From TP to Community: COVID-19 Changed Us

This pandemic has changed you, admit it.

It has made you dial the numbers and call your parents, relatives and friends. It’s an involuntary but powerful reprioritization of everything in your life.

What about those small habits of yours? Any changes there? You may not have noticed but these adjustments in daily life also have long lasting impact.

How We Use Toilet Paper

Yes, let’s get intimate and start with TP.

All the jokes about panic purchase or empty shelves aside, even with an abundant stock of TP, I bet you wipe with more caution now. No more 4 feet rolling off the handle as if the longer the better. In addition to avoiding clogging your toilet when the plumber is #socialdistancing, there must be a reevaluation in the back of your head on how much is enough. After all, who knows when that next shipment of TP from Amazon will be available at what ridiculous price.

It’s similar situation with paper towels. During a recent video happy hour session, a friend joked about how many paper towels she used when cooking. “It used to be just weekends so even if I use a lot, it’s no big deal. But now, I cook at least two meals every day at home, and I realized how fast it runs out. Most of the time, it wasn’t necessary, a towel could have done the same work.

Personally, I think these are great changes to be kept permanently. It’s one of those “a small step for a man, but a big step for the mankind” moments. Being mindful about how much resources we consume is the first step towards sustainability. Besides, consuming less means saving money for the household. Why not?

How We Treat Food

Up until a few weeks ago, food was never a concern for most people. Most of us enjoyed a period of culinary experience that older generations never dreamed of. International cuisines were just a few clicks away, and pizza topping options had grown beyond absurdity. At the same time, food waste leapt to 1/3 of all food produced annually for human consumption (mind that half of the produce in the US is thrown away because they are too ‘ugly’ to eat).

A pandemic like COVID-19, unfortunate as it is, may have created an opportunity for us to change the worsening situation of food waste. Instead of throwing out rotted food, you’ve probably planned accordingly so every item purchased gets eaten. Instead of eating till your heart contents, you’ve probably portioned your meals to ensure your stocks last till the next grocery delivery. Instead of microwaving frozen dinners, you may have taken the time to cook a healthier meal in hopes of counterbalancing your lowered physical activity level and boosting your immune system.

All these choices you made, consciously or unconsciously, contribute to reducing food waste, lowering carbon footprint, and most importantly, improving your own diet and health.

How We Shop

When the national chain stores ran out of stock or unable to handle the increased delivery demand, we found other options. You probably bought stuff recently from that local store you usually just walk pass by. The big upside of purchasing locally sourced food is supporting local community and reducing the carbon footprint of your diet. On top of that, locally sourced food is usually fresher, and the neighborhood butcher often provides rarer cuts that your standardized grocery chains don’t offer.  Instead of timing the clock and upgrading your network to compete for the limited delivery time slots on Prime Now, why not trying to explore local stores, either online or offline. You may find a new favorite friendly neighborhood bodega.

Another trend is buying bulk. while the panic purchase creates unnecessary chaos, planned bulk purchase means less trips to grocery stores, thus less carbon footprint, and potentially saving money. It’s not a bad deal.

On top of this, many have chosen to start a home garden, whether indoor or outdoor, to grow some basic ingredients. From basil to garlic sprouts to tomatoes, the idea of self-sufficiency is not just helpful during this pandemic, but also a wonderful life motto. Don’t you agree?

How We Commute

Nowadays staying connected doesn’t require a physical presence. Why exclude WFH as an option when this pandemic ends? Not that face-to-face communication is not necessary, but we all need flexibility managing our time during the week. This is a great opportunity to find out which meetings could have been an email and to figure out if WFH could be a long-term option for your team.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the one-way commute to work for Americans is 26.1 minute. Working from home saves one hour every day to 1) catch up with some sleep, 2) exercise, 3) spend time with family, and 4) empty your mind. Pick what you want to do with that additional precious hour. Besides, fewer commutes to work means less traffic and a smaller carbon footprint. It’s a win-win situation.

Another interesting phenomenon is our choice of commute, especially in cities. For destinations close by, more people switched to walking over taxis or ridesharing. For destinations further out, many opt to bicycle. it’s a good shift towards healthier and more sustainable habits.

How We Treat Each Other

Needless to say, no one is exempt from COVID-19. Regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality or social status, everyone faces the same risk. While we all love our own individuality, independence, and free will, one person’s behavior has never had this much of an impact on everyone in his or her proximity, and through butterfly effect, entire community, a country, and humanity. In this context, we are never so closely connected to each other despite that six feet. If this doesn’t change how you treat your family, neighbors, colleagues and that homeless guy camping at the corner of the block, what will?

As the greatest wizard of the modern era, Albus Dumbledore, said, “we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided” (J.K. Rowling, ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’), it is the time to stay together, stay strong, and stay positive.