illustration of house in the country

We are conditioned to consume and to waste, but when supplies are limited and we’re all being asked to sacrifice and make do with less, it’s time to learn how to live a little differently.

Adopting even the smallest eco-friendly measures can minimize your stress and give you greater peace of mind about protecting your family, your home, and your planet. And what better time than now, when many people have some extra time on their hands, thanks to stay-at-home orders.

1. Use Rags Instead of Paper Towels

Paper towels are a must-have for many people, and they’re in short supply in the COVID-19 climate. But most of the jobs you do with a paper towel – from drying produce to cleaning countertops – you can do with a washable, reusable rag.

Short on rags? By now you probably have a few rag-worthy items in your closet thanks to the same leggings or tees you’ve been wearing repeatedly for weeks while sequestering at home. Or, invest in a set of paperless paper towels or bamboo dishcloths to get the job done.

When it’s time to disinfect, grab your rag and a spray bottle of your favorite surface cleaner, like CleanWell’s botanical disinfecting spray, recently added to the EPA’s List N of disinfectants for use against COVID-19 (so it might be out of stock at many retailers), or VEO’s active-probiotics apple and jasmine surface cleaner.

Woman cleaning a window with an old T-shirt
An old T-shirt you no longer wear makes a great cleaning rag. Photo by Gantas Vaičiulėnas from Pexels

Using rags regularly means your laundry efforts will need to ramp up.

Consider a nontoxic laundry detergent like Defunkify. Accompany the load in the dryer with environmentally friendly, reusable wool dryer balls like those from Jack & Mary Designs instead of dryer sheets. The goal is always to eliminate disposable paper products where an eco-friendly alternative would work just as well or better.

2. Eliminate Food Waste

Maybe the toilet paper supply chain hasn’t fully recovered quite yet, but the U.S. food supply chain is strong. Many grocery stores are almost back to normal stock levels, so you don’t have to panic shop to get your bread and produce – or buy food that you would never normally eat just to feel better about having something in the house (we’ve all done it).

Try to buy only the perishable items that your household can eat between this shopping trip and the next. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up to create needless food waste. This is an easy habit to adopt, and one that requires you to be more thoughtful about your meal planning and snacks. And it’s still OK to take your reusable shopping bags with you to the store — just wash them in between each visit to prevent the spread of germs.

man using his smartphone to shop from home
If you shop online, consolidate your orders to reduce the number of packages and shipping materials. Image Jack Sparrow on Pexels

3. Manage the Mess

When you and your family are home 24/7, seven days a week, the mess grows quickly if you don’t stay on top of it. If you are looking for ways to reduce the amount of trash your household produces, even starting small can make a big impact.

Instead of wrapping leftovers in a disposable plastic storage bag, put them in glass storage containers. Instead of buying single-use plastic straws, invest in reusable stainless steel straws. If you shop online, aim for the minimum number of orders per month to avoid an overload of packaging materials to recycle and discard. Take the time to plan ahead and you’ll also be more thoughtful about the items you’re purchasing and whether you really need them.

Simply spend a few minutes considering your usual habits as you go throughout your day. Is there is a way to make them eco-friendlier and produce less waste?

clean city
Why not start the next chapter with habits that are kind to the earth? Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

4. Drop CO2 Emissions

You may be among the many who are working from home and not going anywhere you don’t absolutely need to go. Double down on these conditions by carefully planning your shopping travel to get everything you need in one outing. You’ll use less gas, only need one face mask for the duration of your trip, and reduce wear and tear on your vehicle. With home grocery delivery, you may be able to eliminate trips to the store entirely.

By the time stay-at-home orders end, you may discover that you’ve developed a much more sustainable new way of life. It will no longer be something you’ve adjusted to out of necessity, but will simply become the way you live, long after we are again allowed to mingle.

Life will never be exactly as it once was — why not start the next chapter with better habits that are kind to the earth? The hard choices now, during hard times, will become easy habits when life relaxes after the pandemic passes.

Feature image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay