7 zero waste principles to help you survive the coronavirus panic

Panicked consumers across the world over are picking supermarket shelves clean, as coronavirus concerns inspire stockpiling. Fear of the spread of coronavirus has sparked panic buying in Australia, where stores have even had to limit the number of particular items sold. 

Everything from disinfectant to tissues is being bought up, inspired by pandemic fears not only of Wuhan-style lockdowns, but also factory closures that could impact supply, causing shortages.

Such shortages are not currently imminent threats, but this hasn't stopped people hoarding. To the puzzlement of all, Aussies have focused on one particular product, the humble toilet roll, with police even having to break up a fight over the item, which has become a commodity.

To be clear, there is absolutely no need for Australians to stockpile - the current scarcity is the direct results of hordes of people grabbing more toilet paper than they reasonably need.

Meanwhile? Zero Waste-ers are sitting back in bemusement - they've spent the last few years refining their lifestyles to become less dependant on single-use items, becoming more self-sufficient in the process whilst they move to a more sustainable lifestyle.

So, what we can learn from the Zero Waste lifestyle? We've collated the top 7 tips you can takeaway from their minimal way of living.

1. Toilet paper

#The Toiletpapergate / #toiletpapercrisis is clearly a key talking point in Australia. Supermarket shelves are literally being cleared of those little paper squares we depend on so heavily. 

Enter reusable toilet paper, a.k.a "family cloth". Family cloth has actually been around for a few years, and started making headlines in 2018, but hasn't drawn much attention since, until now. A fairly similar theory to modern cloth nappies, family cloth typically consists of cloth squares, often composed of two layers of either flannel or cotton, which can be washed and used over and over.

The practice (common until the modern era) is now mostly featured in eco-conscious, "frugal" housekeeping blogs and Etsy stores, such as these 2-ply cloth wipes from the TheSimpleArtisan.

Cloth wipes can pose a problem when it comes to guests, however, so we'd suggest keeping a toilet roll or two spare for visitors.

For most, there is certainly an element of getting over the "yuck" factor, but if disposable loo paper isn't available, they're seriously an option worth considering.

Toilet paper shortage? Use family cloth, face washers for a zero waste option

2. Hand sanitiser

Hand sanitiser is one of the products people across the world have been panic buying in the hope of protecting themselves against the spread of the virus, but experts warn the product is far from a silver bullet.

Whilst sanitiser is an okay "in between" option, running water is actually crucial to thoroughly cleaning your hands. Experts say that washing your hands is a more effective protection against coronavirus COVID-19 than hand sanitiser. 

However, if you can't access soap and water, sanitiser is the next best thing.

Whilst not zero waste, DIY hand sanitiser (which utilises isopropyl alcohol) is actually quite simple to make, and should also help you reduce the amount of plastic used in the process.

Hand sanitzer: Washing your hands with soap and running water is the best defence against the novel coronavirus

3. Face masks

People are understandably anxious to do as much as they can to protect themselves, so it’s no surprise that face masks are in short supply. The only problem, is that they're not actually effective against respiratory illnesses like the flu, and the novel coronavirus (CoV).

The best way to avoid getting the coronavirus is to:
• Postpone travel to places with known outbreaks
• Thoroughly wash your hands
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and
• Disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

So unless you've actually contracted the Coronavirus, or are a health worker, face masks just aren't necessary. 

Face masks don't efficiently protect against coronavirus - here's what to do instead

4. Food and produce

If you're worried about running out of food, perhaps consider growing some of your own. Whilst this certainly takes a little more preparation and foresight, any time is a great time to get started.

We suggest starting with something simple, for example after you've used the tops from a bunch of spring onions, simply plant the rooted base in a pot for an easy (and cost effective!) snip and cook solution.

If it turns out you've got a green thumb and you find yourself with excess produce, the other great thing about growing-your-own means that you have the ability to trade food with other members of the community. 

Coronavirus panic buying produce: Grow your own and swap with our neighbours

5. Tissues

Did you know that used tissues are not recyclable? Luckily, the resurgence of the handkerchief is real. Whether you use a tissue or hanky, it's always important to remember to wash your hands after use to ensure you don't spread viruses to other surfaces.

And they're actually not as daggy as they used to be (no offence dad) - check out these gorgeous printed hankies we found at Amy Jade Creations

Supermarket shelves in Australia bare - hankies are a great solution instead of Kleenex

6. Cleaning products

Current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces. Disinfecting is a best-practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses.

And as it turns out, acetic acid (a.k.a. white vinegar) is a great disinfectant. Whilst the EPA hasn't reviewed vinegar for use against the virus, it's not a bad solution if panic buying hits the cleaning aisle and you literally don't anything else on hand. 

Here's our favourite homemade citrus vinegar cleaner recipe:
1. Fill a jar with citrus peels (your jar should be at least half full).
2. Add enough vinegar to cover the peels, and seal tightly with a non-metal lid (vinegar corrodes metal).
3. Infuse for 2 to 3 weeks.
4. Strain and decanter the contents into a spray bottle (we used an old one we already had on hand). 
5. Optional: Add a squirt of pure castile liquid soap.

This homemade cleaner not only goes a long way, it works out to be much more cost-effective than store-bought at around 30¢ for 500mL.

Coronavirus Australia: no more cleaning products on shelf? DIY recipe for disinfectant

7. Water

Here is one necessity you almost certainly can skip: bottled water. Water has stayed on in Wuhan, at the chaotic centre of the coronavirus spread. So even if you are committed to self-isolating, your H20 comes into your house much more easily than food does - via a tap!

Water sold out - Coronavirus Australia. Use tap water, bottled water is unnecessary

Crema Joe is the go-to for thousands of Aussie's who've already made the switch to our planet-friendly coffee pods. 

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