This Earth Day, take a moment to realize that our planet has been going through a lot in the past years. Have you ever felt the need to help but didn’t know where to start?
You may be surprised to know you’ve already been helping the planet, right from the comfort of your couch without even realizing it!
While the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the global economy by 13–32%, it appears that it has benefited other sectors, such as the global ecosystem. The possible impacts of reduced human activity on plants and other species are currently under speculation. However, based on existing information, there is a good chance that some positive effects on the environment occurred during the global lockdowns.
In honor of Earth Day, here are a few ways in which you recently contributed to a better environment:
1. You stayed home
Air pollution declined temporarily as industrial activity, ground transport, and air travel heavily curtailed for several months. Plant poaching might have reduced as a result of lower international travel (e.g., cactus and other succulents). At the same time, there may be a decrease in the spread of invasive species due to less vehicle traffic.
Banning tourists during lockdown has also reduced water pollutants released by tourists. Such events resulted in water quality improvement due to less pollution observed in different cities. Clearer water has enabled other creatures such as fish, dolphins, and swans to come back to the canals and waterways. For example, Venice’s canals and the Yamuna river in Delhi, India, are now significantly clearer compared to the past.
2. You stopped driving everywhere
Due to the majority of entertainment places such as movie theaters being closed, there was suddenly no need to use your car as frequently as before, right? Therefore, you contributed to better air quality through the decrease in CO2 emissions. In early April 2020, compared to the same period in 2019, researchers found that daily global CO2 emissions decreased by 17% on average.
3. You started working remotely
At the workplace, employees tend to be less environmentally conscious than at home. According to one study, employees are less likely to save electricity at work since they gain no financial incentive from doing so. However, conserving energy saves money at home, which most likely motivated you to turn the lights off and power down your laptop at the end of the day.
4. You took a break
Maybe you took a vacation or just disconnected yourself from the world for a bit. Instead of frantically sending emails to your coworkers or searching the internet for an answer to the meaning of life, you chose to take a walk. Rest assured that you helped the environment in the process!
5. You used less paper
Digitizing documents for remote employees has contributed to less paper use by businesses around the world. Employers will significantly reduce the amount of paper used each year by eliminating the need for paper documents. However, the environmental consequences of remote work and going paperless in the workplace do not end with a cut in paper consumption. A typical hardwood tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, cutting greenhouse gas emissions substantially over a year.
6. You reduced consumption
Staying home has enabled us to reduce unnecessary waste and power consumption to cut expenses. By making the appropriate changes to our habits, we can increase the environmental benefits of working at home. Such habits include recycling when we can, reusing as much as possible, or donating gently used items,
Everything is temporary…
We’ve noticed that the lockdown has induced numerous positive impacts on the environment and energy consumption. However, many of these consequences are likely to be temporary. Thus, these short-term positive impacts of COVID-19 should be utilized to develop effective future policies to protect the environment. Better air quality, improved water quality, effective waste management, and enhanced biodiversity protection will reduce the vulnerability of communities to pandemics and improve overall societal well-being and resilience.
…but this is not the end.
Looking around us, it seems that many people reconnected to the environment to a level that didn’t happen in the last few decades. Therefore, this lack of pollution, lack of smog, lack of traffic changed the attitude to the environment around us.
Now that you know you’ve done all these positive things subconsciously, you can go the extra mile and start putting in some effort. We have to move beyond the awareness phase and start realizing that there’s more to be done about climate change on a systemic level. From the ordinary citizen to the private sector and government, everyone must take responsibility for the future of the planet and, in turn, the future of ourselves. Keep doing great things for Earth!
If you want to further connect with the environment, take action, and raise awareness – join Earth Day, an annual event on April 22 which aims to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First held on April 22, 1970, it now includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by EARTHDAY.ORG (formerly Earth Day Network), including 1 billion people in more than 193 countries.