As we celebrate Earth Day 2020 virtually this year and honor its 50th anniversary, we have a new perspective. We’re staying at home around the world, trying to control the devastation from the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of joining together on our local streets, we will be meeting and learning together digitally, reminded that we are all in this together.
While the coronavirus has been a tragedy of massive proportions, there have been some silver linings to the societal shutdown. In countries with dangerous air quality levels, like India, air pollution has plummeted to levels unseen in living memory since going into COVID-19 lockdown. And some cities are making plans to change public spaces to favor people over cars, while others are designing green spaces to allow for proper social distancing.
Here are a few other ideas for positive changes we can make to be more green and recognize Earth Day today and every day:
Reduce our environmental impact: We can make small changes in our energy and water consumption habits at home that, taken together, can make a difference for the planet and our energy bills. For example, some utilities offer demand response programs, which notify customers during periods of peak power grid stress to let them voluntarily switch off non-essential appliances.
Got a tip or hack for conserving energy or water that you’ve discovered while sheltering at home? Share it with us! You might help inspire others to be more resourceful during these challenging times.
Leverage educational resources: As homes have become schools for the time being, everyone is getting used to online learning and there are a wealth of free educational programs about conservation. We‘ve compiled a list of online educational resources for students and educators that focus on energy and water literacy and conservation — all of which can be accessed from the comfort of home. And here are some tips for keeping your kids engaged with schoolwork at home and having them treat you like their teacher.
Encourage remote working: For those able to work from home, it’s been a bit of an adjustment but many are realizing that traditional expectations about the need to show up at the office every day may not be necessary. Taking cars off the road reduces CO2 emissions and gives employees back valuable hours they had spent commuting every day. Some of the other benefits of remote working include energy savings, lower overhead for companies, and smaller carbon footprints.
Connect with each other: Spending so much time isolated during the pandemic can be mentally stressful and may cause anxiety for many, especially those who are alone. Although we can’t connect in person, we still need social interaction in our lives. Fortunately, there are apps like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime that are helping people stay connected via virtual Happy Hours, meetups with friends and family, and in many other creative ways.
Get outside! Modern humans have become increasingly disconnected from nature through our daily activities and hectic schedules, creating a “nature deficit disorder.” With our busy schedules on hold, many now have the time and desire to get outside. Spending time in nature has numerous benefits for both mind and body, especially in these anxious times. Now that social distancing is the new normal and we can’t hug one another, we can go outside and hug a tree! It’s not just a cliché – there’s plenty of science to back it up: Hugging a tree can increase levels of the oxytocin hormone, responsible for feeling calm and emotional bonding.
You can also get in touch with the earth in your own back yard. Landscaping and gardening can help relieve stress and anxiety, while also conserving energy and water.
There’s no question that this experience we are living through is life-changing — physically, emotionally and economically. But we can also learn from it to make positive changes and try to help mitigate the other biggest threat to global security: climate change.
The COVID-19 pandemic has slashed emissions by an unprecedented 2 billion metric tons of CO2, down 5.5% compared to 2019, according to Carbon Brief. But according to the UN, we’re not out of the forest yet and still need reductions of -7.6% per year through 2030 to keep warming below 1.5C.
As we appreciate breathing the fresh air this Earth Day, we can experience what’s possible and be reminded of why taking action matters –– even amidst a pandemic lockdown.
Now don’t forget to get outside and hug a tree!