The COVID-19 crisis has shone a spotlight on sustainability, exposing the weaknesses of supply chains across the globe. While carbon dioxide emissions dropped dramatically as a result of the shutdown, this positive is largely outweighed by alarming trends such as the increased production of single-use masks and other protective equipment. In the wake of constant disheartening news, it can be hard for individuals to navigate their role in inspiring positive environmental changes. However, by making small shifts in lifestyle, members of society can potentially mitigate and even reverse the adverse environmental impacts of the pandemic. Here are some easy ways to be more sustainable during COVID-19:

1. Grow your own food.

In a time filled with Zoom meetings, major assignments, and depressing news, anxiety is inevitable. According to a study by the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, gardening is an activity that decreases stress, improves mood, and correlates with a positive outlook on life. Consider patronizing local garden supply centers by purchasing vegetable seeds or investing in a quality raised bed. For those in urban areas with little outdoor space, vegetables like green onion, lettuce, and mint can easily be propagated indoors— all that is needed is soil, water, sunlight, and an old container. Ultimately, gardening not only provides households with fresh, nutritious food but also helps reduce the strain put on food supply chains.

2. Eat more plant-based meals.

COVID-19 has had devastating implications for the global meat industry; many processing plants have become hotspots for the virus as a result of inadequate personal protective equipment, relaxed social distancing guidelines, and unsanitary working conditions. These frequent outbreaks have resulted in nationwide meat shortages, as well as increased public concern for the environmental impacts of animal-based products. Eating more plant-based meals is a great way to combat the detrimental effects of industrial meat production. Whether it be through consuming beans, legumes, and tofu, or sampling dairy alternatives, a plant-based diet reduces the environmental burden of each meal. 

3. Engage in community service.

With unemployment skyrocketing as a result of the pandemic, many communities have disproportionately suffered from deepening socio-economic inequality. Consequently, the demand for food banks has surged in the past six months. Volunteering at a local food pantry is an extremely effective way to help combat food insecurity in local communities. Many food banks have implemented extra safety measures for volunteers in order to supply food to those in need. One great resource is the website FeedingAmerica.org which allows users to locate food programs in need of assistance by ZIP code or state.