One of the unforeseen benefits that has come out of the past year of pandemic related restrictions and changes, is the positive impact that many of the changes in routine that people have experienced have had on the planet. As people were forced to work from home and most events and stores were closed or limited to only essential functions, there was a dramatic drop in carbon emissions during the first part of the pandemic.
Part of this drop was the result of less people commuting to their jobs and less travel for entertainment or social activities. At the peak of restrictions, people were only traveling to the store to purchase necessities and for a minimum of safe and allowed recreational activities. There was also a marked decrease in the amount of manufacturing that was occurring as many facilities that were not essential, were forced to shut down temporarily until conditions improved.
What benefits occurred?
During this period of dramatically reduced human activity, there were a number of positive benefits that were seen all around the world. Cities saw species return to clearer natural water sources in heavily populated areas, pollution and emissions were reduced in many places as a result of less manufacturing and industrial waste, and less congestion and traffic on major roads and pedestrian areas. By mid April of 2020, global emissions had dropped by over 17%! A number of parks and natural sites that normally experience heavy tourist traffic were able to heal and recover as most recreational travel was prohibited or extremely limited. Many areas saw nature begin to breathe for a few moments and caught a glimpse of what the world could look like if humans had a reduced effect on the environment.
Why wasn’t it good enough?
While a reduction in carbon emissions for any amount of time is good, that drop in carbon emissions is now beginning to reverse as life returns to normal. Many people have returned to work, recreational activities and social events have found means of safely operating, and people are jumping at the opportunity to escape the solitude and fear of the past year and return to their normal lives. Experts have predicted that the pandemic will have little to no effect on the rate of carbon emissions, which is quickly returning to normal as people grow weary of the lifestyle changes that health and safety have required.
The changes necessitated by a global pandemic were neither sustainable nor healthy for the people they affected. Spending all of one’s time at home can have very negative mental health effects and is not a good way to live for a long period of time. Many people lost jobs due to the restrictions and a number of important industries that were unable to function. People need to work, and industries need to be able to function; merely shutting everything down, while sometimes necessary, is not the environmental step we need to take.
How does sustainable change happen?
Stopping or even reversing the negative effect that humanity has had on the environment will take much more than just a brief period of dramatic change. We need sustainable, long-term changes to how we live and work, and we need to change how we view the planet and its resources. While the restrictions necessitated by the pandemic were not a good model moving forward, they did give us an important glimpse at the effect human activity has on the Earth, and the fact that it is possible to limit those effects. Everyone has a role to play moving forward as we take stock of our lifestyles and what we value.
EcoCart is on a mission to reduce global carbon emissions, and provide people with the tools and resources they need to reduce their own carbon footprint and make changes to their lifestyle to prioritize sustainability. If you want to reduce your online carbon footprint, a great place to start is installing the EcoCart Chrome extension and using it anytime you shop online. This let’s you enjoy the benefits of online shopping without having to worry about the carbon impact of shipping, packaging, and running online marketplaces.
Sustainability has its challenges, but preserving the health of the environment and our planet is worth the effort. We have to consider the long term effects of our actions and prioritize care for the resources and lives of future generations over momentary conveniences. Change is possible, and we will succeed if everyone works together!