As the news worsens and panic spreads way too quickly and aggressively, the media is plastered with images of supermarkets and stores with cleaned out aisles, barren wastelands devoid most often of a few key items: toilet paper, sanitizer, soap, canned food, and tissues, among others. Even if you started cool and collected, by now the mass national (and to an extent, worldwide) anxiety may have you thinking…Should I be stocking up, too…?
The Unseen Side Effects of Over-Buying
The thing I can’t help but confront in the face of this store-clearing behavior (beyond the terrifying questions: “Were you not using soap all this time?” and “Why do you need so much damn toilet paper?”) is the amount of extra plastic waste we’re creating. Every plastic bottle of soap is another hunk of plastic to sit on the planet for longer than your lifetime. Every plastic toilet paper wrapping and shampoo bottle will be around long after this pandemic ends. So, yes, the urge to stock up is natural and getting some extra supplies on hand is certainly smart and recommended. I can’t solve where you should buy food or hand sanitizer, but there are some ways you can still stock up on other items. There are ways to make your panic shopping a little better for everyone: small businesses, the planet, and its people.
Shopping for soap?
Rather than stocking up with a year’s worth of bottles of hand soap, switch to bar soap. They last longer (that means cheaper), come in paper or no packaging, and still clean your hands! It’s a win for the planet and a win for hygiene. You can buy bar soap in most standard grocery stores, and even if those are sold out, boutiques, organic stores, and home goods stores also sell them. Or you can stay socially distanced and buy some from artisans on Etsy (who probably need your support more right now) or cleancult.
Shopping for cleaning supplies?
Plenty of cleaning products are full of chemicals and harm the environment. And most of them come in large plastic bottles that can’t easily be recycled and spend their lifetime polluting your planet. Now is the perfect time to start using reusable home products, like these “Unpaper Towels.” The real bonus is you don’t have to worry about running out while you’re only just starting your self-isolation.
Shopping for toilet paper?
Now this is the tough one. For whatever unimaginable reason, enough people have felt the need to buy a year’s worth of toilet paper (this virus doesn’t affect your bowels, people!) that people who just need to stock up like normal can’t even find a pack to spare. Mind-boggling as it is, this one even applies to eco-friendly online toilet paper brands like Reel and Who Gives a Crap, who are momentarily out of stock. However, if you do end up quarantined and run out during, keep an eye on these two spots, as once they do restock, you can get it quickly delivered to you without any need to the house.
Annie Burdick is a writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon, but transplanted from the Midwest. She also works as a community inclusion specialist for adults with disabilities. Previously she's edited and written for magazines, websites, books, and small businesses, on an absurdly wide range of topics. She spends the rest of her time reading, eating good food, and finding new adventures in the Pacific Northwest.