By Alison Weems, Mackintosh Academy Sustainability Coordinator
COVID-19 has changed our daily behaviors in numerous ways: We wear masks and wash our hands more frequently than ever. We maintain physical distance in public places and limit our social opportunities. Our daily lives look different than they did before this pandemic, and so do our attempts to maintain sustainable practices in our homes and workplaces.
At Mackintosh Academy Littleton, we have a long commitment to sustainability and environmentalism. COVID-19 has brought some extra challenges; we have had to temporarily suspend several sustainability initiatives such as our greenhouse, composting, Terracycling, and plastic collections to avoid the spread of germs in a public setting. In addition, the amount of solid waste we now produce on a daily basis has increased significantly due to our use of disinfecting wipes, disposable masks and other personal protective equipment.
Nevertheless, environmentally-conscious practices remain very doable, entirely safe, and highly encouraged as we continue to navigate this unusual time on our planet. Below are some hints to help you and your family stay green despite COVID-19!
1. Use reusable masks
First and foremost, use washable, reusable masks. This greatly reduces the number of disposable masks in our landfills and allows you to express your individuality with unique patterns and styles of masks.
2. Recycle plastic
Are you accumulating lots of plastic such as grocery bags, plastic wrap, bubble wrap, bread bags, newspaper bags, and plastic envelopes? Plastic bags and plastic wrap of all kinds can be recycled at stores such as Kroger (King Soopers, City Market), Safeway, Target, Walmart and Lowe’s. Simply drop your plastic in the collection bins at the front of the stores. You can also bring your own reusable bags and opt to bag your groceries yourself.
3. Reduce plastic bottle usage
Take advantage of and support the refillable container stores in the Denver metro area to refill your dish detergent, laundry detergent, cleaning sprays, shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion bottles.
4. Assess energy and water use
This is a great time to take a look at the energy and water use in your home and business and make adjustments to increase the efficiency of the equipment you use on a daily basis. Some suggestions include:
- Change all fluorescent (tube and compact) as well as incandescent bulbs to energy efficient LEDs. (see below for recycling options)
- Eliminate energy vampires and phantom loads
- Fix leaks in toilet tanks.
- Replace filters such air and oil filters in your vehicles, air conditioning units and swamp coolers, and even in your vacuum cleaner.
While you’re at it, remember to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors to ensure the safety of your family and home.
5. Recycle everything you can
Did you know that you can recycle the following items at participating stores?
- Lowe’s: Unbroken compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs),, any rechargeable battery up to 11 pounds, used cell phones, plastic shopping bags.
- Home Depot: Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), LED bulbs, rechargeable batteries.
- Best Buy: All-in-one computers, desktop computers, battery backups (UPS), cables and connectors, CD/DVD drives, computer speakers/controllers, hard drives, ink/toner cartridges.
- Batteries Plus Bulbs: Rechargeable lithium batteries, compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), fluorescent tubes, circular/U-bend Fluorescent, spot/flood Lamps, UV and germicidal lamps, incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs, ballasts.
6. Reduce food waste
40% of all food in America is wasted on a daily basis. Even worse, 90 percent of Americans throw away their food too soon. This is a great time to reevaluate the amount of food that is wasted in your home. If you haven’t already, consider starting to compost food waste at home. Several local waste companies also offer composting services as well including the City of Denver, Waste Connections, and Alpine Waste.
7. Reduce consumption
Toilet paper has been a hot commodity over the past few months. According to the Simmons National Consumer Survey as reported by Earth 911, Americans use an average of 141 rolls per person a year. That comes to 17, 450 feet of toilet paper or nearly 3.5 miles of toilet paper. Europeans use half as many rolls as Americans per year and most of the rest of the world does not use toilet paper at all. Using half as much toilet paper with each visit to the bathroom will have an enormous impact on the amount of paper wasted each year!
8. Monitor your shopping options
Embrace at-home shopping with a conscious plan to reduce the number of deliveries to the absolute minimum each month and remember that all plastic envelopes can be recycled at your local stores. Support locally-produced products whenever possible to help reduce transportation costs and emissions and boost the local economy. Buy items in packaging (such as paper, cardboard, or plastic wrap) that can be recycled. Avoid buying items packaged in unrecyclable, mixed materials like paper envelopes with bubble wrap attached inside
In so many ways, COVID-19 has stopped us in our tracks, but it has not stopped our ability to live sustainably and to keep “green” in our daily living practices. Give some of these suggestions a try and let us know how it goes. Have additional suggestions? Please send them our way!
Curious about how our school has adapted to COVID-19?