The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting our routines and forcing us to re-evaluate the way we live. Although it's hard to look on the bright side during this time of uncertainty, there is light in the darkness. And, it’s a light that comes from every one of us. You, me, and millions of people around the world are changing our daily activities for the sake of public health - for the sake of the greater good. We’re proving that collective individual action can change the world.
Perhaps more than ever, we’re realizing how our habits accrue and make an impact. And, as we adapt to this new moment, we have a chance to look more closely at our daily routines and see our behaviors from an alternate perspective. We can reflect on the way our activities and choices affect our immediate surroundings as well as the world at large – not only in terms of public health but also ecological health. Right now, we - as individuals and a society - can find our true strengths and replace old routines with new ones that elevate our health, our communities, and our planet.
While humanity adjusts to a new reality, nature has seized upon the moment to recover. The pandemic is forcing all of us to stay inside our homes, which has decreased global carbon emissions and pollution as regular travel and industry activity ceases. Major cities have experienced less smog and emissions as residents shelter in place. These positive changes to the environment’s health shouldn’t simply be seen as a “silver lining” to COVID-19, but, they do prove that individuals, organizations, industries, and governments have the ability to slow climate change.
Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, spoke with The Guardian about COVID-19’s relation to the climate crisis and said, “nature is sending us a message.” Andersen told the newspaper, “We are intimately interconnected with nature, whether we like it or not. If we don’t take care of nature, we can’t take care of ourselves.” It’s true: when we pull on the thread of public health, we find that it is invariably connected to ecological health. As a disease that was transferred from animals to humans, COVID-19 signals the profound consequences that can come from wildlife trade and deforestation.
Environmentalism reaches beyond the scope of wildlife and forests; in reality, it affects everything from politics to economics to human rights. And, this is one of the most important lessons we must learn from Nature: everything is connected. Environmental justice isn’t just about forests and oceans – it’s intersectional. When individuals build eco-friendly habits, they take a stand to create a better world for all living organisms and ecosystems that cyclically impact one another.
As individuals adopt new eco-conscious habits, climate change must also be directly confronted by policymakers and industry leaders with the assistance of the scientific community. Everyday people are demonstrating an inspirational level of courage, humility, and adaptability in response to COVID-19. We should expect our leaders to do the same as they build the industries, infrastructures, and laws that shape our lives and our world.
When we’ve faced global challenges and crises in the past, we’ve often relied on someone else to take on the fight and be the hero. But now, we’re all part of the fight. All of us are affected. And, all of us can be heroes.
As essential workers continue to perform their jobs, the rest of us have a duty to stay at home. It may sound simple, but many have discovered that limiting our outings and self-isolating can be quite difficult. The changes in our routines impact the way we work, eat, parent, exercise, and connect with one another.
These adjustments are undoubtedly hard at first, but as we make room in our lives for small discomforts, we discover how powerful our routines truly can be in our personal lives and our world. Our individual actions feed into something much greater than just ourselves.
It’s the same when it comes to climate change: our daily activities may seem insignificant but when millions of us perform the same actions they culminate into a greater impact on the world. Though we may question the effect one individual can have on the whole, this pandemic is reinforcing the fact that together we can achieve more.
As we adjust our lifestyles during the pandemic, many people are struggling to maintain healthy habits due to stress, fear, and anxiety rippling through their communities. Creating and maintaining a routine may be difficult right now, but it's an effective way to overcome the difficulties associated with self-isolation. During this moment - and any other when life is particularly difficult or stressful - it is important to prioritize the activities that rejuvenate us and make time for them. A routine doesn’t have to center around drastic life improvements. It can simply help you create time for what you need.
Simple habits can help us handle the pressures of isolation as well as the environmental problems we are facing. When building a new habit, the key is to start with small, incremental adjustments. Research shows that specific and easy actions are more likely to become habitual. So, don’t feel obligated to make difficult changes. Instead, focus on accomplishable changes that make you feel good. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you make your daily life more sustainable:
Think about the way you live your life — how you travel to work, how you use water, what products you use in your household, how many plastic bags and bottles you have, and how much waste you produce. Being aware of these things is the first step in becoming more environmentally friendly. Perhaps you have a tendency to place recyclables in the trash or run the water as you brush your teeth - no one is perfect and that’s okay, but we all have areas where we can do better. Awareness is the first step in accepting your current habits and improving upon them.
Being aware of the ways you’re not eco-friendly will help you rethink your choices and start practicing conservation. Start with simple things such as turning off lights, AC, or fans when you’re not in the room, switching to LED lights that use less energy, recycling plastic bottles, up-cycling old pieces of furniture, taking shorter showers, or choosing eco-friendly products for your home. Choose one or two habits to focus on at first. Once they become a part of your normal life, you can tackle more complex habits.
Stay informed about environmental issues and learn new ways to support the planet’s health. Keep an open mind and seek out other eco-minded friends, family members, and communities who you can learn from. You can research and support local initiatives, donate to organizations that strive to defend the environment, recycle your clothes - you name it. It's all about your willingness to do something. When it comes to preserving the planet, there is no room for thinking that you, as an individual, cannot contribute enough. It all starts with one person!
Your routine has the power to not only save lives, but also protect our planet, so what are you waiting for? Decide to make progress, not excuses, and build new habits to benefit the whole. Take greater control over your life by setting rules that you live by - and don’t compromise on them! When tempted to take a shortcut or skip a part of your routine, remind yourself that progress is more important than convenience. Individuals’ collective actions can truly help counteract CO2 emissions and herald in a more sustainable world.
If you need support along the way, EcoCRED is here for you. Our app helps you measure your carbon footprint and build powerful, everyday habits that make a difference. Download EcoCRED today on the App Store or Google Play and discover how you can take climate action.
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