How to build a sustainable future post COVID-19 – By Margarita and Ana-Christina

Amongst all the chaos, anxiety and uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought upon us, there is also an air of hope and optimism that the current pandemic will push the world towards a more sustainable path. 

Quarantine life has forced us to create new routines, and to adapt to a world with less freedoms and limited luxuries. As quarantine protocols start to ease in some parts of the world, we are still very much living in a COVID world, and “getting back to our old lives” as we knew it is still nowhere on the horizon. It is easy to become frustrated by this new reality and the things we cannot change, however, we can also choose to focus our energy and intention on what we can influence – and there is a lot we can do. 

At the risk of sounding cliche, those of us privileged with safety can embrace this pandemic as an opportunity to be part of the change for a better future. The first step in this direction is to stop looking at this pandemic as merely a temporary disruption to our “normal” life. We must face the hard truth that our “normal” world is not a place we want to “go back to” as it is causing devastating environmental perils and is leading humanity towards much greater crises. Rather, we must regard the current situation as a process of change, as a checkpoint in time where we stop to re-think and re-direct our journey. 

How can we help build sustainable green economies that safeguard the health of humans and the environment? 

As individuals, the most powerful tool we hold to influence the world for the better is our voice and our purchasing power. 

Our decisions are not as personal as we like to believe, they are the motor of our global economy. COVID-19 has come to teach us many hard lessons, yet possibly the most important of all is that we are all interlinked. Our lifestyle, habits, decisions are all part of an inseparable web of interactions that has been consolidated by globalisation. 

The truth is that my individual decision to avoid a plastic cup or to boycott fast fashion is not having a significant impact on the environment in itself, considering that millions of people will still generate tonnes of plastic pollution and will continue shopping at H&M. However, although sometimes difficult to perceive, our personal choices have significant economic and cultural repercussions. 

By refusing to support certain products or companies, we are not only voting against their irresponsible practices, but we are also creating a ripple effect of awareness within our communities and social circles. By boycotting the mainstream culture of consumption and senseless production of waste, we are opening the door for new markets of products and companies to meet consumer’s sustainability standards. With our everyday choices we can build a movement, culture, and communities that work to create a green economy through our customer demands. This is why our choices matter at a global scale, we are the necessary motor to build more sustainable societies.

Here are 10 ways that you can use this time to adopt sustainable habits that will support your community to transition towards a greener economic model. 

Avoid plastic
Without the pressure of becoming completely zero waste from night to day (spoiler: completely zero waste does not exist!), quarantine is the perfect time to start identifying easy plastic-free products and habits you can introduce to your routine. With more time for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, practice cooking from scratch in order to reduce reliance on processed, canned, and packaged goods.

Take the time to research sustainable brands so you can find plastic-free alternatives to all your favorite beauty and household products. Better yet, make it yourself!  DIY projects are an amazing quarantine project

Refuse, reduce, reuse, and if you have to recycle, do it right!
Recycling is an important strategy to re-purpose materials, but it is fundamental to highlight that it is NOT the panacea to the global waste problem. The real waste problem lies in the over-production of single-use products, the majority of which cannot be recycled – the only solution is to avoid them altogether.

However, we cannot ignore the fact that we are living through a global pandemic, with extraordinary measures of social isolation. There is a lot that is currently out of our control. There is no use in self-shaming yourself about the waste we are producing during quarantine, rather, it is the perfect time to learn to correctly manage your waste.

Make sure you recycle right. Many cities and neighborhoods have different recycling procedures. Visit the website of your local council and read about what you can and cannot recycle and how to do it properly.

Zero waste cooking
As we spend more time at home, we are cooking a lot more, often this means; more food waste. 

  • Experiment new and easy habits to avoid food waste, such as repurposing your food-scraps to make veggie stock or pesto from herb stems, make jam with old fruit, and freeze leftovers right away – just to name a few ideas.
  • Start a compost, even if you live in an apartment – a bucket will do. 
  • Practice meal planning so that you don’t over-purchase.

