While you’re staying at home to protect the health of your family and others, it’s a good time to take steps to keep our planet healthy, too.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot about how we live our lives in West Michigan, but it does not have to bring our efforts to increase sustainability to a halt. There are many engaging activities for you and your family to participate in throughout Michigan’s stay at home order and beyond.

Here are a few ways to be sustainable in your daily life and deal with waste while stuck at home:

1. Learn how to deal with food scraps.
More home cooking likely means more food scraps – like the ends of carrots and celery, pieces of fruit and old potatoes. A good solution for this is a compost pile, which you can make at home. You can also arrange a curbside subscription for composting. Composting recycles various organic materials like food scraps you might otherwise throw away and can provide valuable soil for gardens or plants. Another way to get more out of your fresh produce is to regrow it from scratch. There is a variety of easy ways to reproduce different kinds of vegetables right at home, like growing scallions in a vase, or using celery base to grow new stalks. For those who need a pick-me-up in the form of self-care, you can learn how to make skin care products and other toiletries using items and products you probably already have at home, like coffee grounds.

2. Recycle your recyclables.
Though the Kent County Recycling & Education Center is closed, you can make use of recyclable materials in your own home. Make your own seed starts or plant trays from plastic to-go containers, egg cartons, toilet paper tubes and more. If your furry sidekick is also going a little stir crazy, you can make a cat scratching post out of extra cardboard boxes. Cardboard, paperboard and newspaper can also be used as mulch/a weed barrier on pathways or in vegetable or flower gardens. Recyclables may be piling up in your garage or mudroom waiting for recycling service to resume. Put those kids or housemates to work making room by stomping down milk jugs, deconstructing cardboard boxes and flattening tin cans.

3. Keep commitments to low/no-waste shopping.
It is possible to support local businesses while maintaining safety and social distancing. The West Michigan Growers Group offers a variety of resources for finding local food options and avoiding crowded grocery stores. While being sustainable, this also offers a way to support local businesses at a time when many have been forced to close. You can also buy to-go orders or gift cards from your favorite local restaurants and shops. The idea is to keep local economies strong and the environmental impact low. If you are visiting a grocery store, it is important to note there are restrictions on using reusable bags due to COVID-19. A solution is to put groceries directly into the shopping cart, wheel the cart to your vehicle and transfer them into reusable bags.

4. Go outside and Spring-Clean (safely).
It’s springtime in Michigan, and it’s OK to head outside and do some gardening if you take proper safety precautions and practice social distancing, which means staying at least 6 feet from other people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It won’t be long before grass clippings and yard waste start piling up, so make a plan for discarding yard waste. Keep in mind the disposal of yard waste in trash headed to the landfill is banned in Michigan. As the weather gets warmer, many Michiganders also start the annual spring-cleaning of their garages, homes, and basements but it is best to wait until after the stay at home order is lifted to donate clothing and other belongings to places like Goodwill, which has asked people to stop dropping off donations during the continuing crisis. Also, if you are going to go outside in a more crowded area, remember to dispose of masks and gloves properly. Discarding used masks and gloves on the ground or other surfaces is harmful to other people and animals.

If you’re looking for more ways to “Stay Home, Stay Safe, and Stay Green” please visit our Facebook page for a whole month’s worth of ways to as well as check out our Kid’s Earth Month Craft Calendar.