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Photo credit: LIZ VO, ELLA OLSSEN VIA UNSPLASH

Five ways to be more sustainable during the pandemic

With the pandemic increasing our consumption of plastic and disposable goods, here's a beginner's guide on how to practise sustainable habits.

Stacey Tay

When she’s not writing articles, you’ll find her at home using her sewing machine.


Published: 5 August 2021, 4:32 PM

From ordering home meal delivery to using disposable masks, all of us have been adjusting to go about our daily lives during the pandemic. However, many of the new habits have led to increased consumption of plastic and disposable goods, with impact on our oceans and landfills. 

With many of us now working or studying from home, it is the perfect time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally-friendly. 

Not sure where to start? Here are five ways to be sustainable during the pandemic.

1. Use reusable masks

As COVID-19 intensifies, face masks have become our ‘new normal’. According to the Straits Times, 129 billion plastic face masks are used and disposed of every month. 

Disposable masks are made out of plastics that cannot be broken down easily in the environment. As a result, they are unsuitable for recycling and in some cases pollute the oceans where animals can be caught in the masks’ elastics or choke on them.

 

To protect yourself against the virus, a good reusable mask should have two fabric layers that cover your nose and mouth. PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ VO VIA UNSPLASH

 

One solution to this is to use a reusable mask that can be washed and dried. Not only are reusable masks affordable, they reduce the amount of disposable masks being thrown away. 

Reusable masks are definitely a more sustainable option and can save you a fair bit of money in the long run. 

2. Avoid single-use plastics

Although using reusable masks is a step forward to being eco-friendly, it is not enough to reduce plastic pollution in the environment. 

A study conducted by the National University of Singapore found that Singapore generated an estimated 1,334 tonnes more plastic waste during circuit breaker last year.

If you are a regular shopper, bring along a tote bag. Reusable bags such as cotton or polyester are lightweight and easy to clean.

 

To avoid using plastic bags found in the supermarkets, carry your own bag to put your groceries in. PHOTO CREDIT: THE CREATIVE EXCHANGE VIA UNSPLASH

 

 

With Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) in place, many of us are showing our support to hawkers by ordering takeaways from them. Instead of using their disposable plastic containers, bring your own reusable containers. 

You can also invest in a tiffin carrier, also known as a ‘tingkat’ that allows you to stack different foods in separate containers.

3. Declutter consciously

If you are spring cleaning your home, do not throw all of your items away immediately! 

Some of these pre-loved items can be passed on to sell if they are still in good condition. These items may include books, clothes, kitchenware and the like. Sending items to the landfills should always be the last resort.

 

Put a sorting system in place and consider whether your items can be reused, recycled or fixed. PHOTO CREDIT: KAROLINA GRABOWS VIA PEXELS

 

Of course, we must also be mindful that not everything given to charity shops will be sold and some may still end up in the bin. Thus we should also consider keeping some of the items that can be fixed. Some quick and easy fixes include upcycling your clothes and repairing furniture. 

If your items cannot be repaired or reused, see if they can be recycled. Separate your items into piles such as paper, glass, metal and plastic. 

Once you’ve decluttered, you’ll feel more at ease with more space for your other items. You will learn to value what you have more and spend wisely on the things you really need.

4. Implement a plant-based diet

Another way to reduce the environmental impact is following a plant-based diet. A plant-based diet not only includes fruits and vegetables, it also contains nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, and beans. 

Did you know that meat consumption contributes to global warming? Livestock rearing, deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions are some factors that lead to climate change. 

If you are a meat lover, try consuming more plant-based meat substitutes instead. It might taste just as delicious as the real thing! 

 

Incorporating more plant-based ingredients into your diet can help reduce harmful effects that rearing livestock has on the environment. PHOTO CREDIT: ELLA OLSSON VIA UNSPLASH

 

In addition, having a plant-based diet is not just about the environment. Vegetarian diets can support your health by lowering the risk of developing coronary heart disease and high blood pressure.

5. Educate yourself on environmental issues

If you are not very familiar with climate issues, there are resources, including on Instagram that provide bite-sized content on how to be a sustainable consumer.

 

Learn about the various environmental issues in Singapore and raise awareness by sharing with others what you have learned. PHOTO CREDIT: INSTAGRAM/@THEWEIRDANDWILD

 

 

Some of these local accounts include:

@byobottlesg is an online initiative that educates people on how to be more sustainable such as bringing their own bottles and containers to reduce waste.

@theweirdandwild shares about local and global environment affairs through unique illustrations.

@tammy_online is a local environmentalist that writes about the environment and social impacts of sustainable fashion. 

It is imperative to learn about the environmental issues that affect us, and more importantly, how to fix them before the damage is irreversible. 

Practising sustainable habits can make a difference towards a greener environment. By being more conscious of our actions towards the environment, we can become a more eco-friendly consumer for the planet.


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