For a while, the world was winning in its efforts to move away from single-use packaging and products as a means to reduce waste and landfill volumes. We were starting to change the way that businesses operated by getting them to minimise their packaging and consider more earth-friendly alternatives.
And then! Covid-19 has turned the world - and the way we work, on its head and along with thousands of casualties, the war on waste and single-pack items has been forgotten. Take for example, the amount of single-use PPE that has entered the marketplace - and wound-up on the nearest landfill site. We have created a legacy of plastic, elastic, treated paper and other non-recyclable items that will clog our sites for years to come.
And in the tourism and hospitality field - which has been particularly hard-hit by the virus, years of hard work in moving away from single-use items has been undone - almost as if by magic. Gone are the days when buffets could minimise food and packaging waste. The carefully planned cleaning of rooms and spaces with earth-friendly products has been replaced with - in most cases, very unfriendly sanitisers designed to obliterate every known germ to man. And housekeeping and laundry savings in water and chemical use have gone the way of most things in our need to ensure healthy, safe and sterile conditions for guests.
Will we ever return to the time when consideration of the planet and the environment were serious issues in our world? Probably yes, but it will take time and it will take renewed efforts to get past the new way of doing things. We can provide the safe and healthy environment our guests demand while at the same time protecting our planet. Simple waste management systems and a commitment to recycling and careful product selection shouldn't also become a victim of this pandemic.
Don't let the COVID-19 virus be an excuse to undo the good that you and your business have achieved by being responsible and environmentally aware. Don't step back into old ways and forget that your everyday decisions have consequences far-beyond your line-of-sight. Don't adopt standards that aren't in line with your commitment to sustainability just because you can.
If anything, now is the time to stand by your principles of sustainability and caring for your environment. Because it is in times like these -when you face the most difficult challenges your business has ever faced, that you can make a difference. We need to remind ourselves that this virus will pass but that the decisions and habits we adopt may have consequences that far outlive the impacts that we face today.