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
Here are some ways to keep up your sustainability goals while in quarantine.
- 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
- repurpose produce in homemade veggie stock, fruit jams, etc.1
- continue to backyard compost or curbside compost1
- 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
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
Physical isolation doesn't have to be boring or unproductive!
- Start a compost pile in your backyard. Learn more here.
- Read a book instead of streaming something to watch4
- streaming is carbon-intensive
- Make your own cleaning solution with citrus, white vinegar, vodka, etc. and be sure to reuse empty spray bottles4
- make sure the alcohol concentration is at least 70%, some recipes here
- Get outside and walk, run, bike, or garden for exercise4
- Start on your Spring cleaning and begin a donation pile
- Support local small businesses when you can
- Attend online classes and events
- "Visit" some nature webcams
- Visit these sources for more information:
- 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/