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Tips for a Physically Isolated Earth Month

Celebrate Earth Month this year from home! Here are some ways you can help out the planet, and your wallet, while staying safe during this global pandemic brought to you by the Office of Sustainability.

Social Distancing and the Environment

With mandatory social distancing orders around the globe, we are seeing how human activities can affect the world around us.

Positive Environmental Effects

There have been some positive effects on the environment observed since social distancing measures have been put in place.

  • Improvements in air quality in China and Italy1
  • Improvements in water quality in Venice, allowing for fish and swans to populate the waterways1
  • Dips in industrial activity and demand for oil2
    • large reductions in transportation-related carbon emissions
    • emissions in China have dropped by about 25%
    • online shopping can help with lowered emissions if shipping is not rushed, which allows for more efficient locally organized delivery
  • Food-related carbon emissions are lowered through the consumption of stockpiled beans and rice2

Negative Environmental Effects

Despite the positive effects we are seeing, there remain environmental obstacles.

  • High demand for single-use, disposable plastics1
  • Food waste remains high regardless of people eating out or staying in (e.g. food being left in the fields)2
  • People have the choice to opt for resource-intensive foods2
  • Working from home can lead to increased energy use for devices and heating/cooling which can counter commuting emissions reductions2
  • A challenge would be to not return to business-as-usual after this and instead use lessons learned to reduce our emissions2
  • Most bulk bins have transitioned to pre-portioned plastic bags
  • Some food scrap drop-off sites are suspended1

 

Sustainability Tips

Here are some ways to keep up your sustainability goals while in quarantine.

Food

  • take only what you need, and leave some for others1
  • keep in mind that over-buying can lead to food waste1
  • consider shopping at local farmers markets that are still open1
  • bring your own shopping bags and wash them after every use, or put groceries back into your cart and put them in your own bags at your bike/car1
  • buy larger containers and plastics #1 and #2, which are more likely to be recycled1

Food Waste

  • repurpose produce in homemade veggie stock, fruit jams, etc.1
  • continue to backyard compost or curbside compost1

Energy

  • pay attention to your thermostat3
  • use powerstrips to easily switch off devices and unplug devices that are not used frequently3
  • use passive solar heating by taking advantage of opening windows when appropriate3
  • clean the dryer vent for shortened drying time and reduce fire hazards3
  • wash your clothes in cold water; keep your clothes looking longer3

Swaps 

If you have access to these resources, think about making these more sustainable switches. 

  • Toilet paper - the vast majority of suppliers may be out of stock; here are a few options that deliver toilet paper to your doorstep plastic free1
  • Here is a tutorial on how to make your own hand sanitizer1
  • Here is a tutorial on how to DIY your own orange peel vinegar cleaner for surfaces that do not require sterilization1
  • Gloves - while washing your hands frequently is the best and most effective option for clean hands, you can opt for rubber gloves that can be washed, dried, and reused1
  • Replace incandescent bulbs with LEDs3
  • Eat more plant-based to boost your immune system with vitamin-rich foods while cutting down on your food-related emissions4

Activities 

Physical isolation doesn't have to be boring or unproductive!

  • 1. a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. i. j. k. l. m. n. o. Humbrecht, Rebeka. How to be Environmentally Friendly During a Pandemic. 22 March 2020. https://www.silive.com/coronavirus/2020/03/sisustainability-how-to-be-environmentally-friendly-during-a-pandemic.html
  • 2. a. b. c. d. e. f. Davidson, Jordan. Social Distancing is Also Helping the Climate. 16 March 2020. https://www.ecowatch.com/social-distancing-climate-crisis-2645499666.html1
  • 3. a. b. c. d. e. f. Ygrene. 13 Tips to Save Money During a Quarantine. 23 March 2020. https://ygrene.com/blog/home-energy-saving-tips?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign&utm_term&utm_content
  • 4. a. b. c. d. Earth Day. 11 Actions for the Planet during a Pandemic. 19 March 2020. https://www.earthday.org/11-actions-for-the-planet-during-a-pandemic/