5 Ways to Avoid Waste in Quarantine

It’s no surprise that times are currently odd. The world, in many ways, has come to a screeching halt and everyone is scrambling to find footing in the, “new normal.” Although we are shifting to social distancing guidelines, and working from home, there are also new protocols many of us are having to accept as part of everyday life. One of those is wearing a face covering.

As I am sure most of us are aware, the N95 mask, has been the most effective on the market for helping keep the virus out of our systems, although not 100% effective. These masks are often used by construction crews to keep dust particles and fumes from chemicals out of the body. This means these masks, prior to the outbreak, were readily available at most big box and hardware stores. Those families lucky enough to have purchased these items prior to the outbreak likely had these available in their garage waiting for the next home renovation project.

Unfortunately, these face coverings are not as available as they once were. They have been bought out, and sadly, our front line medical workers are unable to have the protection they need to keep themselves safe while fighting this battle for our world. In some states, healthcare staff are being given one mask to take with them, to and from work, and they are unable to be given another. Medical masks, for sanitary reasons, are not meant to be used more than once. Due to current circumstances medical staff are required to re-use their protections.

I am not going to call anyone out for having these masks. I only would hope those who are able to provide what they can to those who truly need them will do the right thing. The world is a scary place, and as someone with multiple autoimmune issues and a nervous system disorder, I can understand how we are all jumping into our own survival tactics. What I am asking, however, is we do the best we can in this time to limit our waste, not only of medical equipment, but everyday items.

5. Sanitize Face Masks

It is not widely known that face masks, to a degree, can be sanitized. These masks, again, are not meant to be used more than once but for the time being there isn’t much of a choice. For the thicker masks, steaming them, is a good way to kill some viruses and bacteria. Please remember that this can change the structural integrity of the mask. Those masks which are thinner may not be able to withstand steaming or washing so please take this into account as well.

Boil a pot of water and hold the mask over the steam. Because you are not able to fully sanitize, this option is not feasible under normal circumstances, and should normally be avoided. However, given the current climate and lack of supplies…this is currently a good option to help stretch out the usage of a given protective device.

4. Find Ways to Re-Use Old Clothes

When a t-shirt or pair of pants become ripped or destroyed, most of us tend to toss the item in the trash. Those items which are not too far gone can be cut into rag sized cloths to use for cleaning. This gives the fabric a second life and puts it to good use.

There are also no sew face mask patterns, such as this one, which will allow you to easily fashion a face mask if you otherwise would not have the ability to make one yourself. I chose this mask over others because it requires nothing more than a pair of scissors and a t-shirt.

For those items which are keepsakes that you just can’t rid yourself of because it holds a piece of your heart, what about a t-shirt quilt? Don’t sew? No problem. Project Repat allows you to send your items to them and they create a beautiful piece to cherish. I am sure many of the services have slowed due to the pandemic, however, saving the items until services resume is worthwhile to be able to cuddle under the logo of your favorite band.

3. Amazon Boxes

I have a two year old boy who has severe food allergies, not unlike his mother, and we are required to order a special formula called Pure Amino. I usually am able to find a few cans at the local baby store but I would rather pay the two dollar up charge per can at the moment to avoid going out in public. I have been ordering four cans an order, and they usually arrive in one well packed and fitted box, unlike some other Amazon orders where a box the size of a casket is used to ship a chap stick…but I digress.

Today’s order arrived early, awesome, but it arrived in four separate bubble envelopes. I can only assume the reason for this is Amazon is running out of packing material and must reserve the boxes for other items. There is nothing wrong with this but it does bring to mind what we can do with these shipping containers in the mean time?

  1. BOXES– Use the boxes that arrive as ways to store items you would like to donate. I know many of us are using this time to overhaul our homes and garages, so placing donation items into boxes will make them easy to transport to your local donation center. Please keep in mind donation centers are currently closed. Please do not pile your unwanted items outside of their facilities as they will likely be required to simply throw out any and all “donations,” left unattended. This causes more waste.
  2. ENVELOPES– Most of us toss out those bubble envelopes after opening as the adhesive seal has been broken. This is understandable. However, I will often hold onto those envelopes and use them once more to ship items to family. By folding over the open edge and closing it with packing tape, you can use the envelope once more. Cover the labels with a sticky note and tape, black them out with a marker, or cover with your new ‘to and from,’ address label. Suddenly that one time use envelope is getting a second chance to be useful. While this may not end the full waste which comes from the use of that item, it is better than being one and done.

As an added tip: I personally re-use wrapping paper and gift bags from celebrations. Gift wrap I have been known to transfer sewing patterns onto, and then those bubble envelopes, I use to hold the pattern pieces! I will label the outside of the envelope with the pattern description and the sizes. Then I will place the pattern of wrapping paper into the envelope and file in my filing system. I was able to move an entire cosplay collection of patterns from Indiana to Arizona this way.

3. Cancel Unnecessary Mail

If you are like me, most of your mail is bills. However, those bills could easily be viewed in an online system. Even magazine subscriptions can often be converted into a digital subscription. I understand completely that sometimes a physical copy is important for documentation, or that you just love the feel of turning a page, however, for the time being moving as much mail as possible to a digital view will lessen the amount of paper being wasted. This is good practice to continue regardless of the world’s circumstances. We won’t be able to stop the spam mail and adds but what we can control is an important small step to helping cut down on waste.

