Eco-Guilt in Quarantine

Ramadan Mubarak to those who observe and your families.

earth love GIF by TaylorAnneDraws

This is my confession to the eco-sins I have been committing in quarantine. I am acknowledging that I haven’t been doing as much of my part as I have in the past, even taking steps back on the progress I made and expressed pride in yesterday. These are unique circumstances, and I understand that, but I still feel guilty about the following things:Not composting. Yes, I started composting in this apartment but since I was schlepping my compost to my office, which has been closed for a month and a half, and the compost drop-off points have been closed, there has been a pause in composting. At first, I still saved my compost scraps in the freezer, but as our trips to take out the garbage became less frequent for our safety and freezer space became valuable as our grocery trips also become less frequent, my husband explained to me that I needed to just throw out our compostable scraps. 😦

Having so much more delivered to our apartment. We have not left the apartment now in almost 7 weeks now, so we have not left to buy groceries or takeout from restaurants. As a result, everything we’ve eaten has had to be delivered to our apartment, and that results in a lot of packaging waste as well as the additional emissions from deliveries made by cars to our building. We’ve also had things shipped to us by our family back in Maryland because, somehow, it’s safer for them to drive to a store to buy something and then ship it to us than it is for us to go out and buy it ourselves. This has been really difficult for me to reconcile, especially because I have actively been avoiding getting groceries, takeout, and laundry delivered to us here; I didn’t want to give in to these New York luxuries that seem very unnecessary when everything is walking distance. Well, walking distance is already too far for us now, so this is our new reality.

Using a lot more water. We are washing our hands and our everything an awful lot and for a really long time these days, aren’t we? Water processing is a much more efficient process than recycling, but I still don’t feel good about using so much more than before. Worse yet than how much water I’m using, however…

Using a lot of disposable disinfectant wipes. We didn’t have any disinfectant spray and a limited amount of rubbing alcohol when quarantine began. By the time my husband got sick, I really needed to be able to disinfect the surfaces in the bathroom and on the dinnerware he ate off of. He happened to buy several canisters of disinfectant wipes before quarantine, so I used many of those during the worst of his fever and continue to use them now. I really feel badly about how many wipes we’re throwing away, but when it comes to disinfecting, sustainability almost always comes second to actually effectively disinfecting.


I hate that I’ve had to put my health and safety above reducing my negative impact on the environment. In a better world, we would be able to stay healthy and safe in an environmentally-sustainable way. Even when I worked in research and in healthcare, I thought often about disposable plastic pipettes and syringes and thermometer covers. I’m hoping we can get to a place where those 2 goals can co-exist more easily. The world of sustainable products has come a long way, so I feel like we might see this happen in my lifetime, especially as people become a lot more mindful of living sustainably.

I just hope that one of the long-term effects of this pandemic is not a regression on this progress.

Hope you and yours are staying safe.

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