Posted April 24, 2020
Written by Kyla Isakson
During this time of uncertainty, it is easy to put environmentally conscious actions low on the priority list. Plastic bag bans have been lifted temporarily and reusable bags are not allowed in stores; more cleaners and single-use masks and plastic are being used; stores are sold out of single-use paper products like toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins; however, these actions have been made to benefit the immediate health of the community. It is critical for essential workers to have access to disposable personal protective equipment (PPEs) to ensure their health and the health of those they are helping. It is important to take precautionary measures to reduce the spread of germs and limit contact with others. These decisions were not made lightly, and it was not intentional that they negatively impact the environment. The health of the community during this pandemic is the top priority for people around the world, and the environment is not immune to the effects of human activity; however, we cannot lose hope!
Although it seems like things in the news and media are all negative, there are some big positive impacts on the environment due to the stay-at-home advisory. With more people staying home and fewer cars on the road, air pollution has temporarily decreased. Reduced noise pollution from cancelled flights, reduced shipping, and fewer people travelling locally and globally has benefited wildlife. Human activity causes a lot of noise that can be disruptive and stressful for animals, so it is likely that wildlife is experiencing a calmer time now that so many people are advised to stay at home. Birds and other animals do not have to compete with human sounds, so it is possible that they are having an easier time finding mates, raising young, and finding food.
With many public places closed, people are turning to nature for recreation and a sense of normalcy during a time of disruption. Many people are embracing the mental and physical health benefits of exploring their local environment. Some examples of getting outdoors while social distancing include walking around neighborhoods, hiking on trails, and starting backyard gardens. There are many ways to get outside, so take a break and breathe in the fresh air.
It is okay to feel overwhelmed and worried about the community’s health; it’s also okay to feel helpless and lost. It’s okay to embrace all of the emotions that this pandemic is causing. Being mindful of your emotions is a good way to cope with all that is happening. Be kind to yourself. If you need something to help you recenter, you can practice mindfulness. This can be in the form of a nature walk, meditation, or finding small behaviors you can change while at home to positively impact the environment. Below is a list of ways you can help reduce your impact on the environment by making small changes at home.
What can you do to reduce your impact on the environment during COVID-19?
- Dispose of your gloves and masks properly when you are done using them.
Instead of throwing disposable gloves and masks in store parking lots, please throw them in the trash. This prevents people coming in contact with contaminated items and reduces the risk of wildlife mistaking them for food. Be respectful of your local community and environment.
- Turn the sink off when washing your hands.
We are all washing our hands much more often these days, so why not practice being mindful of our relationship to water? The average bathroom faucet uses 2.2 gallons per minute. If you wash your hands six times per day, by turning the faucet off while washing your hands for the CDC-recommended 20 seconds, you will save 4.4 gallons per day. Water is a precious resource, so we have to do what we can to preserve it.
- Pick up pet waste while on a walk.
Bring a plastic bag with you on your next walk, and please pick up your pet’s waste and dispose of it in a trash receptacle. Pet waste can release bacteria and pathogens as it decomposes, which can be harmful to human health, wildlife, and our water supply. Be courteous to other walkers and the local community by doing your part to keep the environment clean and free of pet waste.
- Turn off lights when not using them and let in natural light.
Opening up your curtains will not only brighten the room, but it could brighten your mood. Utilizing natural light and turning lights off when you are not using them will help reduce energy use and save you money. When you open the curtains, take a moment to observe what’s outside your window; you might notice something new.
- Start a home garden.
Whether you plant flowers to help pollinators or vegetables to grow your own food, planting a garden provides cleaner air and will give you a spark of joy during this difficult time.
- Start a compost bin at your house.
Fruit and vegetable scraps, yard waste, and old newspapers can all be composted and repurposed to enrich your garden’s soil. Instead of sending these items to the landfill, consider creating your own compost bin. Keep an eye out in the next couple weeks for a tutorial from the WLT!
- Unplug electronics when not in use.
Have a toaster you rarely use or only use an appliance for 10 minutes once a day? Unplug it and only plug it in when you need it. Electronics still use some energy when plugged in, even when they’re off, so minimizing what you have plugged in will save you energy and money.
- Use recycled materials to make art projects.
There are endless possibilities for recycled art projects! You can paint plastic bottles, use toilet paper rolls, make a puzzle out of an old box, or make a suncatcher. Check out our Facebook page for some ideas on how to make projects out of household items.
After life returns to a sense of normalcy, please do not forget these recommendations. We all can do our part to reduce human impacts on the environment. One small change in your behavior can make a big difference.
It’s also important to be kind to yourself. It’s okay if you don’t remember to turn off the faucet every time you wash your hands or if tending a big garden is too much to handle right now; change does not happen overnight. It takes time to get into a new routine, and you need time to adjust. You do not have to tackle all of these changes at one; take your time and be aware of the changes you are making. If we all do our part, we can protect the environment.