7 Easy Ways to Help the Environment While you are Still Quarantining (The Updated List... Since This is Still Happening)

by - Saturday, January 02, 2021


I wrote a list of ideas of eco-friendly things to do while stuck at home... but that was 9 months ago. I don't think I ever could have guessed that we would still be here, social distancing, wearing masks, and mastering zoom in 2021. Vaccines are starting to be rolled out, and new leadership is on the way - I couldn't be more happy to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But that tunnel is still a good distance away, and I want to do some good things with this time. 

These days of quarantine are also a pretty rare stop in our routines and busy-ness. If you are one of the lucky ones who isn't trying to desperately figure out how you are going to pay your rent and eat, then you weirdly have some time on your hands. Why not use that time to make some changes and finish some projects that can help the planet?

Every climate crisis that is coming could be just as brutal to the humans on this planet, and our most vulnerable people will suffer the most. If you are feeling helpless, here are some ways to take advantage of this strange moment and help those who need it well into the future. No one can do everything on this list, but most of us can do something. Let's help our neighbors now and help our planet for the future.

Let's get to it...

So, here is an updated list of things you can do from home, because you are awesome for staying home and taking this seriously- it helps a lot of people. 

1. Shop Local and Take a Break from Amazon

Billionaires made a LOT of money last year. Like, unthinkable amounts of money. No one needs to worry about Jeff Bezos- that guy is doing just fine. 

All the shopping leads to tons of shipping- which means higher carbon emissions, plastic pollution, and more money for Jeff Bezos. It doesn't do a lot for us, but overconsumption is a major contributor to Climate Change. So one of the best (though not the easiest) ways we can help the planet right now is to stop our retail therapy. 

We have had our bored internet shopping, emotion shopping, weird stuff on the internet shopping. Just take a break from all of it. Have you noticed that none of this stuff has actually made things much better? Does anyone else notice their home is just overfilled with stuff? Are you sick of cleaning it for the millionth time? 

You don't have to clean the things you don't buy. This is what I tell myself when I start browsing again. We are doing a No Spend challenge this January to cut off all the shopping. 

On the other hand, local businesses are hurting. Small businesses, your local restaurants- it's not pretty. 

2. Cancel that Junk Mail

This is one of those tasks that can live on your to do lists for ages. You have time now to do the kinds of things you always mean to do. Do this one. Is it a pain? Yes, but 100 billion pounds of junkmail delivered every year. If every person who is staying home more did this, we could dramatically shrink that number, save trees (more for toilet paper), and just get less terrible mail.

Want a good resource for how to do this? Eco-cycle has a simple step by step for getting off the lists for junkmail.

If you only do one thing over this time to help the planet, this is a good one.

3. Get Outside

It's winter on the other side of the holidays- not usually a time we spend outside. That said, it could be a great time to try a winter garden, pick up litter, or just talk to friends from at least 6 feet. We can't go to many of our favorite spaces- restaurants, theaters, museums, or even church, but the message we keep hearing is that it is ok to go outside. You can maintain social distance and enjoy the fresh air. We are planning to be outside for at least two hours every day to stay sane.

The bonus of doing this (beyond taking care of your mental health) is that the more time we spend in nature, the more likely we are to protect it. We protect the things we love, so get out there and fall in love with nature again. Just wear a lot of warm clothes while you do it. 

Have kids at home with you? What a perfect time to set a new normal for them! Check out this list for ideas on activities to fall in love with nature with them.

4. Switch to Bulk (and Eco-Friendly) Toilet Paper

From what I can tell, Corona Virus has absolutely no direct control over bathroom habits, yet everyone kicked this chapter off by losing their minds for toilet paper.

How are you all living on the edge of running out of toilet paper all of the time? Better options are out there, and now is the perfect time to shift your attitudes about basics like these.

First, consider getting a bidet or bidet attachment. When people switch, they cannot stop singing the bidet attachment's praises. It's cleaner, saves tons of trees and paper, and is a much easier sell than the family cloth (though that can be a good option too).

If you aren't ready to break up with toilet paper, you can still completely switch up your toilet paper routine. Consider buying bamboo or recycled options from Who Gives a Crap or Reel. We buy in major bulk (once or twice a year) to save money, avoid any plastic packaging, and no trees come down so we can wipe our butts. Even better, when people lost their minds over toilet paper, we knew we had at least 4 months supply already in our basement. Bulk buying RECYCLED paper products is a game changer for how you run your house and how that impacts the planet.

If you want to research this more, check out this post for more info.

5. Help out your Neighbors

We are finding ways to take care of each other which is pretty powerful. Our neighborhood in Seattle is rallying around each other, doing everything from making a shamrock hunt for kids to walking a neighbor's dog for her. People share food, advice, and puzzles.

Online neighborhood groups and Buy Nothing groups are as busy as ever. My Buy Nothing group is my favorite space on the internet- overflowing with kindness on regular days and blowing me away every day of this crisis. They allow people to offer gifts when they have more than they need, and to ask for things when they don't. If you aren't in your Buy Nothing group yet, now is a great time to join. Does your neighborhood not have one? This is the perfect time to start one!  Check out their website to learn more.

That said, there are people struggling on another level now. There is a huge economic divide at play and so many people are food insecure, losing their homes, or at a much higher risk of getting the virus. If this is not you, you have to help these people! Start locally- how are people doing in your neighborhood? How are the kids at your child's school? What is your church doing? Use that extra time to do some research and get involved.

6. Practice New Recipes (Without Meat)

Remember when we all started quarantine baking bread? Who is ready to reconnect with that energy?

While you have time to experiment in the kitchen, then it is time to embrace more vegetarian recipes. Trying some new things and finding meat-free recipes you love is a huge win for you (life gets boring when you aren't learning new things), but it is also a huge win for the planet. Animal agriculture is a huge source of CO2, pollution, and resource waste. The single best thing we can all do for the planet is to dramatically decrease (or cut) meat from our diets. Especially red meat.

So if eating more plant-based meals has been on your list of things you wanted to try "someday," now is a good time. If you eat meat-free for the next few months of social distancing, you can save thousands of gallons of water and multiple animals.

If you have been staying home for the benefit of others and want to make the most of this time, check out our Meatless Monday page and start broadening your recipes! If you have stocked up on food and don't have much access to more, you can even read some cool vegan recipes that use standard canned goods. If you have some meat already in the fridge, check out our Half-Meat Meals post for ideas on how to make what you have last more meals.

7. Use Single Use Plastic When It's Necessary 

(Skip it the Rest of the Time)

The big downside of Covid-19 is that we have seen a returning surge of single use plastics. The drinking straw as a regular part of life actually took off last time as a response to disease as well. Sometimes, single use plastic can be a Godsend to keep things sterile and safer; sometimes, it is just perception.

Months into this, we know that your grocery store really doesn't need those plastic bags for safety reasons. On the other hand, in medical contexts, PPE is so important, and that includes plastic! 

Single use isn't always necessary and if you are quarantined, you may not need it all the time. Still use your water bottle at home. We have lost some control over things, access to things like bulk shopping, and are getting way more of what we need shipped. Some of this plastic is just going to happen, but you can spend this year pushing back where you can. So please don't bring back the straw.

7 Ways to Help the Environment While you are Still Quarantining (The Updated List... Since This is Still Happening)

How are you spending quarantine now? Everyone doing alright? I hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy and safe! 

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