The environment is in a weird place due to the pandemic. On one hand, the lack of bustling human activity has cleared the air of vehicle pollution and brought curious animals wandering into towns. On the other hand, single-use plastics are making a comeback, much to the delight of plastic manufacturers, and the outbreak has been used as a cover to rollback or halt enforcement of U.S. environmental protection laws. It’s turning out to be a real ‘win some, lose some’ scenario with long-term impacts that experts worry could last even after mankind overcomes the disease.
“If you think about it,” says Vettori, “if you collectively put together ‘eat less meat’ and ‘waste no food’ — those two behaviors can totally have an impact on climate change.”
And there might not be a better time than now to make these changes, when people are physically distancing at home. Taking the time to switch to paperless billing to reduce the amount of paper used for bills and junk mail, for instance. According to Arcadia Earth, the U.S. consumes 68 million trees each year to produce paper and paper products. Apps like PaperKarma can help with the process.
“You can do a lot of things now because we have the time,” Vettori encourages, “and we can start changing behaviors.” While he’s not trying to make light of the current situation, he wants people to think positively about things they can do in the meantime and look forward to the results. “[N]ow that we are home, let’s try to get the best out of our time.”
Here are more ways to make gradual changes towards sustainable living.
Save energy, save money, save the Earth
Saving energy is an oft-repeated recommendation when it comes to sustainable living. There’s a good reason why: Saving energy will also lower your energy bills. Having smaller bills is always good, especially during a time when finances could be tight right now.
One simple way to stop excessive energy draining is by straight-up unplugging unused appliances. Yahoo! Finance reported that appliances and electronics, especially the ones left in standby or sleep mode, can still drain up to 25 percent of the energy used in a home. Total costs can vary between households, but the report noted that this energy leak could cost an average household in Northern California between $210 and $440 a year on energy that isn’t being used. Boston University puts the average cost at over $100 per year. The U.S., as a whole, wastes $19 billion annually on unused electricity.
Arcadia Earth recommends taking the time to unplug appliances that aren’t in use. Turning off power strips can also completely stop power from being drained during non-use. For folks with appliances that aren’t feasible to unplug, Arcadia Earth suggests using apps like Energy Cost. It can help you determine which items in your home consume how much energy so you can target the high-draining items you can unplug. There are also energy-saving programs, such as the ones offered by Con Edison, that can reward people for using less energy by offering incentives on top of reducing bill totals.
The environment also benefits from any energy-saving efforts. Lowering your energy consumption helps crate less reliance on fossil fuels. Many power plants use fossil fuels to create electricity; this process ends up producing about 33 percent of all carbon emissions in the states, reported the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By lowering our energy use, we can also lower the number of carbon emissions created during production.