2. Reusable Water Bottles and Straws

If you have a reusable water bottle, cup, and straw kudos! If not, please consider getting yourself these items. Not only do these cut down on waste but the bottle or cup is a great way to keep track of how much water you drink in a day. Not only are you helping the environment but you are taking a step in your health as well.

Straws are often found logged in wildlife, and with more people at home, the amount of waste is surly much greater. There are many people in the world who require plastic straws for medical reasons. Production on these productions will be slowed and we need to be mindful to not take these useful commodities from our community members who truly require them to survive. If you would like to better understand our community members who require straws for survival, please read this article.

Please keep in mind that while reusable cups and bottles are great, your favorite coffee places and restaurants are not able to take them at this time. If you do decide to order food, request that no straws be provided, and use your own reusable straw instead.

1. Remove Disposables

Paper and plastic plates, cups, and cutlery are extremely popular. On a pizza night they are the easiest option for a quick clean up. In the house I grew up in, it was popular to use these items on a nightly basis, because no one wanted to do the dishes. I always felt is was such a great waste and as an adult I do not stock my home with these items.

These items will be in short supply as factories slow production to keep social distancing guidelines and slow the spread. These items are also wasteful and often fill our landfills and oceans. I won’t go into the dark details of the illness of our oceans but if you are interested please read here.

Cutting down on plastic is a major part of cutting back on waste. Plastic does not decompose, so the term ‘disposable,’ to me, is really not the case. Plastic only becomes smaller, microscopic, and never really disappears. Every particle of plastic ever made still exists in our world today and that is a terrifying concept.

Now…I won’t claim to be a person who never uses plastic items. I do. More than I would like but cutting out the extra items in your day to day is definitely a step in the right direction. We should all work together to take this time to make better choices and help heal our world in more ways than just that of the viral outbreak.

In truth, I decided this information was important because, as you can see from my article photo, I came across a bit of wastefulness on a recent walk. In the gutter of a side street, was an N95 mask. I was furious. I felt my blood boil as I thought about the recent losses of life and how that mask could have been a needed item for a healthcare worker or a person in desperate need of protection.

Despite our world’s efforts to combat the rising rate of illness, we continue to waste. Everyday I hear about my generation’s sense of entitlement but what I am seeing around me is a lack of accountability for our behavior. This spans generations and not only one group is fully responsible. We all are. Our generational gaps are not only in age and beliefs, but honestly, they are a gap in cause and effect. Everyone’s actions will have positive and negative consequences. We can take this time to work harder to lessen the gap between the cause and effect.

This however, will require each of us to step up and think about others around us. It will require us to be less selfish. We will need to become mindful of our behaviors and have less of a ‘me,’ mentality. I trust in the goodness in humanity and hope this truth will be evident over the coming months.

Those of us who continue to think only about our, ‘rights,’ will have to consider that the sense of entitlement is truly coming from themselves. It is a self-created monster and not that of those outside of our own cause. To those of us working to be more mindful, do not stop. There will always be those who would tell us we are weak. We are sheeple because we go with what we are told. I would like to remind each of us that in this time of fear and heightened sensitivity we are all inclined to our own opinions but those opinions do not change these facts:

  1. We need people to stay home to flatten the curve. The less people out and about, the less people can come in contact with an infected person. It does not matter if the odds of getting the virus are lower than winning the lottery. You can not be sure that the one person you come in contact with didn’t win the lottery themselves in contracting the virus and happens to have no symptoms. This is not a game we should be willing to play. This situation could easily become the next Titanic. The healthcare system could easily sink and there are simply not enough life boats to save us all. You could be one of the forsaken.
  2. Production will slow. Less people working means less product availability. Those who are selfish will hoard those items, and even try and sell them at a mark-up, all for financial gain. Thinking about other people’s needs does not make a person weak, or part of a political party. It makes them compassionate. If compassion is the difference between being the enemy or being part of the group of people who are doing their best to rid the world of the issue…I would rather be the second. To those protesting ‘stay at home,’ to those hoarding, to those saying one party or the other are trying to control the others, to those who are purposefully taking needed items from those fighting for other’s lives…if it only matters to you when you are caught in the mess…I would re-evaluate because if it were your loved one or yourself fighting for your right to live it would be a different song and dance.
  3. People will change ‘facts,’ to fit their belief system. There is no sense in arguing facts. Those who believe certain ideas or ideologies will always find ‘sources,’ to back their thoughts. We create our own realities. We can only hope compassion will be the over-ruling factor and those who are in destruct mode will come to a point where they realize the care of others is more important. This is where tribe was valued. Honor and respect for the elderly has been a cry from our world for ages…and now we are being called to honor and care for the weak, sick, and elderly and instead we are met with outrageous cries against our own rights. We can not change a selfish mentality…but we can change our own behaviors and shift to help flatten the curve of the selfish behaviors of others.

I realize this article is much more heavy than my last post. However, I hope it helps someone find a way to make a difference. I for one will will not judge others on their grandness of impact for the changes they have made, but rather their intent behind those actions. I hope we will all be able to pull together for the greater good.


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