Our American culture is centered around work. Yet when we all scrambled indoors to quarantine earlier this year, something shifted. Life became quieter for us and the world around us.
Suddenly, wildlife returned to Illinois lakefronts and air pollution dropped. But at the same time as environmental issues seemed to improve, others declined. More people at home meant waste pile ups and slow recycling. After state and local laws finally had an impact on reducing them, single-use plastics are back on the upswing.
Certainly, rivers and lakes were drowning in plastic and landfills were filling with trash long before COVID-19 came around. But now, with CDC guidelines asking businesses to use disposable food service items and ramp up their cleaning protocols, things could get a lot worse.
By returning to habits that existed before COVID-19, and adding in some new ones, you can stay eco-friendly in this post pandemic disposable world.
Easy Eco-Friendly Choices
On top of everything else, it might feel overwhelming to think about how we can help the environment right now. Yet there are simple, practical ways that we can make a difference even with all of the changes brought on by the pandemic.
1. Purchase Recycled Materials
When it comes to changing a habit, sometimes starting small is best. Purchasing recycled materials instead of new ones is beneficial in two ways:
- It gives new life to old materials
- It creates revenue that supports the recycling industry
Try swapping out items you already use with their recycled counterpart. Stocking up on toilet paper for your building? Buy the recycled version. Looking to update your office space? Consider repurposed materials.
Buying recycled products is a straightforward way to make an impact without having to make any large-scale changes.
2. Use Biodegradable Supplies
Plastics can never truly breakdown. Instead, they turn into micro-plastics that seep into our soil and fill up our waterways. It’s one of the reasons they are so harmful to the environment.
The CDC recommends that businesses, especially restaurants, coffee shops and food service businesses, use disposable items to mitigate the risks of COVID-19. But “disposable” does not have to mean plastic.
There are often biodegradable options that are better for the environment. These products do break down over time, becoming organic matter that is safe for our land and water.
Instead of using plastic cups, plates and cutlery for guests, choosing biodegradable restaurant supplies will help to lighten the extra burden on our sanitation workers and keep more waste out of landfills.
Biodegradable products look and act just like the harmful plastic ones, so why not use them?
3. Recycle When You Can
We are not just talking about your bottles and cans. While placing recycling bins throughout your business for common food items will help, this is only one piece of the puzzle. Items like ink, toner and batteries can all leak toxins into the soil when placed in landfills. Thankfully, they can also be recycled. It takes a bit more work to recycle these kinds of items, but it has a big and noticeable impact.
Unemployment is hitting record numbers and food banks are feeling the effects. At the same time, restaurants are struggling to fill their tables. While we anxiously wait for customers to return, food is going to waste and people are going hungry. Instead of needed food ending up in a landfill, use these EPA recommended organizations to bring any excess food items to food banks or food rescue organizations. Chances are, there’s hungry folks you can help right in our Galesburg community.
COVID-19 has brought us all into a “new normal,” one with more disposable products and waste. But we can combat the environmental impact of this. By choosing eco-friendly products, recycling whenever possible and using biodegradable and recycled supplies, we can still run eco-friendly businesses.