As lockdown begins to ease for most counties, I have started to see much talk about making changes for a greener society after the pandemic, with hashtags such as #nogoingback and #windsofchange appearing over my social media. This has been sparked by the huge effect lockdown has had on air pollution and carbon emissions, with pictures of city skylines not seen for years circulating the internet, and the number of vehicles on the roads down by half, you don’t need to be a statistician to see the effect that “Stay at Home” has had. This has led me to think about what life after lockdown could be. What changes could we make that fit in with the society we have already created? What are the things we could change immediately, with little effort or government input?
Firstly, working from home is something that I believe people should strive to do more often. Just once or twice a week is going to reduce the amount of vehicles on the road and the amount of emissions we produce. It will also have a knock on effect on the food we eat. Not going to a place of work will encourage people to eat at home rather than having a meal deal from the corner shop or nearest café, which will reduce single use plastics and the carbon footprint of our diets. And of course, less people in the office will enable social distancing to be maintained, which is something that is probably going to be around for a long time now.
Secondly, the panic buying spree of the early lockdown weeks has forced people into using their local shops, such as butchers and greengrocers, and it would be good for the environment if they continued to do this. This is because the food sold in small shops is often from local farms, for example the eggs I buy from my butcher are from a farm 3 miles from the shop, which reduced the carbon footprint of the food. The food is also not packaged, which again reduced the carbon footprint from transportation, but also reduces packaging waste, and because it’s not packaged you can buy exactly what you need so you don’t produce any food waste either.
Thirdly, having only been allowed out once a day for exercise, I have seen many people, from all walks of life, out in local parks and open spaces, simply walking and enjoying nature. People have been outside during the week, in the middle of the day, on overcast or windy days, basically anytime, whereas in “normal” life due to busy work schedules you usually see most people on a weekend when there is good weather. If people carry on enjoying nature in this way we can protect it, and hopefully expand on it by creating more green spaces for people to go, more community gardens and parks.
Furthermore, during the pandemic there have been less planes flying to prevent the spread of the virus between countries. This has had a drastic effect on carbon emissions and air pollution, and I would love to see people encouraged to holiday locally, conference call and use the train more rather than go back to our previous flying addiction.
Of course, there are many other aspects of life that could change to allow us to create a better world after COVID-19, but I believe these four are easily achievable by individuals, all it is going to take is some self-discipline not to slip back into old habits once lockdown if finally totally lifted.