how to be kinder to the environment in a pandemic

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You haven’t bought a single use water bottle in ages, and you know to bring your own bags to the market. But we can’t bring those bags into the stores anymore, and when we want to support local businesses, that means carryout containers. Here are suggestions for changing habits now.
 
We’re all going to be washing hands more often going forward. Instead of keeping hand-sanitizer in my car, I’ve got a small glass bottle with soap. I bring a water bottle and wash my hands before and after I enter a store. Soap works better than a hand sanitizer, and I don’t need to buy an item that comes wrapped in plastic. It's a bit messy but it works. 
 
Cart your groceries to your car and transfer them to the reusable bags you leave in your trunk.
 
Support farmers and other local food providers. I mentioned last week that Vida Verde has fantastic organic herbs and vegetables. They also have add ons each week: eggs, beef, bread, pastries. The Downtown Grower’s Market invites us to choose from a variety of vendors, pre-pay, and pick up at a set time.
 
Get your greens out of plastic bags and put them into cotton or mesh ones. They’ll last longer. Cotton bags are easy to throw in with your other wash. These and these have a tare weight tag so they can be easily used post-pandemic for bulk items that must be weighed at the store.
 
Consider compostable bags to line your trash cans. I also go to each can and dump its contents into one bag that gets taken to the trash bin outside. That way, I am using a plastic liner for months but dumping the trash each week. Compostable bags are expensive, which means we treat them as precious rather than easily disposable. That’s the point.
 
Avoid buying items stored in plastic as much as possible. Use a shampoo bar, which is similar to a bar of soap.
 
Re-use before you recycle. There are divine olives from the co-op that are sold in small plastic containers. I'm being real here: I'm not giving up my olives even though they are packaged in plastic. When we’ve demolished the olives, I wash the container to use to store leftovers. I used to freeze extra food in plastic bags, and now I reuse the plastic containers. I bought some sillicone Stasher bags, too, which are easy to clean.
 
Be thoughtful and careful about what you put in the recycling bin. Don’t put in plastic bags, which can get caught in machines. Clean cans and plastic milk or juice containers thoroughly.  KOAT reported last summer, “Albuquerque and their partners with Friedman Recycling said the contamination rate of recyclable goods is about 29%, meaning 29% of what goes into the blue carts can't actually be recycled. The plant collects 70 tons of trash every day that has to be taken to the landfill.” Here’s the list of what we can and cannot recycle in Albuquerque.
 
We don’t really need toilet paper. Consider using rags to wipe yourself dry after a pee. I know! How did we convince people to use paper in the first place? Wash the rags with your underwear. We also don’t have to flush every time we pee. That's high level stuff. Feel free to ignore that one. 
 
Wash your clothes less often. Hang clothes, even your workout wear, after use. If there isn’t a funky smell after it’s been hanging, wear again. Wash your workout clothes inside out, separate from cottons, and consider either hand-washing to release fewer microfibers into the water or putting these synthetic items in a bag that catches the micro-fibers that are released during washing. The reviews on the Guppy Friend bag are mixed. Another option for a Cora ball and a filter on a washing machine is discussed in this article. I haven't tried those options yet, but I'm hand-washing more. Using a bag or hand washing means your clothes will be in better shape and last longer. Always hang workout clothes to dry.
 
For those of you with little kids, let them wash their clothes by hand. Kids love soap and water for play. Take a bucket outside and let them at it. For older kids, they get to learn the value of doing boring things. Pump up the jams or play the podcast and have one person washing, another rinsing, and a third hanging to dry.
 
When you do use a washing machine, choose the cool water option; heat doesn’t help clean clothes so it’s a waste of energy without any benefit.

 
This article motivated me to be much more thoughtful and active about how I reduce the plastic I buy and re-use the plastic I have.
 
Watch Our Planet on Netflix. It’s gorgeous, informative, and motivating.