Single-use products, necessitated by the pandemic, are harming the environment.

We as people aren’t the only ones suffering from the coronavirus pandemic: The environment was hit just as hard and is suffering more than ever.

Since life turned upside down in March, new safety precautions have been imposed to keep us healthy. Unfortunately, the environment was not thought about in the same way. With many single-use items, such as disposable masks, food packaging and paper towels, as well as plastic disinfectant bottles, landfills are fuller than ever.

Schools can be seen as one of the leaders in the usage of these disposable items, and they make one of the biggest impacts on their communities. Many biodegradable and reusable alternatives are available and accessible. We just need to make the choice to switch over. Many of these options are also very cost-effective, which is just another benefit of going green.

For example, biodegradable lunch packaging should be used instead of the individual plastic wraps currently filling school trash cans, and single-use paper towels should be replaced with reusable cloths to clean desks and other high-touch surfaces.

Since schools have such an impact on their communities, making the switch to biodegradable alternatives will make going green more accessible for local families, and help them make the switch, too.

In April, when much of the world was quarantining, we saw canals clear in Italy, skies clear in China, ocean wildlife thriving on European coasts, and local and national ecosystems flourishing. With people staying inside their homes, pollution from cars and factory production went down an incredible amount, making a clear and positive impact on our Earth.

If our negative impact is reversed in such a short time by staying inside, is that a sign that humankind isn’t taking care of our environment? Now, staying inside has upsides, but it also has its environmental downsides, including online shopping with powerful businesses such as Amazon and food delivery services such as Postmates and Uber Eats.

Ordering a shirt from a website — as opposed to buying it in person — is a huge waste. If you were buying it in a store, the trash becomes the tag, receipt and bag, as opposed to the package, labels, tags, shipping orders or receipts, individual wrapping for the garment, and double all that if a return must be made.

Although biodegradable packaging is available, most companies still rely on plastic packaging to ship their orders, which is a serious source of pollution. This also may apply to food-delivery services, especially now with more plastic and precautions taken to keep people safe and COVID-19-free.

To say the least, there are a lot of current environmental threats that are becoming more detrimental than ever. There are many biodegradable and eco-friendly substitutes that could become our normal. We can get to that new normal with the smallest switches. Though they may be small, they are still effective. The time for change is now more than ever. So let’s do it — let’s go green!

Caroline Wagner is a freshman journalist at Warwick High School.