While Covid -19 is still spreading like wildfire, most of India has almost fully opened up. The decision to open up as we all know was more for economic reasons. Our safety is in our hands (literally) now more than before. How do we stay safe and yet be sustainable about it? Here are a few tips from our founder, Sruti Harihara Subramanian, with added inputs from Dr. Arjun Rajagopalan FRCSC, founder rescription
- Use reusable masks — This one is a no brainer! The environmental impact of disposable masks are far more than that of reusables especially since it is mandatory for everyone to use them now. You can either buy a reusable mask or make one like Dr. Arjun Rajagopalan using a handkerchief (Link here). While buying a mask, choose one with a minimum of 2 layers for better protection. Choose to buy a mask that is made out of a sustainable natural material like cotton. Once used, always ensure the mask is removed holding the elastic ends and put it for wash and dry if possible in direct sunlight.
- Buy in bulk — So your pocket hand sanitiser is over or the bottle near your door way is almost finishing. The next step is to quickly buy a replacement for them. Instead of doing that, try saving the empty bottles and refilling them by buying hand sanitisers in bulk. Most companies have started selling sanitisers in bulk quantities because they know that COVID-19 is going to extend its stay with us for longer than we expected. This can be friendly not only for the planet but also for your pockets. If you use liquid hand wash soap, then that too can be bought in bulk.
- Use a bar soap — According to Dr. Arjun Rajagopalan, there is no difference between a bar and liquid soap in terms of it destroying the microbes on your skin. They are all detergents and bring about their effect the same way. What matters is that the washing be done carefully and meticulously over all aspects of the hands, particularly the space between the fingers and the back of the hand. You need to wash for 20 seconds at least (2 runs of the Happy Birthday to you song). There is no advantage to adding specific disinfectants to the soap. Plain soap is fine. Liquid soap has a larger carbon footprint than the bar soap because of the additional chemicals added to keep the soap liquid and the plastic packaging that comes with it.
- Carry your own towel — According to Dr. Arjun Rajagopalan, the towel used after must be dry. Wet and moist towels may carry organisms. This is why most public places and offices provide paper towels or warm air dryers. Both are environmental disasters in terms of carbon footprint. A more sustainable method would be to carry a few cloth napkins with you. Carry a small wet bag if needed to put the moist napkin in. It can be brought home to be washed along with your reusable cloth masks.
- Shop local. Support small businesses — This mantra is commonly used nowadays and I am repeating it here too. Many small businesses now manufacture and sell good quality masks, sanitisers and other safety products. Choose to buy from them as opposed to buying from a brand that is backed by a big corporate. If you are practicing physical distancing by avoiding visiting shops and choosing to buy things online pick independent websites or brands or buy from a local store that delivers home. Sustainability is not just about the environment but about providing sustainable employment too.