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Breanna Coon / Her Campus

Being Sustainable While Staying at Home

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at ASU chapter.

We are approaching Day I-have-completely-lost-count of quarantine, and the world around us does not seem to be getting better. A silver lining amidst all of the chaos and uncertainty is that the Earth seems to be rejoicing- animals have been returning to areas and appearing in new ones where they did not previously inhabit, air pollution around the world has dramatically decreased, and water sources otherwise dirty are now crystal clear. If you are looking to further help the environment during this period of staying at home, here are some easy changes you can make while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Put a lid on your pots

This change seems so simple, but putting a lid on your pots and pans when cooking makes a big difference. When you’re boiling water, cooking soup, or doing anything else that calls for letting your food sit or simmer on a stove for any period of time, put a lid on it. It will allow your food to be cooked faster because it traps in steam. On the boiling note, if you are wanting to boil water for something, fill up your pot with hot water from the tap. Water that is already warm heats up faster and allows you to use less gas or electricity, depending on how your stove is powered. 

Unplug your devices

You’ve probably heard of the benefits of unplugging your charger from the socket when you’re not charging your electronics, but did you know that the same applies for gadgets that you are not using? Hair dryers, coffee machines, and anything else that is plugged in when not in use might still be draining power and using energy that is otherwise not needed. It might not be much, but this will still lower your energy consumption and bills. If you find that that is too much trouble to remember, a good hack is to plug your devices into a power strip and simply flip it on and off when needed. 

Spend less time online

Your internet habits might be more harmful to the environment than you think. Everything you do online not only leaves a digital footprint but an environmental one as well. When you watch Netflix, scroll through Instagram, film TikTo videos, take online classes, or do anything else online, carbon dioxide is emitted because energy is needed to power your devices and your Internet. Any data stored online, including your emails and files, and any type of interaction you make with any sites leave an impact as well, resulting in either storage consumption or heat generation in data centers around the world. Storage requires lots of electricity, as does cooling down the processors in the data centers. While there are movements emerging that encourage data centers to transition to using renewable sources, for the time being, it’s a good idea to be mindful of your screen time. 

Less packaged foods

Quarantine is a great time to brush up on your cooking skills. Not only is cooking fun, but homemade meals are usually much healthier than their frozen-aisle alternatives. Cooking is also an essential life skill; after all, you can’t live on dining hall pizza and instant noodles forever. I

nstagram, Pinterest, TikTok are all easy ways to get some recipes for whatever you are in the mood for; you don’t need to be dropping hundreds of dollars on cookbooks if you don’t want to! The New York Times, Epicurious, Bon Appetit, and other magazines that can be accessed online are other wonderful resources as well. Bonus points if you experiment with plant-based (or even vegan!) recipes, since a diet free or mostly free from animal products is one of the best things you can do for the planet.

Compost, Compost, Compost! 

A simple Google search will teach you a variety of ways to compost. Generally, composting at home involves something along the lines of making your food scraps into food for worms. If you’re not in the mood for a DIY or can’t do that because you live in an apartment, check to see if your local city or town offers any curbside pickup composting service. Composting is important because it allows your food scraps and any other compostable material to be used in agriculture in your community or the surrounding areas instead of going to the landfill, where it releases methane, a gas 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/11/atmospheric-levels-of-methane-a-powerful-greenhouse-gas-are-spiking-scientists-report/).

Air dry your clothes

Air drying clothes might be something of the past for the average American household, but did you know that the practice is very common throughout the rest of the world? Nice clothes can’t be dried in a dryer anyway, so ditch the dryer (and save on utilities) and air-dry those clothes. You can hang up your clothes in the backyard or on your balcony on a rack, if possible. If not, drying them indoors on a rack works as well. 

Do your dishes by hand

I personally don’t understand dishwashers. If you have to go through all the trouble of rinsing the food and whatever else is stuck on your dinnerware off the dishes anyway, why not just finish the job?  I mean, you’re already halfway done, right? Washing your dishes by hand allows you to use precisely the amount of water you need, conserving water and electricity and protecting the Earth. 

Shop small/ shop local

At a time like this, small businesses need our help more than ever. When you shop local, more of that money stays in your local economy and stimulates it, as compared to shopping from big-box chain stores. Shopping local also reduces the carbon footprint of the items you buy, because oftentimes they have traveled up to thousands of miles to get to your doorstep. I love shopping from small businesses because it directly benefits the owners and any employees. Also, Local businesses are often much more invested in the community and they often support other local businesses by sourcing certain items from them. Shopping small and local might be a bit more expensive, but fast-fashion and other mass-produced items come at a steep cost, not only to the environment but also to those employed in the factories that manufacture those items. Next time you are on the hunt for a new summer dress or need to make a grocery run, check out your local boutique and farmer’s markets. 

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