especially in the production of sugar, coffee, chocolate and tea, compromises are made to lessen costs for companies at the expense of the environment and the agricultural works that work within it. 

By being Fair Trade Certified™, products ensure that conscious choices are being made in the pursuit of a better world as companies acting responsibly are supported, agricultural workers are empowered and the environment is protected.

Not sure what companies’ products are Fair Trade Certified™? Click here to find out. 

Living a more sustainable lifestyle does not need to be difficult or interrupt your daily life. In fact, it can be very easy, enjoyable and really benefit your life in the long term. By making small, progressive changes day by day, you can help normalize sustainable living that will secure a more green future for both yourself and future generations to enjoy. 

Lesa is a senior English major and geology minor entering her first year on The Rocket staff as the Copy/Web Editor. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in technical and scientific writing. Outside of The Rocket, Lesa is a Student Writer for SRU's Communications and Public Affairs office and the Treasurer of Sigma Tau Delta.

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