In the past six months, our world has been impacted more than we could ever have imagined. With all the negative aspects of the pandemic, it may be hard to realize that there have been some positive changes. During the stay at home restrictions, throughout the nation and the world, beaches have been cleaner, air quality is improved, and there is less environmental noise. On the downside, there has been less recycling and an increase in single use packaging. 

How do we keep the benefits of the positive changes and continue to help our environment as we return to “normal” activities? Here are just a few suggestions:

1) Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Over the past few decades, there is increased awareness of the need to recycle and reuse products instead of dumping everything into landfills. Many of us have taken steps to recycle, or “upcycle” possessions that were once tossed away. One of the most exciting trends is the recycling and reuse of clothes. My mother would say, this is not a trend, it’s just good common sense! Donate good usable clothing you no longer need to local thrift stores and browse the store yourself for “new to you” items. You can also shop online for everyday clothing or expensive designer item. These stores and online shops provide affordable spending options to consumers while giving a new life to garments that would have been tossed away.

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While keeping safe to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses, let’s reduce the need for single-use bags. Many stores still allow customers to bring their own bags. As the CEO of Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey, I am proud that our organization strives to teach our youth how to be good stewards of the land and to leave a place better than you found it. Girl Scout troops have been working to reduce the use of harmful materials such as single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam as well as education on the dangers of plastic straws to our wildlife friends.

2) Limit use of your personal vehicle. It’s hard in many areas of northern New Jersey to get around without driving your car, but it is possible to be reduce your use of your car. Carpooling and planning trips to the store can lessen your carbon footprint. Use public transportation where available following all safety protocols.

3) Use products that are “green.” Instead of buying harsh chemicals, use green products that are good for the environment. Research ways to make your own natural cleaners using ingredients including baking soda, vinegar, castile soap, and hydrogen peroxide.  

4) Limit your intake of meat. “Meatless Monday” is a movement aimed at reducing the world’s intake of meat. Reducing the amount of meat may be good for a person’s health and good for the planet. 

Not all of these suggestions work for every family but figure out what works best for you and add more to the list! With some intentional changes, it will be possible to maintain the positive change we have made in the past few months to protect our world. With some effort and planning, we can be great stewards of the environment.