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Leaving lockdown in a greener way

Living

WASTE NOT  Reusable cloth masks cut down on waste, and many cafés are mastering the art of the contactless transfer of a coffee from mugs into customers’ clean reusable cups.

Green Living

McKinley Neal

It’s exciting to see businesses around our towns reopening, and people adapting to new ways of interacting with one another carefully and respectfully. So are there eco-friendly ways of readjusting to shopping, eating out and coming together in public again? Of course!
Lots of us have been on a purchasing pause, as there wasn’t a way to pop into shops to pick up new clothes, homewares or other bits, and anyway we were all spending whatever money we had on food. Some of us may have even decluttered a bit, given the time we spent indoors looking at items we realised we didn’t need or like.
Let’s try to commit to continuing this trend of less consumption, weighing up each purchase more carefully, and then channelling our money to reinvigorate our local communities.
Support locally-owned businesses instead of chains of multinational companies, and save up to buy something nice grown or handcrafted in Ireland rather reaching for a mass-produced option. Your neighbours will surely thank you, as you will be directly contributing to keeping doors of small businesses open and people employed locally.
What about reusable items? Something I just love to talk about! Many cafés banned reusable coffee cups before the lockdown began, as at the time there was little official guidance on the topic.
Now there are scientific articles that discuss how long coronavirus can live on surfaces, and that research that shows how the dishwashers’ high temperatures and detergent effectively kills the virus. Also, the HSE does not have any regulation against reusable cups.
Many cafés are now mastering the art of the contactless transfer of a coffee from a mug into a customer’s clean cup; it worked well for me recently.
Many restaurants will be focusing only on takeway for a while, so try asking if they would be open to serving your food on a plate and letting you transfer it to your own container, so the staff does not have to touch it and you don’t have to take a disposable item.
There are startling photos online showing just how many single-use face masks are washing up on beaches at the moment. These have been invaluable for protecting people against Covid-19, but it does highlight that we must be more responsible about disposing of them.
We have purchased reusable cotton face masks from a local maker. Given that there is debate about how effective these are compared to disposable ones, I recognise my duty to adapt my behaviour to protect myself and others. Continuing physical distancing, washing hands regularly and well (with local soap), avoiding touching our faces and ensuring we are well before we interact with others will continue to be the best, and eco-friendliest, measures we can take.
Given that we do rely on hand sanitiser, our shop now offers refills of sanitiser made in Ireland, or five litre containers for families and groups to refill their own bottles and reduce waste.

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.