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How to stay Zero Waste during Coronavirus?

Shopper with a mask and gloves hoarding food in a supermarket.
Shopper with a mask and gloves hoarding food in a supermarket.

Single-use items make their comeback during the coronavirus. You probably heard that Starbucks and Dunkin donuts are pausing the use of reusable cups. Or that your food shops refuse to fill up your own container. Also, mass-media encourages us to rush on single-use items like masks, gloves, and sanitizers.

How to stay zero waste in this situation?

Many experts are debating to know if the use of disposable items is really effective to prevent the spread of the disease. Whether it is effective or not, the prevention of using reusables will remain temporary.

Meanwhile, I have good news for you. The Zero Waste lifestyle is not just about removing single-use items from our lives. We can make sustainable choices and form eco habits in many other ways.

Social-distancing is the most effective way to fight the virus transmission. Instead of turning us into selfish zombies, this quarantine can help us to see the world differently. Having more time at home is an excellent opportunity to rethink our lifestyle and experience new sustainable habits.

I’ll show you low-waste alternatives to protect yourself from the virus and make the best out of your quarantine to embrace a sustainable lifestyle.

Protect yourself from coronavirus

Face masks

Girl wearing an eco-friendly face mask.

The Lithuanian government announced that protecting your nose and mouth in public spaces is mandatory from the 10th of April 2020.

There are plenty of face protection types: Home-made masks, surgical masks or respirators. And they all have a different level of protection.

I’m not an expert in face protection, but what I can tell is that opting for a reusable mask is the most eco-friendly option. Some online zero waste stores offer eco-friendly masks.

And whatever mask you’re wearing, don’t act like it’s protecting you. Respect the 1-meter distance, avoid contact with your face and keep rigorous hand hygiene to keep you out of contagion.

If your only option is to wear a disposable mask, please, throw it away in the garbage. This waste takes ages to degrade in nature and risk to arm wild animals.


Shopper opening an egg box with plastic gloves.

Picking up a pack of eggs at the supermarket with bare hands can make you sweat because someone else may have touched it before. But wearing plastic gloves won’t protect you. You can still transfer the coronavirus to your face or to someone else.

Again, the best way to stay safe is to keep your distance, don’t touch your face and wash your hands after each risk exposure.


Girl in red t-shirt pouring homemade sanitizer in her hands.

Hand sanitizer is a convenient alternative to soap when you’re on the move. But pharmacies and supermarkets are probably out of stock. Make your sanitizer at home requires only 2 ingredients: Rubbing alcohol and Aloe Very gel. Here’s the home-made sanitizer recipe I found. Reusing the same bottle will reduce your plastic waste.

Keep in mind that hand sanitizers remain an extra safety. Washing your hand with soap is the safest option to stay clean.

Avoid hoarding

Empty shelves in a supermarket.

I had a lot of fun watching at the panic buying behaviors all over the world. Hey, it’s not the apocalypse, yet. The government assured that they could cope with the food supply during the quarantine. So why hoarding groceries? It can only lead to increasing the food price, make you overconsume and deprive other people of what they need.

But going to the supermarket every day is not a good option either, right? Instead, stock up food for around 1 week and you’ll be all good.

Shop in Zero Waste stores

Shop owner serving seeds from a food dispenser.

Going to the supermarket is tricky during the lockdown. Lines appear in front of the stores and staying in an overflowing area is not recommended.

I know a secret passage! Several zero waste shops are still open during the quarantine. Small local stores are not crowded, there is plenty of food and you can shop without packaging.

Bring your reusable fabric bags or glass jars and you’re good to go.

Is it safe to shop with reusable bags?

Absolutely! As long as they’re washed or disinfected in between uses. Therefore, the fabric bag is the best option. It’s very easy to wash by hand or in the washing machine.

If it’s your first time in a bulk store, I give you some tips here: “7 Steps How to shop in a Bulk store”

Perhaps, you don’t have zero waste shop in your area. Fortunately, there are local farmers who sell their products online. Your favorite local food like veggies, fruits, bread or cheese can be delivered at home.

Here’s a list of shops and online farmers open during the lockdown: #OpenForCorona

Cook at home

Couple cooking a meal at home.

Ordering food delivery is so satisfying during the confinement. But succumb too many times and the bill can sum up as quickly as the plastic packaging in your bin.

Instead, try to plan an easy and delicious menu for the week. Planning and cooking at home will help you to buy the right amount of food, reduce your waste and save you money. I also heard that people eating home-cooked meals on a regular basis tend to be happier. Just saying.

Your garbage is full of veggie scraps? Making your own compost is easier than you think, even in an apartment.

Master plant-based meals

Bowl of veggies and quinoa.

I know it’s a big step. Eating plant-based looks like refusing that life pleasure of eating a smoked juicy steak.

Who told you to stop eating meat completely?

Animal agriculture is the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Greatly reduce animal products from your diet will already have a positive impact.

Going plant-based for 3 or 4 meals per week sounds more acceptable, right? The quarantine is the right time to master yummy vegetarian or vegan recipes. And you won’t only discover new tastes and flavors but you will also boost your health!

Swap for reusables at home

5 tips to start zero waste lifestyle.

Running out of supply? Opt for reusable items. In these times, the less round trip to the supermarket we make, the less likely we are to spread the virus. Many reusables swaps exist and are very easy to apply in your daily habits.

  • Plastic water bottle ➡️ Use your tap water, it’s way cheaper! If the water doesn’t taste good in your area, opt for a water filter.
  • Plastic soda bottle ➡️ Use soda in aluminum can, invest in an at-home soda makers or make a good old squeezed fruit juice.
  • Plastic straw ➡️ Sip your favorite cocktails with bamboo or steel straws.
  • Paper tissue ➡️ Blow your nose with a handkerchief (fabric tissue). Wash them easily in the washing machine.
  • Paper napkins ➡️ Clean up the mess with a cloth napkin. Wash them easily in the washing machine with your handkerchief.
  • Aluminum foil ➡️ Cover your food leftovers with a reusable beeswax wrap.
  • Disposable razor ➡️ Shave your beard with a stainless steel safety razor.
  • Menstrual products ➡️ I don’t know much myself about it, but I heard some reusable cups were doing the magic.
  • Toilet paper ➡️ Transform your toilet into a bidet. I know, it’s a big step, but it has a lot of benefits!

Do you want advice? Don’t swap them all at the same time. Test each item 1-by-1 and evaluate if it fits your lifestyle. Then try another one.

Here are some tips before changing your habits:  “How to start Zero Waste?”

Watch inspiring documentaries

Here are my favorites that inspired to change for a sustainable lifestyle:

Migle from and I had a live discussion about how to stay Zero Waste during the pandemic. Enjoy!

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