With lockdown going on (and on, it seems), now is the ideal time to reflect on how we’ve treated our planet in recent years and how we could all make a few lifestyle changes to help it out once the world gets back to normal.
We know that, unwelcome though they were, the lifestyle changes we’ve made during the pandemic have made a profoundly positive impact on the environment. Martha Henriques of the BBC reports that “levels of pollution in New York have reduced by nearly 50%.” In a country where, as Beth Gardiner of National Geographic states, air pollution “kills more than 100,000 Americans every year,” reducing pollution even slightly makes a difference.
The environmental benefits of a global lockdown will be temporary. Here, though, we’ve singled out a few long-term changes you could consider making to benefit the environment.
1. Change Your Travel Arrangements
Every working day, millions of us think nothing of gassing up our cars and joining the ranks of our fellow commuters on the congested and claustrophobic roads. But this is not only a soul-destroying mode of transport that cuts you off from your fellow humans in a pretty profound way; it’s also terrible for the environment. So, once lockdown lifts, maybe you should consider switching up your mode of transport?
Walk more or invest in a decent bike for local trips. When travelling long-distance, maybe leave your gas guzzler (or maybe just sell it) and utilise public transport. Chances are, there are buses to Toronto or San Francisco, or trains to Bedford or Boston or wherever you happen to be going. These are much more environmentally responsible and relaxing ways to travel.
2. Charity Begins at Home
There are a hundred little lifestyle changes you can make in your home to cut down on your carbon footprint and they could all add up to a rather substantial impact. Start by replacing your old lights bulbs with LED bulbs, as this is perhaps the smallest but most profound thing you can do.
Next, if you’re not already on a smart metre then contact your energy provider and get it sorted. Do an energy audit of your home. Add insulation if you need to. Having an energy efficient home does a lot to reduce your environmental impact.
3. Bags for Life
You might be limiting your shopping trips at the moment anyway due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but on the odd occasions that you do go shopping, take some bags with you. The UK is certainly on the right track having introduced the mandatory plastic bag charge a few years ago, but people are still willing to pay that 5p. Make sure that your ‘bag for life’ is just that.
Try to look for places in your day-to-day life where you could cut either out disposable items or re-use them. If you’re using disposable products, do a quick internet search for reusable alternatives. No matter what task your disposable product is for, you’ll probably find a more sustainable option. These lifestyle changes are small, but they add up.
4. Eat Less Meat
For those who are really attached to eating meat, this might be something of a big ask, but with the vegan options available in this day and age it’s nowhere near as difficult to cut out meat and dairy as it once was. Whereas ingredients such as jackfruit and tofu were once seen as exotic and difficult to source, they can now be found in every supermarket in the country alongside the milk and cheese.
The industrial production of animals for food has had devastating impacts on the planet, so if you’re looking for one practical way to really cut your footprint, this is it. And honestly, you can eat just as well today as a vegan as you can as a carnivore so there really is no good reason not to at least give it a go.
5. Go Paperless
Perhaps one of the easiest lifestyle changes you can make to hack away at your carbon footprint is to go paperless wherever possible. When it comes to everything from bank statements to energy bills and tax documents, go online and ensure that you select paperless options wherever possible. This is a change that will cost you nothing more than a few minutes and could have a major impact on your footprint.
6. Advocate for Systemic Change
Reducing our own carbon footprints is an important part of the fight for a sustainable future. It models the world we want, makes a statement about our priorities and proves that living responsibly and living well are not at odds with each other.
There’s a big difference, though, between deciding to sell your one gas-guzzling SUV and having stricter environmental regulations that dictate that all SUVs need to be more fuel-efficient. There’s a big difference between choosing not to use a plastic bag and banning single-use plastics. Individual choices are most effective when they’re paired with action.
So join an environmental group, read up on the issues you care about and get in touch with politicians about them, or donate to an organization fighting for what you believe in. Your voice will always be louder when you join it with other people’s.