How To Continue Lowering Emissions Post Coronavirus

Let’s start off with the obvious, 2020 has been a year like no other. What started off as a new decade full of possibilities and excitement quickly led to a year full to the brim of uncertainty and confusion. It’s forced us all to stop in our tracks and completely rethink our way of life from countries to companies to families all the way down to individual level.

During this year it feels as if the news only covered topics related to coronavirus and climate change. As we begin to wrap up this year we are left wondering how we can take advantage of the unforeseen consequences forced upon us by the strict lockdowns to continue to lower emissions well past the onset of “normal life”.

The Impact 2020 Has Had On Emissions & Lives

Simply put, our lives will never be the same again. We have faced so many all-consuming challenges to continue moving forward while experiencing immense grief, fear, instability and change. Although, meshed in with all of this negativity there has been a lining of positivity for our future.

While businesses and individuals were being forced to adapt to social distancing requirements, shut down borders and lockdown policies around the world the amount of carbon emissions began to decline drastically and nature was finally able to breathe again.

Overall, carbon emissions are projected to be 7 percent less in 2020 than in 2019, which is a decline that hasn’t been seen in over a decade according to Time. Although, during the peak of lockdowns in the first three months of the year daily emissions were around 17 percent lower than in 2019, according to research by Nature Climate Change.

 

Percentage change in global daily fossil CO2 emissions since January 4th 2020

Although this decline has been positive for the environment it has come at a high cost for humanity. Families have been kept apart for months on end, companies have been forced to shut down and so many individuals have lost their jobs and livelihood. In short, this is not sustainable. Anna Michalak, a scientist from Stanford’s Carnegie Institution for Science, was quoted saying, “This pandemic—it’s tragic and is not anyone’s preferred way to get [CO2 reductions]. But what this experience does show is when humanity is united around a goal, big changes can happen on short time scales.” Although the ability of humans around the world to act quickly and thus lowering emissions can be seen as a highlight for this year, it can also be seen as a temporary fix, forcing us to keep searching for long-term solutions for both COVID-19 and climate change. It’s also important to note that this is not the first time emissions have drastically declined following a world-wide event according to Time.

  • In the three years following the stock-market crash that led to the Great Depression carbon emissions dropped 26 percent
  • Emissions dropped 17 percent after factories slowed down the production of fighter planes and bombs post WWII
  • After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 emissions dropped 3 percent

History tells us this decline in emissions is only temporary and its impact on climate change is minimal, but how can we as individuals ensure this time the decline in emissions is here to stay? Will Coronavirus be the wakeup call we’ve needed to lower emissions for good?

Ways to Continue Lowering Emissions post Coronavirus

It’s common to feel overwhelmed and unable to make a difference when it comes to climate change but if we work together, as we have during this pandemic, to take small consistent steps to lower emissions we can make a measurable difference. Discover the top ways to continue to lower emissions after Coronavirus within these different actionable groups including transportation, food, home, purchases and actions.

Rethink Your Methods of Transportation

The travel sector has been largely impacted by the lockdown measures, border restrictions, closed offices, and general lack of interest in vacation travel due to high levels of uncertainty. All forms of transportation from planes to cars have seen a decline helping to lower overall emissions. There are many ways we can continue to lower emissions through transportation including:

  • Work From Home: Many companies have shifted to 100% remote work during the pandemic and have discovered the benefits of this format helping employees set a better work-life balance while maintaining levels of productivity. Try to continue to work from home post coronavirus even if only a few days a week to cut down on your commute related emissions.
  • Lower Work Travel: Companies have managed to halt business travel and can continue to do so, if you are asked to travel for work make a case for why this can be done through online calls to avoid unnecessary travel.
  • Rethink Vacations: Chances are you and your family have gone close to a full year without an exotic vacation to the other side of the world. What types of “staycations” have you taken instead? Did you drive to the nearest beach or mountain destination? Did you go camping in nature? It’s time we rethink how we take vacations and lower the amount of long distance travel.
  • Make up for Travel Emissions: Sometimes travelling is simply unavoidable whether it’s for family, business or friends. Calculate the emissions per flight here.

