Disposable face mask

Staying sustainable during a pandemic isn't easy, but there are ways to avoid excess waste. 

Staying sustainable has proved itself to be difficult throughout quarantine and will continue to be as long as COVID-19 is present in people's lives. 

Stores were quick to pause the use of reusable totes and coffee shops were quick to pause the use of reusable cups and mugs in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

“Personally, I think that there are other ways to be sustainable besides just those two things,” said Jennifer Seth, a junior studying environmental science. “Something we talk about a lot [regarding] energy efficiency is what the decisions are that I can make now that are sustainable besides these other things I normally do.”  

Seth also serves as Student Government's Director of Sustainability as well as the social media chair for ISU Climate Reality Campus Corps. 

While having to use plastic cups and sacks while running essential errands or making a coffee run isn't ideal, there are ways to take those items and give them a second life. 

“There are still ways to take those materials we have to use right now due to the circumstances and use them in a constructive way,” Seth said. Seth mentioned donating plastic bags to Bed of Bags, a volunteer student organization that accepts plastic bag donations and weaves them into beds for the homeless community. 

A big factor contributing to sustainable efforts are reusable masks. Crafting your own mask out of scrap fabric and cotton pieces has become a new way to decrease your carbon footprint. 

“It’s preventing you from potentially having to use those disposable masks and throwing them away,” Seth said. “I think that one of the issues that’s going to come out of this whole COVID-19 thing is we have a lot more waste, more disposable masks.”  

Although contributing to the sustainability movement is important and impacts us within our everyday decisions, it’s important to be flexible and forgiving toward yourself if sustainability looks a bit different nowadays, especially since this is a different and rare time we’re living in.  

“It’s going to be harder to practice sustainability right now, and that’s okay,” Seth said. “You won’t be perfect, but what’s important is trying to make those choices and being mindful of the decisions you do make.”

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