We are all trying to keep ourselves safe during the pandemic. This is a new experience for us, and we are questioning our everyday habits as a result. Before the pandemic, very few of us ever wore a mask out in public. Now it is the norm.

While many of our new habits are keeping us safe, some habits need to be questioned. For example, when the pandemic started in March, most stores refused our reusable shopping bags, zero waste containers or even our bottles with deposit (consigne). It was assumed that any of these used items might infect the store personnel, or in the case of the cans and bottles – the person working at the other end of the receiving line.

That questioning led to the usage of millions of single use masks, gloves and other items, which were eventually thrown away, never recycled (their materials are not recyclable given our current technologies). That garbage had not been on anyone’s radar previously, as those were items that North Americans did not previously consume in large amounts. Unfortunately, that increased the amount of trash being sent to landfill.

Just prior to the pandemic, most people were very concerned about the health of the planet, and wanted to ban single use items like plastic drinking straws. However, once COVID-19 hit, instead of reducing our dependence on single-use items, the pandemic makes us feel like we needed those items as one of our few means of protection. People associated disposable with sterile, which of course, is incorrect, as any disposable item could also be contaminated.

Now that we are several months into the pandemic, and each of us has learned to cope in their own way, it is time again to think about our consumption’s impact on the planet. Most stores allow us to shop with our reusable bags again, and we can bring back our cans and bottles for refund. Few stores promote it, but most are willing to package your food in the zero-waste container that you bring to the food counter. The used clothing stores like Renaissance and the Salvation Army have reopened, allowing us to shop 2nd hand once again.

We currently do not know how long the pandemic will last, and I believe that it is important to revert back to our sustainable habits. I encourage you to rethink your approach to single-use items during this time. Please adopt a few reusable masks, instead of disposable ones. Consider creating your own zero waste kit where you can bring your reusable containers to your favourite stores. Cozy up and surf the web for zero waste ideas, there are so many great ones to choose from.

Please remember, COVID is a temporary situation, but the health of the planet is a long-term concern. Our actions now to save the planet will keep us safer in the future!


Nikki Schiebel