10 Ways to Stay Sustainable During Quarantine


Hundreds of disposable face masks are found in the ocean after being thrown away. This litter poses a threat to ocean wildlife and pollutes our waters. (from the New York Times)

During these difficult and often boring months, there are many ways to spend your time pitching in to help fight the battle against our planet’s climate crisis. Here are 10 things that you can do as an individual to make a positive impact on your community.

1. Support Local Businesses – Need to order something online? Look to your small businesses first before jumping onto Amazon. You will support your neighborhood and help reduce your carbon footprint! In many ways, small businesses are better for the environment and communities. An Office Depot poll indicated that 70 percent of U.S. small businesses have plans to go green within the next 2 years. Locally-produced food from public markets usually use less packaging because they are not wrapped individually, unlike some fruits and vegetables in supermarkets. Not to mention they are much healthier than frozen or canned goods. A few farmer’s markets in Pittsburgh right now include the Squirrel Hill Market, the East Liberty Market, and the North Side Market. Also, most small business products have a lower carbon footprint because they are not transported or shipped in from long distances. From books, to clothes, to food, buying from small business owners supports them tremendously during this difficult period, and it is a great way to be eco-friendly right now. 

2. Sew Your Own Mask – Especially right now, an excellent sustainability tip is to use cloth masks or even sew your own! According to The Gaurdian, conservationists warn that the pandemic could spark a surge in ocean pollution after finding that there are almost “more masks than jellyfish” floating across the sea. Reusable and/or cloth masks can be a great solution to this problem. If you choose to sew your own mask you are reusing fabric, saving money, and eliminating waste. Additionally, it can save the disposable surgical masks for those on the front lines who are required to have them. The following link contains 3 easy ways to sew your own masks from scratch! 

3. Avoid Driving – While most forms of public transportation are somewhat unsafe to use during this pandemic, it is still possible to travel sustainably. Try to avoid driving cars unless necessary. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “In 2018, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation accounted for about 28.2 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.” Switching to biking or walking can get you where you need to go while reducing your carbon footprint! Other alternatives include scootering, skating, or even running. By doing these things, you will even save money that would be spent on gas! When traveling locally, choosing to use alternate forms of transportation is simple and has a lasting impact on the environment. 

4. Switch to Reusable Materials – Another simple change is switching to reusable versions of materials such as towels, napkins, tissues, and other single use products. Although it may not seem like much, everyday paper napkins and towels contribute to a large portion of your waste , and oftentimes they end up polluting our oceans and ecosystems. Washable towels, cloth napkins, and handkerchiefs are simple solutions to this problem. Specifically in the time of COVID-19, it is important to constantly be cleaning surfaces. However, instead of using single use disinfecting wipes, try using a bottle of disinfectant spray and a cloth towel. We are needing wipes and towels now more than ever, so it’s important to use reusable and recycled products. 

5. Make Your Own Goods- With so much time during quarantine, practice perfecting a recipe of some of your favorite food items! Experiment with making things you would usually buy processed or packaged. That way, you will take less trips to the grocery store, and limit the amount of pre-packaged, plastic covered foods you buy. From bread to popcorn to mac and cheese, you can make lots of foods at home from scratch! Here are 20 Foods You Can Make From Scratch To Avoid Plastic. As an example, in my family, a household staple are packets of ramen noodles. These are individually packaged with plastic and preservatives. Ramen noodles also are extremely processed and not very nutritious. During quarantine, we have practiced and almost perfected a homemade ramen noodle recipe that is just as easy, and possibly more delicious. By saving money, eliminating waste, and snacking healthier, making your own foods can benefit both you, and the environment.

6. Declutter and donate – If you are going crazy from boredom, cleaning your space can be a great use of time. While going through your things, cleaning can benefit you, your community, and the environment. You can pack things away in boxes to recycle, donate, or repurpose. By donating things you are allowing others to have items secondhand which is also an eco friendly way to shop . You are also donating something that may have just been sitting around your house, and may have a purpose somewhere else. However, once you clean out your space, be mindful of the things you are buying afterwards and do your best not to waste money, or resources. If you keep these ideas in mind, cleaning and decluttering your space is a great way to donate to and help your community.

7. Shop Fashion Sustainably – Did you know the United States alone produces 11 million tons of textile waste a year? Or that it takes 700 gallons of water to make a single cotton shirt? Online shopping has been a quarantine hobby for a lot of people around the country, including myself. However, there are many ways to stay sustainable when shopping. To start, you can buy second hand clothes. Even if most thrift stores are closed right now, apps such as Depop allow you to purchase high quality clothes for cheap prices, and eliminate waste! You can also upcycle, or donate old clothing. There are so many ways to create new things out of your old things, and if you don’t want to do it yourself, many creative reuse stores may happily accept old clothes and fabrics. As fashion trends come in and out, it is okay to want to buy new things but it is important to make sure you are not having a negative effect on the environment and the sustainable fashion industry.

8. Grow a Garden – An easy (and fun) way to stay green right now is to start your own garden! With a lot of free time on our hands, gardening and growing our own food can be more than just a hobby. We can reduce our carbon footprint, and in uncertain circumstances, it ensures that we will not run out of food supply. If you are not sure where to start, you can use seeds from everyday fruits and vegetables that you’ve already purchased! Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and cucumbers all have seeds that can go straight from the kitchen to the garden. Growing your own food will help you prevent food waste, save money, and teach you more sustainable habits. With a garden, not only will you avoid extra grocery store runs and unnecessary germs in your house, but you will help the environment and give yourself a fun project to maintain!

9. Less Food Waste Especially during difficult times for everyone, now is certainly not the time to waste food. From growing the crops, to transporting, manufacturing, and selling food – these things consume a lot of energy and resources. There are many things you can do to avoid wasting food and to make the most of the food you have in your fridge. Now is the time to start using food more wisely and learn how to make food last longer. If you click the links above, you can learn how to get the most out of your next grocery shopping trip with foods that have longer shelf life and can be used to create a variety of dishes. Reducing food waste is important and there are many different ways to do your part. 

10. Educate Yourself – Lastly, the best way to help out and learn more ways to be a sustainable being is to become even more educated! With so much more time on our hands during quarantine, try to do some research and expand your knowledge. Speak to people around you and see if there are any ways for you to get more involved in your community. Try to spread awareness and have conversations in your neighborhood about the importance of preserving our environment. If you just want to sit on your couch and watch TV, “The True Cost”, “Planet Earth”, and “Minimalism” are just a few of the many documentaries on sustainability that can be found on Netflix. When you step outside to go for a walk, listening to podcasts such as “The Enlighten Me Podcasts” or “Starting Sustainability” will help you learn about what you can do as an individual to support environmental sustainability. Books like Wear No Evil: How to Change the World with Your Wardrobe by Greta Eagan and Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork by Anna Lappe develop interesting ideas about sustainable fashion and food. There are countless great resources that can teach you about the world around you and what you can do to help. 

When it comes to staying sustainable, awareness is the key. There are so many little things you can change that will have a lasting impact, even from your own home during this difficult time. This is our planet, and it’s important to do your part in protecting and preserving it before it’s too late. 


There are so many simple changes you can make to your daily life that can eliminate waste. If everyone took on more of a sustainable mindset, it would impact our environment greatly. (from Green Matters)