July 22, 2020
By Rachel Ashley
As states pause reopening plans, it has become clear that we all need to take drastic steps to keep the virus from spreading.
Yet consumption of single use plastic in the US has increased by 250-300% due to COVID.
The average American already produces 1,700 lbs of trash per year. Yikes. How can you protect yourself from contracting and spreading COVID-19 while continuing to prioritize sustainability?
First, let’s put this in context: masks are low-carbon footprint items with high impact on the disease. The carbon footprint of a mask, especially a homemade or locally made mask, is likely less than 1kg CO2e. We did our own analysis below, which aligns with other analyses that have been done. That’s less than a single vegetarian meal. (Note: For detail on the mask calculations, see the bottom of this article*.)
For top virus protection, choose masks that fit your face and have 1-2 layers of thickness. To protect yourself while you protect the planet from more consumer waste, follow these two tips:
The bottom line: the carbon footprint of a mask is small, but its impact on the spread of the disease can be massive.
Soap: keep it simple and package-free
Soap and water offer as much protection as hand sanitizer and ensure people who need hand sanitizer can access it at reasonable prices (e.g. medical professionals, people without access to clean water etc).
Lathering up and washing effectively with plain old soap and water reduces bacterial count by 90%. As long as you wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds, even if you pick a natural or sustainable soap option over harsher chemicals, you’ve reduced your risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
A few of our favorite soaps:
Sanitizer: look for local distillers and sellers
If you do purchase hand sanitizer, look for a local distillery or business creating disinfectant from leftover product. Southern Methodist University’s Data Science program created a map of distilleries creating hand sanitizer to save you time.
The question: can we keep ourselves safe from COVID-19 with sustainable cleaning products?
The answer: Yes, if you purchase plant-based cleaning products that disinfect, have minimal packaging, and contain naturally occurring chemicals (e.g. you don’t need bleach to be safe in the pandemic.). Regardless of a cleaning solution’s origins, most need to sit on a surface for a minimum of 1-10 minutes to effectively combat COVID.
To confirm the “disinfecting power” of a cleaning product, review the ingredients and compare to the EPA’s searchable disinfectant list. Unfortunately your homemade white vinegar, water, and essential oil cleaning spray does not make the cut. Reviewing every ingredient can be a hassle, so we did the work for you and shared our top three sustainable cleaning solutions that contain at least one disinfecting ingredient:
Cleaning your home doesn’t have to hurt our home planet. Plant-powered, disinfecting products in minimal packaging are sufficient for pandemic cleaning, and safe for your family.
*Additional detail on carbon footprint of mask calculation:
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