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Top 10 ways to be more sustainable in the era of COVID-19

Just because we are living in a global pandemic does not mean we no longer have to live sustainably

<p>Zachary Anderson is a Top 10 writer for The Cavalier Daily.</p>

Zachary Anderson is a Top 10 writer for The Cavalier Daily.

1. Recycle and compost

Make something into something else. Recycling is trendy, fashionable and eco-friendly. Composting is earthy, granola and also eco-friendly. Recycling will make that used water bottle into the clothing of the future — or maybe just into another water bottle. Composting can create fertilizer from trash, so your trash becomes your garden’s treasure.

2. Invest in a reusable water bottle

Ditching the plastic and buying a reusable water bottle is one of the easiest ways to reduce plastic waste. It is still trendy to save the turtles, and while we’re at it, let’s save the environment too. Drinking from the tap or some of the nifty bottle fillers located on Grounds, if you have in-person classes, can empty trash bins and keep your wallet filled — plus drinking filtered tap water is much cheaper than buying a single-use bottled water. So drink water, save money and save the environment.

3. Use a reusable mask

Single-use personal protective equipment is great for solving problems now, but what happens when we are done wearing — and sweating into — our masks? Unfortunately, many of these used — and potentially contaminated — masks are finding their way into the natural environment. COVID-19 has caused an increase in medical waste from PPE compared to previous years. Fortunately, we can reduce this impact by using reusable masks and washing them instead of using a new mask for every trip to the store, every visit to a friend or every walk to Grounds.

4. Unplug and unwind

We live in an age that is extremely dependent on electricity — however, our dependence on electricity has its drawbacks. The more we can reduce our energy consumption, the less fossil fuels we need to burn to keep our lights on. Unfortunately, when we burn fossil fuels to power our homes, computers and everything else, harmful chemicals are released into the air, which have been directly correlated to rising temperatures. To keep peace of mind, we should unplug technology when it’s not in use. It's as simple as flipping a switch to make the planet a healthier place.

5. Take advantage of value-sized products

Buying value-sized products can help you save money, but did you know that it can also help the environment? Buying items in bulk uses surprisingly less material than smaller, conventional packaging, which means that there is less waste entering landfills — plus there’s more money in your pocket, which is always a pro. Just be careful to only buy items in bulk you know you will use completely to avoid unnecessary waste. 

6. Say no to straws and plastic utensils

Plastic is bad. Should I say less? Well, I’m actually going to say more and tell you to decline straws and plastic utensils when going out to your favorite restaurants. Investing in a fork, a spoon and a knife is a great way to avoid putting more trash into the landfill than you need to.

7. Go paperless

Going paperless is no easy task, but COVID-19 has given us one good thing — digitalization. In this era of technology, we can work from home without the need for printers, notebooks and all sorts of paper products — dare I say textbooks? This new digital landscape has given us the freedom to ditch the paper and take notes on a computer or smartphone.

8. Avoid buying more than you need

Single-use products better get ready because I’m about to give them the rundown. If you buy more than you need, then there is most definitely more waste associated with what you bought. Unfortunately, if there is something extra in one’s pantry, closet or other storage area that is not being used, it becomes forgotten and eventually becomes unnecessary waste. Let’s limit this by only buying what we need.

9. Support local restaurants and locally-sourced food

Ah the supermarket, the glorious cornucopia of vibrant capitalism. A place where people can buy any food, any time — even if it’s out of season. Although supermarkets are great, there are better ways to eat that are also better for the environment. The Charlottesville area is fortunate enough to have many organic and locally-grown products available in both supermarkets and restaurants. This means that our food is from close by, which means less carbon dioxide emissions are required to get the food on the shelves and into our favorite restaurants.

10. Walk

Yes, of course walking would be here — were you expecting anything different? Walking is a sustainable way to get around. It may be slow, but sometimes it can be exercise. Despite the fact that walking can be mundane and boring, you do not emit harmful greenhouse gases while doing so. Biking and other forms of alternative transportation — types that do not require gasoline or any type of fossil fuel — are also great. Be the green machine that you were meant to be and get those steps in.