Stores, January 2020: “We are committed to the environment. In an effort to reduce the impact of plastic on our landfills, we will not be carrying plastic bags any longer. Please bring your cloth bags.”
Stores, April 2020: “OMG! Is that a cloth bag? Get it outta here! GET IT OUTTA HERE! It could be contaminated with the ‘Rona! Here is a plastic bag… it’s free.”
And that, my folks, is how the environment became the second-most important problem with the world, as we know it.
We just got used to paper straws (are we ever going to drink the entire beverage before the straw becomes soft and mushy?), bringing our own mug to the coffee shop for our discounted “Thank you for thinking of the earth” fill up, and actually remembering to bring our cloth bags with us to the grocery storre when the pandemic rendered our sustainability efforts as problematic.
We have returned to a single use society out of necessity.
Garage sales – the age old manner in which we used to get rid of our clutter have slowed to a trickle. I'm sure it is because people a) don’t know if they are allowed to have them, and b) fewer individuals want to buy used, preferring to buy new because they feel it is safer.
Many garage sales have gone online, finding success with selling on the various marketplaces. It's a slower process though and one fraught with questions like, “Is this still available?” or “What size is this?” even though the questions are addressed in the ad itself. I'm waiting for the first time someone posts questions like, “Have you been out of the country in the last 14 days? Has anyone in your household recently experienced a cough, shortness of breath or fever?”
Setting the sustainability and environmental impact of COVID aside, the human impact affecting our at-risk community is growing daily.
For example, food banks that previously benefited from leftover food delivered after a large event (which we cannot have right now), must be feeling the impact. The curtailment of the events plus the worry that leftover food might somehow be unsafe due to COVID would dramatically reduce this sustainable practice.
There are so many small things that we did pre-COVID to reduce our footprint that are now rendered impossible because of threat of contamination.
Further, we simply do not have the mental or emotional bandwidth to deal with both COVID and the environmental impact at the same time – our worry plate is full.
Judy Kucharuk is a community columnist living in Dawson Creek.