Lower Emissions Caused By Food

It’s common knowledge that the food you eat is a large factor in determining your carbon footprint. We have heard time and time again that eating less or no meat and diary will make a huge impact on your carbon footprint. Nowadays we are seeing countless meat-alternative brands popping up from vegan cheese to plant based sausages and hamburgers, it appears the options to replace meat in your diet are endless. When it comes to food there are many more ways to help lower your carbon footprint including:

  • Lower meat and dairy consumption: We have to say it again since according to some estimates, beef gives off more than 6 pounds of carbon dioxide each serving while rice, carrots, apples, legumes or potatoes give off less than a half a pound per serving. All meat and dairy products give off more emissions than a plant based diet, making the switch for you and your family doesn’t have to be painful with so many meat alternatives available.
  • Buy Local: Buying local fruits and vegetables means you will also buy in-season helping to lower the emissions created by transporting food all over the world. You can discover recipes that only include in-season fruits and vegetables per region through the mobile app Kuri.
  • Avoid Waste: Food waste is an easily avoidable problem if we plan ahead, buy in bulk using our own packaging, use secure storage containers and avoid impulsive food purchases. When you go out to eat, bring some reusable tupperware containers to bring any leftover food home.
  • Homemade Food: Avoid packaging and unnecessary plastic waste by making more homemade food such as pizza crust, bread, sauces, plant based milk and more.
  • Use Sustainable Water Filters: In many countries in Europe buying water in plastic bottles is still a highly common practice. It’s an easy fix to simply invest in a sustainable water filtration system that will save you money and avoid the hassle of carrying heavy bottles of water from the grocery store!

Take Action at Home

According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions the highest contributing sector to global emissions is Energy at a whopping 72 percent with 31 percent of this coming from Electricity and Heat. Here are ways to take action at home to lower energy and recycle correctly:

  • Lower Energy Use: Lower the amount of energy you use by air drying your clothes, turning off lights, avoiding heat/air conditioning, unplugging appliances or technology you are not using and more.
  • Be Energy Efficient: Take steps such as ensuring your home has good insulation, light bulbs are LED, all appliances are energy efficient and switching to solar or clean energy if possible in your region.
  • Recycle Correctly: Make sure you are recycling correctly by reading through this guideline for Cyprus. Waste contributes to 3% total emissions and recycling correctly can help to lower your carbon footprint.

Shop & Act Sustainably

Every purchase you make is a vote towards the future you want to create. With so many delivery options, especially during COVID-19, it can be easy to order everything you need online, having it shipped from countries around the world. We need to deprioritize convenience and realize that every action we take and purchase we make has an impact, positive or negative. Here are our top ways to lower your carbon footprint through sustainable purchases and actions:
  • Buy Local & Second Hand: The fashion industry especially has taken a turn for the worst becoming highly unsustainable from the materials they use to the cheap labor, low prices and overproduction. In fact, the fashion industry alone is responsible for 10 percent of annual global carbon emissions, which adds up to more than that of global flights and shipping combined according to the World Bank. So much of this fast-fashion ends up in vintage or second hand shops allowing you to purchase the clothing you want at a lower cost to both you and the environment. Not only clothing but books, furniture, toys and many more items can be easy to find second-hand.
  • Focus on Green Gifting: During the festive season and while celebrating birthdays make an effort to purchase sustainable gifts from second hand stores, plants, homemade gifts and more. Here are 5 Tips to Make your Black Friday Green.
  • Bring Your Own Bags & Packaging: Refuse bags and packaging from stores where you are making a purchase and plan ahead. If you know you will need to purchase a large amount of items then prepare the reusable bags in your car or bag ahead of time.
  • Join a local group or non-profit organization: Donate or become a member of groups or non-profit organizations such as Let’s Make Cyprus Green, which are helping to work with the local community and government to make this planet a better place!
  • Use your Voice: Share this article with your friends, family and community to create a virtuous cycle. Demand change from politicians to focus on eco-friendly policies that directly combat climate change. Use your social media platform and voice to spread the word on how individuals can contribute to the continued lowering of emissions post COVID-19.

The key takeaway we would like to focus on from the world events during 2020 is that when it comes to caring for the wellness of humanity we are more than capable of taking extreme and swift action. Once coronavirus begins to disappear from the top news stories history tells us that emissions will once again jump back up and continue to grow month over month, year over year. It’s in the power of individuals to make daily changes while demanding change from companies, politicians and communities around the globe to save our planet and continue to lower emissions.

Become a member of Let’s Make Cyprus Green for only 35€ a year to help clean up our island and planet!

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