– Teresa Madaleno:
The worldwide pandemic has taught us that as humans we can suddenly shift our lifestyle behaviors. We have been working from home on mass, have avoided social gatherings, shop online as opposed to in- store, and have adjusted many other routine habits over the course of the COVID-19 crisis. Just think about how many lives have been saved by all of us changing the way we conduct ourselves day-to-day. It’s all about survival, right?
A clean green environment is also key to survival so if we can we apply the same effort to mitigating climate change, we can also save lives.
We have lived through the hottest decade on record and it is in large part because of made-made climate change. Environmentalists and climate change activists still believe there are ways that we can all reduce our carbon footprint and thus impact climate in a positive as opposed to negative way. Yes, it will require sacrifice, but so has COVID-19 and we have demonstrated we have it in us to do it.
Here are some suggestions that will allow you to contribute to a healthier planet:
• Reduce Air travel – this is not a new idea but there has been more attention on this concept since climate change activist, Greta Thunberg refused to fly to attend speaking engagements. A report in the New York Times used the example of a round-trip flight between New York and California to demonstrate how aviation is contributing to global warming. That one round-tip contributes 20 percent of greenhouse gases that the average car emits over the course of a full year. While some air travel may be unavoidable, at least we can try to reduce time in the air by vacationing closer to home, holding business meetings online, and travelling via bus (preferably an electric or hybrid bus).
• Shop smarter – COVID-19 forced more people to shop online. In fact, e-commerce sales more than doubled year-over-year because of the pandemic. If this online ordering frenzy continues post-pandemic, we are in trouble. Why? Because speedy delivery of goods equals transportation equals more greenhouse gas emissions. During difficult times like COVID, we aren’t saying don’t buy anything online, but what we would suggest is, don’t order one pair of gloves; wait until you have a few more items to order or tag your order on to someone else’s order – another family member or perhaps a friend who is ordering from the same place. Also, every time you go to put something in an online cart, stop and ask yourself, can I get this locally?
• Adjust your diet – meat production uses a lot of fossil fuel, so consider a less meat-heavy diet. Protein from staples like beans and legumes grown nearby are good options. You can also choose fruit and vegetables that are locally grown. This eliminates the need for refrigerated transportation to extend the life of foods and reduces fossil fuel normally used in transit.
• Avoid single-use disposable plastics – the only benefit to plastics is that they protect goods. The very big downside is that they come from fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gases. While there has been a significant movement to recycle plastics, the consensus among environmentalists is that it’s not enough. We also have to stop buying it. Anyone can start eliminating plastics by carrying their own reusable mug, water bottle, utensils, straws, food containers and reusable bags. There are all sorts of zero-waste bulk stores opening around the globe. We should all take advantage of them.
• Avoid the car – according to the global warming resource, Carbonify.com, the average American drives 13,473 miles per year. If you wanted to plant trees to offset carbon emissions from driving, you would need to plant about 37 trees per year. Just think about the environmental damage we could avoid if we took less car trips, rode our bikes more, car-pooled, and walked. Here is one way to get started: when you are about to go run an errand, ask yourself if your destination is more than one walkable mile from your house, if it isn’t then walk or ride a bike instead of driving. If cycling isn’t an option, consider other modes of transportation, like the train or bus.
• Shop second-hand – the second-hand movement is growing. Some countries like the UK boast a wide variety of second-hand speciality shops, including clothing stores, appliance stores, and electronics shops. In North America clothing shops like the Salvation Army and Goodwill are the largest contributors to the second-hand clothing sector, but in recent years other second-hand outlets, such as Plato’s Closet and Buffalo Exchange have taken a hold with a loyal customer base. Today, there is a lot of research being done in circular fashion, including great strides being made by The Netherlands Wageningen University, where professors, designers, scientists, students, and companies come together to work on the recycling and upcycling of clothing, as well as the development of new biobased materials. The next time you feel the urge to shop, consider second-hand, and brace yourself because it is only a matter of time before we see major changes in the fashion industry to reflect preservation of our survival on this planet.
As you can see from the list above, we all have the power to influence change if we are willing to adjust our own habits. By the way, if you must attend a lot of meetings for work, you could suggest video conferencing continue post COVID. Just one more way to reduce those transportation emissions.