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COVID-19 Diaries: Sustainability in Times of Pandemic

Earth Day just passed on April 22. In light of the broader economic situation, we are sharing money-efficient sustainability tips. You don’t need to spend any money to be sustainable. In fact, most of us will have more impact from consuming less, reusing and donating within our communities rather than uphauling our lifestyle.

In collaboration with Crystal @agreenseoul, we’re sharing our favorite tips for one change to live a little lighter on our Earth and save money.

Crystal is a passionate climate finance professional with a BS in Environmental Science and MSc in Environmental Sustainability. Beyond that, she has experience in grassroots and government initiatives for climate action and sustainability. Given the “greenwashing” and false news out there, I’m thrilled to rely on her expertise!

These tips balance effort, actual carbon emissions impact, and flexibility. We hope these inspire you to make just one change!


Household Tip: Replace your “repeat purchases” with reusables.
  • Swap paper towels for cloth towels / rags
  • Find refills for detergent, soap and shampoo
  • Buy in bulk or large containers to reduce packaging or shipping
  • Use tupperware or plates as lids to reduce plastic wrap and foil

By reducing your consumption, you can (1) save money, (2) keep waste out of landfills and (3) never run out – like during pandemics!

Here’s my favorite reusable towel that’s lasted for 1.5 years and dishwasher friendly.

Food Tip: Reduce animal products

Even locally produced meats, eggs and dairy have a greater impact than plant foods transported from far away. Some suggestions:

Anna: I struggle with this one primarily because my boyfriend and parents are meat-lovers and love family-style meals, but I eat vegetarian when they’re not around!
Money Tip: Offset lifestyle with carbon offsets

If you’re a busy-body with only money to spare, you can offset your lifestyle through the United Nations “Climate Neutral Now” website. You can sponsor real, well-vetted, internationally recognized climate projects and calculate your carbon footprint.

The footprint of the average American is ~20 tons of CO2 per year, and you can buy a ton (yes, 2,000 lbs) for as little as 55 cents. Got $11? You can offset your entire life!

The Most Valuable Tip: Vote!

Exercise your political power! Demonstrate, participate, learn.

As important as it is to support eco-friendly products and services, shop locally and secondhand, and build resilience as a community, the most powerful thing you can do is to tell lawmakers in your community and country about the future you want, and hold them to it. See what’s on the ballot, learn from educators you trust, and get your voice heard!

We hope this inspires you to live a little more sustainably. For any questions on the tips, further reading recommendations or more, Crystal’s inbox is open on Instagram @agreenseoul!


Young Money Note:

I’m so grateful for Crystal for sharing her much-needed passion about sustainability. For the most part, I’ve been pre-occupied with the furloughs, struggling businesses and disorganized governments. My composting sources have stopped and so have I. But there are so many other sustainability tips I’m taking away from this quarantine.

Growing my own scallions, garlic onions and lettuce has been so life-affirming and reminds me of the victory gardens across the US during World War I. Once this pandemic subsides, I’m hoping to grab more seeds from Home Depot and upcycle wine crates for a balcony garden!

I was vegetarian for about a year and recently cooled down. I gave myself flexibility to share and cook meals with the stubborn meat-lovers in my life — especially when traveling to Vietnam in 2019! I still naturally gravitate towards veggies and fruit, but love gobbling down the dingiest street food and taking in a different lifestyle.

If that sounds like you, I’d recommend focusing on eliminating beef or lamb for the most environmental impact. This NY Times article has shaped where I focus my limited energy!

NYT‘s compiled chart from Poore and Menecek research in Science Magazine.