Published on April 22, 2020

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Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Everything slows down when you spend more time at home. We have more space to pause and reflect: on our values, on our behavior, and on how we live our lives. This moment is the perfect opportunity to embrace sustainable habits that you can continue even after this period of social distancing ends.

It could be as simple as washing those spaghetti sauce jars and repurposing them for storage, or as dramatic as reconsidering—and confronting—how much waste your lifestyle produces on a day-to-day basis. This time of temporary stillness is an opportunity to live a little bit greener not only now but in the future, too. Here, 13 people share the recent changes they’ve made that they’ll be keeping up in the long term.

Get Scrappy

I save my vegetable scraps to make a delicious stock on weekends. Then I use it in soups and other dishes during the week. Broccoli and chard stems also make amazing pickles—I put them in ume vinegar and snack on them whenever I’m craving a crunch. —Gabe Kennedy, founder of Plant People

Craft a Bath Soak

Many of us have been doing a lot of spring cleaning, and I like to use fabric from worn-out clothes to make bath bags. You don’t need a sewing machine: Cut out a couple squares and loosely stitch them together by hand, stuffing them with grated or chopped ginger, dried flower petals (roses, lavender, and jasmine are all great), and Himalayan sea salt. Drop one in hot water, and it will make for a really relaxing, restorative soak (with no messy cleanup). —Shrankhla Holecek, founder of UMA Oils

Upcycle What You Already Have

I’ve been giving things around the house new life with a coat of paint. I inherited an old white floor lamp whose base and shade were yellowing. So I painted it black: matte on the outside of the shade black and high-gloss on the bottom. Now it’s perfectly chic.” —Tiberio Lobo-Navia, cofounder of Beni Rugs

Go Meatless

I decided to go mostly vegetarian at the beginning of this year for environmental reasons, but it wasn’t until San Francisco’s shelter-in-place order that I really started to embrace it. Because I’m cooking all of my own meals, this past month has been like a vegetarian cooking boot camp. It’s given me the opportunity to experiment and figure out a number of meatless meals that I’m really excited about: Middle Eastern–style chickpea salads, Japanese hiyayakko (chilled tofu), Chinese steamed egg custard, and several bean soups. Being vegetarian is way more fun now that I have several go-to favorites in my repertoire. Zai Divecha, artist

Reduce Waste

The quarantine has made me much more aware of my consumption and waste. We have started composting, and when I cook, I try to creatively use every ingredient I have in the fridge so nothing goes to waste. After our packages have been decontaminated over a few days, I reuse the cardboard boxes to build forts for my 2-year-old son to play in. My brand is also currently in the process of producing consumer masks by upcycling our excess fabric. Tanya Taylor, fashion designer

Maximize Your Beauty Stash

I’ve been indulging in hydrating face masks that I mix up myself using minimal ingredients. I play around with different variations of Moroccan clay, sea moss, turmeric, honey, aloe, and argan oil. Dominique Drakeford, founder of Melanin & Sustainable Style and cofounder of Sustainable BK

Create Menus

We’re writing meal plans to extend and make the best use of our bimonthly farm box. This time at home has made us more aware of our previous food waste during busy workweeks, like limp greens and forgotten radishes. Now we’re clearing the fridge weekly and making sure we don’t neglect any beautiful California produce or let herbs go bad.  —Kate Koeppel, founder of Koeppel Design

Prep Food From Scratch

I just learned how to make yogurt and oat milk—both of which are really hard to find not in plastic packaging. I’ve also started my foray into growing some of our own vegetables for the first time, which is a feat given we are in a New York City apartment with no outdoor space! We’ve started with tomatoes, and I’ve jumped on the wagon of regrowing scallions and celery. —Sarah Paiji Yoo, founder of Blueland

Strategize Chores

Since being at home I’ve taken a more minimal approach in my usual practices—from making sure I’m more efficient with essential errands to reusing packaging and disinfecting instead of using something new each time. Now that we’re making three meals a day at home, we don’t use single-use items and chose to go with larger-volume products with less packaging. I also ensure that the dishwasher and washing machine are at full capacity before we turn them on so we can run them less frequently. —Dianna Cohen, founder and CEO of Crown Affair

Grow Your Greens

I’m growing a victory garden and aiming to grow enough produce for myself and then some. I ordered heirloom seeds from Dan Barber’s Row 7 Seeds and started seedlings this week. Once things sprout, I’ll be saving money, taking fewer trips to the grocery store, and cutting down my plastic consumption—plus, I’ll have access to some really hard-to-find heirloom produce to cook with. —Jessica Young, founder of Bubble

Concoct Cleaning Supplies

More than ever, we have been spraying our counters and bathroom surfaces with either white vinegar mixed with water or rubbing alcohol, which I pour into empty Nutrient Mist bottles. Make sure to use masking tape labels—accidentally misting your face with rubbing alcohol is not fun! —Hillary Peterson, founder of True Botanicals

Make It a Family Project

My family lives a pretty green lifestyle in Northern California, and we’re lucky to be able to grow our own vegetables and herbs. One thing we are doing more of is incorporating lessons around plants into our kids’ homeschooling lessons. We’ll read about a plant or flower and then either try to grow it or make something using it. Our son loves it so much he even insisted on planting peas on Easter. We’re hoping this focus gets them to appreciate nature and the process of eating what you grow. Claudia Mata, founder of Vertly

DIY Any and All Products

I’ve been mixing single ingredients into my own potions for room spray, tinctures, and sanitizer, and now I’m even making candles. The way that people have dialed up their cooking, I think it’s just as ecological to do with any product you are purchasing for your home. If you learn to make it yourself, you spend less money and end up with something sustainable and good for you. Adina Grigore, founder of S.W. Basics

It’s hammer time: Follow @reno_notebook for easy rental updates, clever DIYs, and tips to nail your next project.

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