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Ways to Be Sustainable during the Coronavirus Pandemic

By: Alexandra Prudente

Editor: Aqilah Humaira Ab Halim

Source: South China Morning Post

Reports and headlines have emerged of nature flourishing with cleaner rivers, clearer skies and an increase in wildlife sightings. In Malaysia, the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) has left an impact on its people’s lives as well as the surroundings. It is a known fact that human activity is one of the largest factors that is negatively impacting our environment. However now that humans are required to stay home and minimize public excursions, the environment is healing.

Since March, we have seen how fast the environment has thrived due to limited human intervention. CNN reported that the Himalayan mountain range became visible from more than 100 miles away due to the improvement of air quality in India. Lifestyles have been gradually shifted to adapt to the current coronavirus pandemic and even have some thinking that working from home is not an impossible feat. People are practicing social distancing, self-isolation, maintaining proper hygiene and realigning their routines to adapt to the ‘new normal’. What more can we do in times like this? This is an ideal opportunity to continue prioritizing our planet by initiating an eco-friendly lifestyle while adjusting to the new normal. Whether you are totally new to the concept of living sustainably or you have been at it for years, the following are a few ways to implement simple sustainable changes into your life during this pandemic.

Be conscious when ordering on food delivery services. Being indoors most of the time may make us crave for local nasi goreng, kuey teow and fast food dishes from our favorite restaurants. Food delivery services such as GrabFood, dahmakan and Foodpanda have made going through the MCO a little easier. However, these dishes often come with plastic utensils or in single-use plastic packaging which damages the environment as most end up in rivers and oceans, as stated by Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia president, Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil. According to an audit by World Cleanup Day 2019, 10,370 littered pieces of plastic take-out containers were picked up during a mass cleanup across 90 locations in Malaysia last year. Therefore, with the extra time we have at home, we can cook or bake more often than order in. Plus, there are hundreds of recipes available to try on the Internet for those longing for their favorite restaurant dishes, but make sure to finish the leftovers as well. Nevertheless, if ordering food delivery is still on your agenda, then perhaps opt for no plastic cutlery with your order. Foodpanda has launched their cutlery opt-out feature in December 2017 to support long-term reduction of single-use plastics.

Use this time to transform your wardrobe. According to Kloth Data 2019, Malaysians produce a monstrous 2,000 tonnes of textile waste and other wearable products daily which ends up in landfills. Textile waste releases a harmful greenhouse gas called methane when it decomposes, which contributes to global warming. Dyes and chemicals in fabric and other components of clothing and shoes can contaminate our water sources when it leaches into the soil. So, cut up those old pair of jeans and turn it into a cute purse or turn adult socks into toddler leggings! Other ways consumers can play a part in constructing a more sustainable wardrobe is by repairing or upcycling worn out clothes, selling pre-loved clothing online, donating old clothes and reduce consumption of fast fashion by shopping from thrift stores (online!). And if you are mainly staying at home, wear an outfit multiple times before washing. Renting out or participating in a clothes swap would not be a viable option at the moment due to the dangers of spreading the virus, but adopting even one or two of the sustainable methods mentioned above can be a great help in reducing your fashion footprint.

There is an old adage that hits close to (a sustainable) home, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. Enjoy time alone or with the family at home by undertaking an upcycling or DIY project. Also known as creative repurposing, upcycling is more than merely enjoying a fun DIY, its environmental impact is smaller than recycling or traditional production as it uses less energy, water and raw materials to create something new. Ideas for a project at home can come from sources like Pinterest and YouTube and can often be completely made out of items in your home. Toilet paper or kitchen towel rolls can be painted and glued together into stationery holders, wall organizers or even fun décor for the next birthday party. Glass jars, chipped coffee mugs, teacups, old tin cans and bottles can be creatively upcycled into candles or candle holders, planters and even desk organizers with your own personal touch! Breathing new life into these worn-out items not only steers it away from the landfill but also gets your creative juices flowing, which – according to the Huffington Post – improves mental health and wellness. There are infinite innovations to repurpose the things laying around your home without degrading the quality of the item and help you on your way to a more sustainable lifestyle.

In conclusion, the current pandemic should not disrupt your capacity to make an effort in prioritizing the well-being of our environment. There are plenty more ways to implement a sustainable lifestyle but hopefully, these steps can lay a foundation for you to begin your journey and help in spreading awareness during these times.

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