As soon as the pandemic hit, environmental and sustainable practices went out the window. In early 2020, with the spread of the virus at the forefront of everyone’s minds, the environmental impacts of personal protective equipment (PPE) seemed justifiable considering how effective it was against the pandemic’s spread. Two years later, as mask mandates are being lifted and testing positivity rates are decreasing, I urge you to return to the sustainable practices that were once routine in the months and years before March of 2020. 

Although the plastic waste produced by gloves, masks, and other PPE is extremely difficult to reduce, plastic waste from other pandemic-related habits, such as online grocery shopping, is not. If you’ve ever ordered groceries online, you’d know just how much unnecessary plastic packaging is involved. Not only have I seen egg cartons and strawberries that are already in plastic boxes placed into plastic bags, I even received an order that individually bagged each of the three apples that I ordered. In the height of the pandemic when the thought of leaving your house, let alone going into a grocery store, seemed unthinkable, online shopping was the perfect solution. However, now that LA County’s testing positivity rate is less than one percent, is the saved trip to the grocery store really worth such vast amounts of plastic packaging? The cost-benefit analysis may have said otherwise at the start of the pandemic, but the balance has clearly shifted back into its previous position: shop at your local grocery store unless absolutely necessary. 

Other everyday habits, like carrying a reusable bag or coffee mug with you, have also been heavily impacted by the pandemic. After the initial March 2020 lockdown, grocery stores and coffee shops began to announce that in order to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission to their employees, they would no longer accept reusable bags or coffee mugs. This guideline, although it would increase the plastic waste of grocery shopping or a morning coffee, seemed pretty reasonable. After months of errand-running, many of us got accustomed to leaving our reusables at home– it only takes a few weeks to form a habit, so a few months of these guidelines were more than enough to form the habit of not carrying around our reusables. Now that most, if not all, businesses have suspended these guidelines, it’s time for us to begin carrying reusables once again. 

Dani Fenster, Pacific Palisades