Today marks 50 years of celebrating Earth Day. It will be the first time that this environmental event will be celebrated digitally due to the corona virus pandemic, which has greatly upended our lives. Just a month ago, individuals in countries around the world were going to bars, seeing movies with friends and, really, just going about business as usual. Now, all that has changed.
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, many health experts and government officials are suggesting, and sometimes mandating, that we practice social distancing to flatten the curve of the outbreak – preventing a surge of infected patients that overwhelm our hospitals. That means we stay at home and limit nearly all in-person social interactions.
But as we exercise our individual and collective responsibility to reduce viral transmissions to preserve human health, we can still exercise our responsibility to act for environmental health. We can use this solitary time to reassess our current habits and develop new ones that are better for the planet.
Below are a few ways to take action for the planet while social distancing — we hope they’ll stick, even after our global health crisis subsides.
When life gives you lemons… make disinfectants
When trying to fight a very contagious virus, cleaning products and disinfectants are our best friends. Whether it might be because your store is out of stock, or because you enjoy natural solutions, you can skip the harsh chemical sprays in favor of safer alternatives. Plus, they’re probably already in your pantry.
For surfaces that need to be cleaned — but not sterile — lemons can also be used to clean non-porous surfaces. For extra points, reuse existing spray bottles in your home instead of buying new ones!
Go plant-based foods
When you’re stuck in your house, time is your friend. Now is the time to get creative and break those food ruts! Maybe you made a resolution to eat more plants this year, or maybe you just want to boost your immune system with an abundance of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. Either way, now is the time to get creative with your cooking.
Try some new plant-based recipes — Nonperishable foods, like canned or dry beans and rice, are easy to prepare and nutritious. It’s always important to save leftovers and reduce food waste, and this is an especially good time to be making the most of what you have.
Reading over streaming
Reading is good for the mind, the soul and the planet. A pastime like reading easily replaces streaming, which emits carbon. So, dust off that massive book you’ve been meaning to read, and get to work. Also, if you’re craving sports amid a sports-less pandemic, why not crack open a biography about your favorite athlete or sports moment? Since libraries are closed, opt for an e-book through your library’s digital platform.
Take stock, and make stock
Being stuck at home allows us to take stock of what we already have, and what we don’t need more of. You might be surprised to find that those jeans you had crammed in the back of your closet are back in style. Knowing what you already have can prevent you from making impulse or unnecessary purchases in the future, thus reducing your consumer footprint in the long-run.
Keep your body moving!
Stir crazy yet? Social distancing doesn’t mean we have to stay indoors all day. Take 20 minutes to get outdoors and take a walk around the block, explore new trails or go for a bike ride. Many of these spaces allow you to connect with others from a safe distance. Spending time in nature, especially among trees, significantly reduces stress and anxiety, improves mood, energy, sleep and boosts the immune system.
Show your support online
Social distancing during the time of the pandemic means that clean ups and social gatherings will not be taking place this year. Instead, environmental organisations will be posting content online to allow engagement and debates surrounding environmental issues. Virtual protests, attending online webinars as well as virtual events are just some ways that you can still show your support to the cause.
If this pandemic period has shown us anything, it is that citizens can stand together during a time of a crisis. Earth Day and the current pandemic that has put a halt to everyday human activity work hand in hand. The goal is to flatten the curve by staying indoors but to also reduce our carbon footprint. The end goal is to create a society that is both sustainable and that brings justice to all its citizens.