4 Tips to Reducing Waste During Quarantine

With Shelter-In-Place orders in San Mateo County and Statewide, the sudden spread of COVID-19 has caused each of us to pause before going out on simple trips to the grocery store, even leading many of us to favor services that deliver food and goods. With so much additional time spent in home, items like soft plastics associated with shipping have increased in our waste stream. While not all waste is avoidable, this time at home can be a wonderful opportunity to form better habits and learn something new about the ways we generate waste.

Here are a few waste-reduction tips to try out during quarantine:

1) Conduct a Home Waste Audit: Hold yourself accountable of the waste you generate by taking note of everything you throw into any of your 3 carts. Your audit could be for just one day or even a week’s worth of waste, but the goal is to become more aware of the volume of waste we are personally responsible for. Take note of each item, what it’s made of, and which cart it’s tossed into. At the end of your audit, reflect on what types of items were tossed the most, and consider finding at least one solution to preventing this waste. Here’s a Home Waste Audit Campaign that can help you get started. If you have children or roommates, this makes for a great group activity!

2) Ditch To-Go Disposables: As many of us turn to delivery options from our favorite local restaurants, it can be easy for unnecessary single-use plastics to pile up. A simple way to avoid excess utensils, straws, or napkins is by requesting in the “special instructions” that your order is delivered without them! Our collective actions can make a significant impact!

3) Explore Eco-Alternatives:  Support smaller businesses online and reduce trips to the store by trying out low-packaging or compostable products. Many of these products may not be available at a regular grocery store, so quarantine is a great time to browse the internet and find your new favorite eco-alternative! Some examples may be: toothpaste tablets, reusable coffee filter, bar shampoo/conditioner, bamboo dish scrubber, or a silicone baking mat.

4) Trash to Art: If you’ve got kiddos at home this one’s especially for you – exercise your creativity by turning items that would otherwise go into the landfill into a beautiful masterpiece! Whether it be a sculpture of your favorite cartoon character, a re-creation of your favorite painting, or something entirely original, this is a fun activity to give your waste a second life. If you know a 3rd-5th grader that goes to school in the RethinkWaste service area, you’re in luck! The RethinkWaste Trash to Art competition is open until May 8, and your submission might just get recognized!

With restrictions surrounding reusable cups and bags, as well as a surge in medical waste like gloves, these days we are seeing the return of single-use garbage in our environment. Although much of this waste is difficult to avoid during this time (and most of it belongs in our garbage and not the streets), it’s important that we continue to look for small changes we can make at home that will keep the zero waste movement alive. As we continue to be conscious of the items we throw out, know that the time for reusables will come again, and it will be as important as ever to enact these habits of environmental responsibility.