In lieu of all the panic surrounding COVID-19 and its impact on health and the global economy, we would like to take a moment to look at the silver lining. By now we’re all aware of the outbreak and slow down of human activity around the globe. However, an interesting side effect to our reduction in activity has allowed the Earth to begin healing itself.
The murky canals of Venice are beginning to clear. Dolphins are even beginning to appear. Nitrogen dioxide has dropped significantly over China due to the reduced industrial activity. The inhalation of pollutants like Nitrogen dioxide can increase risk of asthma and inflammation of the lungs. Particulate matter, such as smoke, soot, dust and pollen have lowered. Due to the reduction of activity, the holes in the ozone layer are beginning to repair themselves.
These changes, however, are only temporary, so what can we do to reduce our carbon footprint? I know I will be making some changes to my lifestyle, and I encourage you all to join me.
Stop Smoking - We all know it’s a horrible habit. I will be making a serious effort to stop. Toxic air pollutants are released into the atmosphere through cigarette smoke. Toxic chemicals in cigarette butts litter the environment and seep into our soil and water.
Don’t Litter - Aside from litter being an eyesore, it’s dirty. They harbor germs which can in turn create bacterias and viruses which can be spread through animals. We don’t litter in our homes, why do so outdoors? The Earth is also our home. Treat the animals as you would a baby. We wouldn’t leave small items or plastic bags lying around for fear they’d choke or suffocate. The same goes for animals who mistake items they find outdoors for food.
Ride a Bike - We live in NYC. We have bike lanes. I purposely moved to Harlem to be closer to work in Midtown. I’ll be purchasing a bike and riding it daily once we’re back in office. Nearly one-fifth of US emissions come from cars and trucks, every gallon of gas emits around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases.
Carpool - An alternative to riding a bike is carpooling. We already know the effects of cars on the environment. By limiting the number of cars we can reduce the amount of pollutants emitted into the atmosphere.
Eating low on the food chain - Eating more fruits, vegetables, grains and beans are not only good for your overall health, but livestock and dairy are responsible for a little over 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If we ate less meat and dairy, less would need to be produced, resulting in a reduction in pollutants.
Buy local and organic food in season. Transporting and cooling food from spoiling requires fossil fuels.
Buy vintage or recycled clothing at consignment stores and thrift shops - We’re New Yorkers and “Fashion is Life”, who doesn’t love to find those one of a kind pieces. If you have the time, take up a sewing class or YouTube one. Not only can you express your individuality and sense of style, but you’d also limit your purchasing of fast fashion. It may be trendy and cheap, but styles quickly change and get dumped in landfills where they decompose producing methane. We’re not even accounting for the transportation and production of these goods from places like China and Bangladesh.
Wash Clothes in Cold Water - Growing up, I was always told, “cold water cleans, hot water disinfects”. Unless, you were sick or threw up on yourself, there is little use for hot water when washing clothes. You can save up to 500 pounds of carbon dioxide by washing two loads of laundry in cold water each year.
Switch to LED lightbulbs - They may cost more but they require less energy and last longer, eventually saving you money.
Opt for a fan - Fans are a cost effective and energy efficient alternative to air conditioners.
These are just some of the many changes we can make to create a cleaner environment. We should take this time as an opportunity to reflect on the effect we as humans have on the Earth and what we can do to protect it for the sake of our health, our lives and the lives of the ones we love and those of future generations to come.