Practicing sustainability is a necessity for survival. We must think beyond our former collective ways of treating the planet. We can create a healthier future by being mindful of the footprints we leave behind now. When we choose to support the greater good of the Earth, we all benefit.
What is sustainability? Sustainability embodies conscious practices for longevity. It is a way to live in harmony with the natural world that allows both the planet and humanity to thrive.
Sustainable practices focus on preventing further damage to our Earth and attempt to preserve our precious land. Sustainability explores different ways to utilize the Earth’s resources without depleting them. Sustainable practices aim to replenish natural resources in such a way that equilibrium is maintained. Sustainability also encompasses reduction of emissions and carbon footprint and the fair treatment and compensation of workers.
Throughout history, many societies have collapsed due to an inability to adapt to conditions via sustainable practices. Rather than repeat those mistakes, we should do our part now to make better and more informed choices.
Theory holds that universal intervention will come to those unable to make choices that serve the higher good. From one perspective, COVID-19 forced us into long-overdue environmental action. Unexpected benefits arose from worldwide lockdowns. The scarcity of air traffic began to slow down global warming. The drastic halt in our lifestyles due to quarantines and lockdowns created substantial changes in our environment. Reduced travel and commuting meant less air pollution. Smog in big cities began to dissipate, and ecosystems began to flourish anew. The waters in the Venice Canal became crystal clear, inviting aquatic life back and serving as a global example of how quickly the Earth wants to heal. The ever-hazy Beijing sky showed itself as blue and bright. Even the Himalayan mountain range was visible from 100 miles away. The noise pollution of traffic and people became extinct, ending disturbances in natural environments and more and more animals came out of hiding. Nature was healing and thriving. Just as for Mother Earth, with rest, our physical bodies also heal.
Despite the environmental benefits of lockdown, in many ways, COVID-19 also contributed to an environmental detriment. With the unavoidable need for face masks, garbage began to pile up rapidly. The increase in online shopping and ordering take-out created more household waste.
How Do We Reduce Garbage?
Do not litter your face masks! Not only is this a health hazard towards humans, but it also poses serious harm to our wildlife, land, and oceans. Please dispose of your masks properly. Cut the elastic earpieces off before placing them in the garbage so that birds cannot get caught in them. If the option is available to you, purchase recyclable masks from companies like EcoBreathe, or choose a reusable mask and wash it regularly.
Our litter is like a virus in this world; it disrupts the natural order of things and disregards the safety of all life that resides within it. Knowing that toxic waste in our body is considered unhealthy, we need to remember that the Earth is also a body and must be cared for. When ordering take-out, try to choose places that offer compostable packaging. Recycling cardboard boxes from increased deliveries is also a great and sustainable practice.
Bring your reusable grocery bags for shopping. If the store does not permit these, bring an extra-large backpack or personal tote to transport your items without using plastic or paper bags. Choose food items that are locally sourced to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation. Prioritize whole, organic, or biodynamic products. Biodynamic farming focuses on growing organic foods while sustaining the integrity of the land on which they are grown.
Whenever possible, cook at home. You can easily make most grocery store packaged goods from scratch. Hummus, nut milk, granola, and condiments are some options you could try. Get creative with desserts and sauces. You will be reducing the waste and increasing the quality and nutritional content of the food you consume.
When it comes to fashion, there is a surplus of waste. 80% of textiles end up in the landfill. Online shopping became a 24-7 outlet for retail therapy. The increase of impulse buying and mindless transactions created a surplus of cardboard waste. Try waiting a few days before ordering something online. Be sure that it is something you need and will use. This will also help you save money and stay on budget. This practice of mindfulness will help eliminate unnecessary purchases. Each item ordered requires packaging and shipping, essentially creating garbage and pollution. If you desperately need something, try to make a list and order everything at once. One big order is better than multiple smaller ones.
- Opt for natural, organic fabrics. Natural textiles allow your skin to breathe freely.
- Choose cotton which improves with wash. Organic cotton uses 91% less water to grow than regular cotton, producing lower greenhouse gases.
- Donate old clothing, buy from second-hand shops, or organize clothing swaps with friends.
- Learn to sew. Repair everything that you can, even non-clothing items.
- Choose ethical brands. Investigate companies that are doing their part in preserving our land rather than destroying it and that have ethical treatment of workers.
- Swap disposable cotton pads for reusable ones or use a washcloth.
- Choose clean beauty products that are free from harmful chemicals; the fewer the ingredients, the better.
- Try single ingredient face oils instead of creams packed with preservatives; rosehip oil does wonders for the face and is non-comedogenic.
- Use bar soap instead of body wash; artisanal bars of soap are sustainably packaged and made with natural ingredients.
- Choose a zinc-based sunscreen that is ocean safe.
Protect Our Water:
Did you know that chemical detergents reduce oxygen in the water and can suffocate aquatic life? They disrupt the natural environment by contaminating the water with surfactants and mineral compounds. We harm our Earth when we support brands that use these harsh chemicals. Use natural-based shampoos and cleaners. In the 1950s Germany had such a drought that the influx of chemicals in the rivers started to foam. These types of occurrences are mega warnings. Choose pesticide-free.
Let us take these conscious practices forward as lockdowns are lifted. Let us aim to maintain a certain level of caution and discretion with our consumption and waste. The pandemic offered us a chance to correct our wrongdoings. Rather than revert to past habits, it is wise for all humankind to save this incredible planet for generations to come. With mindful practices, there is hope for a brighter future. Now is our chance to realign our values in a way that supports all life. The work starts now.