By Rachael Link, MS, RD
When COVID-19 made its first appearance in the U.S., it didn’t take long to realize that our daily routines would look drastically different going forward. Not only did the pandemic force entire cities to shut down and send healthcare systems scrambling, it also caused a major disruption throughout the grocery supply chain. Who knew toilet paper would become so scarce?
Amidst the heartbreak and turmoil of the pandemic, stories and news of positive change still emerged. The global slowdown caused greenhouse gas emissions to drop and air pollution to plummet, but it’s also provided a valuable opportunity to rethink the types of products we purchase and how we can practice sustainability going forward. There are a number of small changes you can make that will have a big impact on the health of our planet.
As states begin to re-open around the country, we’re all looking ahead to what is possible when we collectively change our habits. Here’s a quick guide on how to get started.
Ensuring the items we bring into the home are safe and sanitary means selecting packaged, sealed products. We know that the packaging for a product makes a big impact on the overall environmental impact. Take, for example, the water aisle. We know plastic bottles are made from oil and not sustainable. Aluminum cans, too, are made from Bauxite, must be strip-mined, and are not sustainable. However, Boxed Water™ provides water in a 92% plant-based package. While a personal, reusable water bottle is always the best option for sustainability, Boxed Water meets your needs for safe hydration on-the-go, can be delivered to your door with online ordering, and offers a better solution for the planet than disposable water bottles.
Remember to Recycle
Recycling whenever possible is one of the easiest and most effective ways to decrease your environmental impact. In fact, it’s estimated that around 70% of what we find in the landfill could have been recycled at one point.
Be sure to stay informed about which items can be recycled in your area to avoid “wish-cycling”, or throwing items into the recycling bin and hoping that they can be recycled. This can contaminate the recycling stream, rendering many recyclable items useless and costing recycling programs extra time and money.
Become a Conscious Consumer
Becoming a more conscious consumer involves looking beyond the label and considering the environmental, social, and ecological impacts of your purchase. Start by buying from companies that align with your values, offer sustainable packaging, or are produced locally.
There are also plenty of eco-friendly and socially responsible brands that give back to the community or the planet with every purchase. Boxed Water, for example, donates a portion of every purchase to environmental organizations planting trees and cleaning up beaches. This year the company announced that they have planted one million trees and will continue to plant two trees for every social media post tagged with @BoxedWater and #BetterPlanet. Hundreds of thousands of people have already participated.
Learn more: Boxed Water’s commitment to sustainability
Cut Back on Food Waste
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, approximately 40% of food produced in the United States is wasted. What’s more, the average person wastes around 400 pounds of food annually, which translates to about $1,500 every year for a family of four.
Food waste has a staggering impact on the environment, filling landfills, leading to a loss of resources, and taking a toll on biodiversity. Fortunately, there are plenty of steps you can take to cut back on food waste. Buy only what you need, practice proper food storage, experiment with food preservation methods like canning and pickling, and try composting to turn food scraps into a nutrient-rich soil conditioner for plants.
Support Local Food and Farmers
Consider supporting your local food system to decrease the distance that your food travels after production. Purchasing from farmers markets, opting for locally produced ingredients, or joining a community supported agriculture (CSA) program are a few great ways to get started and they are particularly important now. Knowing how your food is produced is more important than ever. By supporting the regional and local agriculture economy, you’re partaking in transparent and safe buying practices while enriching your community.
You can also try growing and producing your own food at home, which can ensure that you always have a steady supply of ingredients on hand. Not ready for a huge vegetable garden? No problem! Plant a few of your favorite vegetables in containers in your backyard or patio or simply start a collection of herbs in a sunny windowsill. Ready for a bigger commitment (and more food!), check for community gardens in your area.