The coronavirus pandemic has been most people's focus for the past few months, but with businesses closing an reopening, and many of us relying on takeout meals, single-use containers have started reappearing in some places. Charleston government bans on many single-use plastics went into effect early this year.

Staying green may seem like an afterthought as many people fight for their own health, but the two aren't as unrelated as they might seem.

“There’s a lot of time a lot of us have now to spend outside, considering we aren’t going to as many places as we were before,” said Coastal Conservation League’s Land, Water and Wildlife Program Director, Emily Cedzo. “The more time we are spending outside, the more time we are connecting with the environment, but more than that, using that time to do something important and doing your part is so important.”

For years before the coronavirus began its assault on the globe, experts claimed that reusable alternatives to single-use plastics were havens for germs, according to Cedzo. But today, many of those reusables are washable, and if there’s anything the world has learned during this pandemic, it’s there’s safety in hygiene.

This rings especially true to the unavoidable nature of plastic, as even most reusables, like grocery bags and water bottles are plastic-based. Some places may even prohibit visitors from bringing their reusables inside.

Not only this, but when dining out, or getting food to-go, many places have been defaulting to plastic and styrofoam containers, as the cheaper options made it easier for them to deal with the sheer volume of to-go orders they have been getting since the onset of quarantine.

But, that doesn’t mean that the options aren’t available.

“There are a lot of things for anyone who finds themselves in a position where they can prioritize lowering their plastic consumption,” Cedzo suggested. “Lots of people are making assumptions, and we aren’t necessarily getting the full story of these policies. Everyone is doing it differently, but we don’t know until we ask. By asking, we may find out that some stores are allowing your reusables, but you may have to handle your own items.”

“What this requires of us is a lot of creativity, and it's certainly a revolving strategy,” she said. “The same thing goes for restaurants, some may allow you to even bring in your own containers from home. But even when we go to these places that may be using single-use materials, you can ask them to minimize the amount of single-use items given to you.”

Some other simple things anyone can do to minimize their plastic use during these trying times include:

  • Avoiding shrink-wrapped fruits and vegetables.
  • Getting a travel mug for tea and coffee on the go.
  • Choosing plastic-free cleaning products like natural cleaning cloths and scrubbers.
  • Be aware of online shopping's layers of shrink wrap and plastic items are shipped in.
  • Reuse plastic containers for greener purposes, like starting a garden.
  • Ask for non-plastic alternatives when ordering takeout.
  • Check out your grocery counter for fresh meats, cheese and fish.