Looking ahead to a (hopefully) more eco-friendly 2021

Earth Day is Thursday, April 22, and we hope that with increasing vaccination and lower rates of coronavirus, more of us might be able to venture out to enjoy it. While we don’t have any Greenification events planned yet, we certainly see spring already as neighbors are planting gardens and spending more time outside. We want to encourage you to continue safely enjoying spring through mask wearing and social distancing when around other people.

The pandemic has certainly changed how we gather outside, as well as other environmental efforts. From masks to gloves to shortages of goods, the pandemic has made it hard to be eco-friendly. But it has also opened up new opportunities in NoDa and elsewhere. We’d love to hear how you’ve adapted your environmentally-friendly efforts – I’m sharing mine here to get us started!

In 2019 the Greenification committee put together a series on how to reduce waste, and Susan, Becca, and I shared how we worked hard to reduce our use of plastic and other items. Like me, I wonder if they (and you) found it hard to continue this during the pandemic. Suddenly, we were urged to use masks (often disposable) and gloves. We ordered more things online, and lost control over what we could purchase as eco-friendly options for soap, toilet paper, and other goods disappeared from the shelves.

I certainly have missed my NoDa neighbors, since now I just wave at people I semi-recognize through masks. I know this year has been tough on all of us, likely in very different ways. I had to give up some of my low-waste habits, but we do what we need to as we go through tough times. Hopefully 2021 will see more opportunities for sustainable living without as much social distancing (and with fewer takeout containers!).

What I couldn’t get during the pandemic: I struggled to get hand soap and hand sanitizer, and I often had to buy plastic bottles. Cutting back on grocery store trips made meal planning challenging, and particularly when using curbside pick-up, sometimes what I need isn’t available.

What I made instead: I’m really lucky that my mom was a home ec teacher because that meant I could sew masks and bake bread, both of which made pandemic life easier (and tastier). I started ordering glass bottles of yeast, rather than packets, which would have reduced waste a little bit more except it was usually shipped. We also made broth from scraps, using my Instant Pot (both that and the breadmaker got used a lot this year!).

What I’m able to get now: I can now get bar soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, straws, and liquid hand soap from NoDa’s Rooted Rethinkery (now sharing space with Fu’s Tattoos on 36th St). The online ordering form and curbside pickup is perfect for me, and it’s just hard not to keep talking with Stephanie at the curb! Getting bread flour from NoDa’s Local Loaf was great, in addition to other bulk items like popcorn kernels, black beans, and rice. I also went through a few bottles of their environmentally-friendly Delta wines, and usually get some lunch to go as well. I’ve heard some friends have gone with toilet paper delivery with lower plastic options too.

Habits I’ll be keeping: We started a CSA box and another local food delivery service before the pandemic. While I still have to google what kohlrabi is and how to cook it, the variety has been fun. Since my pandemic philosophy has been to slow down and do more things I enjoy, cooking has taken more of a central role. I certainly hope to keep this attitude even as we start getting out of our homes more.

I’d love to hear how you’ve been able to (or not) reduce waste or make other environmental efforts during the pandemic. Did you find new sources of goods, go online, or make your own? Please email me at greenification@noda.org with your stories, and whether we can share them in a future NoDa News issue. Feel free to use the same prompts above, or tell your own story.