Sustainability and Coronavirus: Can They Coexist? Part One
The global coronavirus pandemic has changed the way that the world operates. More and more people are socially distancing by staying home, except for essentials. For many, sustainability is not their greatest concern right now. Because of the way the world has been affected, some of our green habits need to be adapted to the “new normal”.
The following is not official medical advice, it is based on information from health authorities and the World Health Organization. Much of this information has been taken from ecowatch.com. It should be considered along with the official recommendations that have stressed the importance of maintaining distance and staying home, if possible – and of course, proper hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
You may have noticed that more foods are being wrapped in plastic at the grocery store. However, “plastic does not inherently make something clean and safe,” said Ivy Schlegel, a research specialist for Greenpeace USA, in a report from the environmental group. Schlegel also pointed out that a number of studies found that “the virus will persist on plastic longer than almost any material examined, which calls into question the safety of the majority of plastic-packaged items in supermarkets.
This all means that we do not need to opt into the plastic packaging on our groceries. Purchased products can also be left in a separate box in an out-of-the-way place for three days, to allow any traces of the virus to die off. Fresh produce can be scrubbed with a vegetable brush and water; according to Mike Kortsch at Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, that’s enough to ensure it’s safe to eat, even unpeeled.
Once the outbreak began, many businesses have temporarily banned the use of reusable containers and bags, over fears these items could spread the virus to other customers or store employees. However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, based on current research, that it “may be possible” to be infected with COVID-19 from a surface or object with the virus on it, but “this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.” But to remain cautious, bags should be washed after every use and kept in a separate place at home once groceries have been unloaded.
If your local stores have stopped allowing the use of reusable bags, and you are forced to choose between paper or plastic, try to go for bags made from recycled materials. Both kinds have their disadvantages – plastic is most often made from fossil fuels or biofuels, while the production of paper bags uses up lots of water and virgin wood – but at least the paper versions biodegrade.
This will be continued in the next blog post.