Updated: Aug 8, 2020
While COVID-19 continues to cause devastating health & economic effects around the world, I'd like to take a moment to try and take note of effects this crisis could have on our planet's health and what we can learn from it. I don't want to phrase this as a 'positive' effect or a silver lining, because whatever decrease we are seeing in emissions and environmental pollution are not only coming from a place of great suffering for many people but are also temporary whilst we are forced to stay home and close businesses.
The facts are, the social distancing and lockdown policies enacted in places like China, Italy, and New York City have shown a measurable decrease in air & environmental pollution. The New York Times reported just over a week ago "researchers at Columbia University have seen emissions of carbon monoxide over New York City decline more than 50 percent below typical levels". You may have also noticed the photos of the Venice Canals that have gone viral showing the canal clearer than it has been in years due to the drop in waterway traffic. While this could be seen as a positive, the truth is we will eventually go back to business as usual and pollution will go right back to where it was before COVID-19 gripped the world. But does it have to? What can we learn from this?
I think there are a few lessons that we can take away from being forced to re-examine the flow of our daily lives and see how we can implement them going forward to lessen our impact on the environment. In fact, we get so accustomed to how we live our lives we often don't realize how adaptable we really are. Below are a few key strategies I think we will be capable of continuing in our post COVID-19 lives.
Working From Home
I don't know about you but until now I had a lot of excuses to not work from home. I would always say things like, I'm too busy, I'm too distracted, My company won't let me, everyone will think I'm lazy, etc. Now though, COVID-19 has completely thrown all of those excuses to the wind. Both companies and employees have had to find a way to work from home effectively and I see no reason why we can't continue doing so a few times a week once we go back to our normal schedules.
Making Your Own Food
There is nothing like the closing of your favourite restaurant and grocery store shortages to make you all of a sudden very resourceful in the kitchen, am I right? While I know as much as anyone how much of a lifesaver takeaway can be, the packaging is super wasteful and it is entirely unnecessary if you have a kitchen stocked with pantry staples for quick & nutritious meals. I'm definitely taking this whole experience as an opportunity to expand my repertoire of recipes from pantry staples. Some favourites have been a minestrone soup, black bean sweet potato chili, Tuscan white bean skillet, & of course my favorite vegan peanut butter no bake cookies.
Re-evaluate Consumerist Habits
The shortages of basic supplies in grocery stores (sparked by wholly unwarranted panic-buying) has made one question all the more relevant: What do I really need? In reality, we actually don't that much and more often than not are buying things on impulse rather than because we really need them. Take for instance paper towels and toilet paper, absolute essentials right? Well, yes they are but even those basics have some creative & more sustainable alternatives. You could install a bidet for instance and never have to use toilet paper again. Check out Tushy, a company that has modernised bidets to be affordable and easy to install on any toilet. No paper towels? How about cutting up some of your old t-shirts or towels and using those instead?
Caring for our neighbors
Before this crisis hit I often hurried into my apartment, eager to escape into my private oasis after a long day. However, the isolation and grocery store shortages has really made me more conscious of checking in on my neighbors. Something as simple as asking 'How are you?' or 'Can I help you in any way?' can really make an impact on someone's day. In our busy lives we tend to skip this more and more but this crisis is really showing us how important it is to look after one another. I hope that this is something that continues post COVID-19.
These are the main takeaways that I hope to bring forward into my everyday life no matter what is going on in the world around me. Because while it sometimes takes a crisis to spur us to action, what it can show us is how capable we are of changing. As we know at Glotanicals, to continue evolving into more sustainable lifestyles it really is the simple changes can really make all the difference.