Support local farmers
By supporting local agriculture we are avoiding a great deal of pollution from the industrial food chain, and we are also supporting small-scale family owned farms that tend to use more responsible farming practices. This helps strengthen the local agricultural market, creating more resilient communities in times of crisis.

There are all sorts of Community Supported Agriculture programs and direct home delivery schemes that you can sign up for. This is also a safe way to avoid the supermarkets during quarantine and receive your fresh veggies directly from the farm to your doorstep.

Eat less meat
It is a known (and often ignored) fact that industrial animal farming is completely unsustainable. The planet cannot sustain a carnivore diet for 8 billion people. Without advocating for a radical switch to veganism, simply reducing the consumption of animal products is an important contribution to the planet. 

Use this time to eat less meat, try out new vegetarian recipes that are more interesting and elaborate than just a salad, and maybe after quarantine is over you will be ready to eliminate meat from your diet at least a few times each week!

Buy a bike
Now that using public transportation is a health hazard, it is also the perfect time to adopt a new method of transportation. If you live somewhere that is relatively bike friendly; buy a bike, and start building the habit of getting from A to B on two wheels. This is also a great way to get outside during quarantine and do some exercise too.

Shop less
If confinement has taught us something is that we don’t actually need most of the stuff we buy. Now that most shops are still closed, many have turned to online shopping, but not being able to walk into a store has certainly been a money saving reality for most people. Embrace quarantine as a period of dematerialization, where you declutter your closet and your home, and set the intention to wean off unnecessary consumerism. 

Spend time outside
Whether you are an outdoor junkie or an urbanite, confinement has certainly made all of us long for nature adventures. Let’s not only daydream of the day we can take that road trip into the mountains. Make plans for when quarantine is over, prioritize nature connections, find time to explore the magic of our planet; only by truly appreciating nature we can learn to protect it.

Eco-friendships
The best way to bring greater environmental awareness into your life is by expanding your social circle with like-minded people. 

Now that you are probably spending a lot of time online, follow sustainability influencers on social media who are keeping the conversation going. Follow news platforms and organizations who share valuable information and shower yourself with knowledge. 

Connecting with environmentally conscious individuals, whether it is in person or online, is an inspiring experience that motivates us to be part of a global movement working towards a sustainable future.

Advocacy
This is without a doubt the most powerful tool we have to influence long-term change.  All of the recommendations on this list are important, yet personal habits in isolation will not change the world. 

We must stay up to date on environmental policy, advocate and vote in favor of politicians who prioritize the sustainability agenda. We must be whistleblowers in our daily lives, boycotting and exposing companies who pollute without accountability.

Whether you are the eco-warrior amongst your friends or the one looking to be inspired, be the first to start a conversation, share a plant-based recipe or an interesting article with your family, etc.

Do not be afraid to be a leader, even if you feel un-experienced. Get involved in your community, help your neighbor recycle right, or organize a beach cleanup. The possibilities are endless. 

There are so many things we can do to support our communities towards a sustainable path, yet we must not forget that this is not an individual journey. The goal is not to achieve a zero-waste kitchen, rather, the goal is to play our part, even if small,  in transforming the global economy.  

After spending months at home thinking about our vulnerability, let’s ease back into the world with a renewed intention to build resilient, sustainable societies. We all have a role to play, and it has never been a more appropriate time to join the movement.

About Margarita

Margarita is a zoologist, sustainability activist and content creator, who uses the power of her social media to influence people to make more sustainable choices in daily life. After traveling to more than 60 countries and seeing what actually happens to our planet, how plastic and food waste affects the environment, she decided to take a stand to speak about it and encourage people to care about nature just a little bit more. Margarita is a speaker, presenter and someone very passionate about nature connection and taking care of our planet. Find her on Instagram by clicking here.

About Ana-Christina

Ana-Christina (aka, Cookie G) is a sustainability and climate activist and writer. She is a plant obsessed foodie, passionate about shedding light on the impacts of our food choices in order to encourage eating with awareness. Whether one is vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, a meat lover or anything in between, Ana believes we can be responsible consumers no matter our dietary choices. Check out her blog The Cookie Project to read more of her work, and you can find her on social media by clicking here