2020 doesn’t have to suck (entirely)!

2020 doesn’t have to suck (entirely)!

Can we all agree that 2020 has been somewhat of a challenging year? But can we also agree that challenges are what helps us thrive as a specie, and become more resilient? YES, this post will be about positive change. Because we need positive thoughts more than ever, and because there are some good things happening in 2020, even if the medias don’t cover it.

Climate change has become more than an important issue and is now a crisis at the center of many debates and opinions. We have all witnessed its effect and wasted enough time trying to prove that it is in fact happening. There is no need to emphasize the severity of this problem; as individuals, we are constantly overwhelmed by the alarming news we see, read, and hear on a daily basis.

Solutions to decrease and eventually stop climate change are often discussed at an institutional, organizational, and broader level and world leaders and policymakers have been too slow in their decisions towards the conservation of our environment, by focusing on who is at fault, leading to a lack of actions in an increasingly severe situation. The truth is climate change is not a local problem, it’s a global emergency. The other truth is that we are all at fault, by ignorance or passivity. Right now, we’re all loosing the fight: the planet, and all of us living on it! But there is still hope, when pandemics like the Covid-19 strike and remind us how resilient we are, and how much good slowing down can actually bring us, and Mother Nature.

Can the pandemic be an incredible opportunity to challenge us to rethink our relationship with the planet and our environment?

Image from Climate Impact Lab

Environmental problems and climate change have many causes. The emission of greenhouse gas emissions is a well-known one, so let’s see if there’s anything one can do, at the individual level. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), transportation is the sector emitting the most greenhouse gases in the U.S. accounting for 29% of the total emissions in the country in 2017. Indeed, the EPA explains that the burning of fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel used for power in this sector releases carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, trapping heat and warming our planet. As we have covered in a previous blog post last March, the worldwide lockdowns intended to slow the spread of Covid-19 have greatly reduced air pollution and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Studies show that CO2 fell by about 17% around the world in April, the largest decrease since the end of World War II. Today, more than 6 months after the beginning of the pandemic, as the lockdowns are eased and life slowly going back to “normal”, CO2 emissions are predicted to fall for the rest of this year by 4% to 7% compared with 2019.* Although these numbers are not enough to considerably decrease the effects of climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic has proven that with worldwide efforts, CO2 emission from transportation can be greatly reduced and, if maintained for a longer period of time, make a huge difference in the health of our planet. This example of a major CO2 decrease in the atmosphere shows that although the pandemic has been a true challenge for our population, it does result in some positive changes and can help us be more aware of our transportation impact. How did the world adapt to moving less? We all organized, some more painfully than others, to our new socially distanced lifestyle. From working from home, to decreasing our weekly trips to the grocery stores, to cancelling our seminars or vacation plans, we all got impacted, and even though these forced changes brought some big disappointments, they did bring some pretty positive things too. Don’t we say that time is our most precious commodity? Have you tried calculating how many hours you were able to save since the pandemic hit? No more hours stuck in traffic or inefficient store runs, and so much more face time with loved ones at home, or developing new self care routines. Being able to slow down and reconnect with ourselves and the family members in our households is a gift that we’ll probably miss soon after the pandemic is gone. So let’s enjoy it while it lasts, transform these changes in new habits so its benefits for you and the planet keep lasting past the pandemic! Ditch your car as much as possible, the planet, your body and mindset will thank you.

According to the EPA, the second sector responsible for emitting the most greenhouse gas emissions comes from electricity generation, with 28% of all emissions in the U.S.. To avoid high energy bills and unnecessary pollution, switching to clean energy generated by renewable sources is a great initiative. There are many green options that you can take advantage of such as using LED lightbulbs that can use 70 to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs, explains the EPA. Upgrade your appliances to energy efficient ones when they need to be changed, install a smart thermostat, and/or install solar panels to power your home and save money on your electric bill. Take advantage of some of the extra time you might have to think about all the ways you can optimize your home, which in turn will help the Earth.

Already doing that? Great, kudos to you. Here are some more ideas for you then: another great action you can take is to recycle and reuse as much as possible. Most of the electricity consumed goes towards the manufacturing and transportation of all sorts of things. Amazon and the Internet in general are making it so much easier to buy new that new things are just a phone swipe away. Recycling and reusing can make a big difference in slowing down climate change, while helping solve waste management and water contamination issues. Learning about how to properly recycle and ditching your plastic bags, ziplock, and containers for glass and reusable materials to reduce your waste production are steps that you can easily integrate into your routine and use this opportunity to educate other family members. Personally, we’ve adopted bee wax wrappers, that are washable and reusable, as an alternative to plastic! Lastly, another way to spend more time at home and enjoy spending time with your family is to cook meals together! By eating at home you will have the opportunity to buy fresh and local products while reducing your waste production. You can also find alternatives to beef and cook different proteins to lower your environmental impact. Indeed, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the amount of methane released by cattle is harming our atmosphere and is responsible for about 20% of global warming. Thus, reducing your beef consumption will go a very long way. Eating too much meat has proved to be unhealthy too! So save your weekly meat dish for the weekend, and make it a special occasion!

Image from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Challenge accepted?

Challenge yourself and your family, and turn forced pandemic actions into new habits! Start by listing all the steps and actions you have implemented at home since Covid-19. For each one, evaluate its level of easiness. Then, make it a point to transform the easier ones into new habits, and focus your efforts on the harder ones. For example, since March, we’ve become so much more efficient at grocery shopping! We are planning meals ahead of time, making a detailed shopping list and only go to the store once a week. We buy everything we can at local farmers market, where we can reuse our glass containers. This new habit has significantly increased our local consumption, which in turn boosted the local economy, while improving our diet with fresh seasonal food and reducing our carbon footprint. We’re also easily saving 1-2 hours of shopping and prepping meals each week. We have also tried to grow a garden at home to be more resilient and educate other family members. This new initiative is requiring a lot of time though, so we are still working on it until it becomes a new habit!

We have taken this time to better focus on the health of our planet and take advantage of the opportunities we’ve had to change some of our habits. In these unprecedented times, it is more important than ever to focus on the good and on all the actions we can take and turn into positive ones. Whether it is spending more time with your family, cooking meals at home together, or spending time taking care of yourself, we can still make the most of 2020 and finish the year strong. Two more months everyone! We don’t have to wait around for politics to initiate change, If we care to take ownership and lead change through meaningful individual actions and initiatives, together we can make a difference and bring our planet the relief it is starving for. Don’t let the circumstances take away all the good things this year has to offer, you are in control of how you decide to get through this time!

Lastly, if you want to be more aware of your consumption and your personal environmental impact, you can calculate your ecological footprint and see how many Earths would be needed to sustain a population that lived like you! It is a fun activity that can help you change or adapt your habits and become a more conscious and responsible human: http://www.footprintcalculator.org/


Photo courtesy of Simon Migaj

Sources:
*https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/coronavirus-environment-co2-emissions-air-pollution-lockdown-a9523926.html,
**https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/mental-health-covid-19/art-20482731, https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/climatechange/what-you-can-do-home_.html, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/04/atmospheric-co2-levels-rise-sharply-despite-covid-19-lockdowns, https://www.lemonade.com/blog/climate-change-solutions/,
https://timeforchange.org/are-cows-cause-of-global-warming-meat-methane-CO2/