How to celebrate Earth Day under lockdown

Do your part to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on 22 April 2020, with these tips to tackle climate change while working from home.

However, a more uplifting outcome of the pandemic has been the positive impact that coronavirus appears to have had on the environment. As factory closures and travel bans have brought about reduced levels of emissions worldwide, reports continue to emerge of wildlife returning to areas previously overrun with people, and ecosystems beginning to recover from the effects of human overconsumption.

In Venice, for example, images of swans gliding through the city’s undisturbed, crystal canals have been widely shared and hailed as evidence that nature just “hit the reset button”. China, meanwhile, is experiencing clear blue skies again in areas where the polluted air usually makes it difficult to breathe. Some experts are even suggesting that more lives may have been saved in China as a result of reduced pollution than the country’s total death toll from coronavirus.

However, it is important to note these positive environmental changes will be temporary unless we continue to tackle climate change throughout the current crisis and beyond. In the UK, as in most other countries, coronavirus has shifted the focus of public debate away from the ongoing climate challenge. But in such uncertain times, and with so many aspects of our ‘normal’ lives temporarily curtailed, we need to carry on recognising the ways in which we can make a positive impact on the world.

So, in support of global environmental protection and to mark Earth Day on 22 April, here are some top tips for how businesses can help to protect the environment while their customers and staff are working from home:

Go green with your workstation

While working from home, there are a number of things you can do to lower the environmental impact of your set-up. Go paperless where possible, but if you can’t, then switch to using recycled paper in your home office. Replace any broken or out-of-date devices with ones that have been certified by the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), which means they’ll be made from less hazardous materials, or be even more environmentally friendly and buy used or refurbished devices. It’s important to unplug all your electronics, including your computer, when they aren’t being used, rather than just turning them off. This is because electronic devices can carry on sucking so-called ‘vampire power’ from energy sources even after you’ve hit the off switch.

It’s important to unplug all your electronics, including your computer, when they aren’t being used, rather than just turning them off.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Cutting down on what you throw away can be a key part of minimising your environmental footprint while working from home, and many people find they can cut down on their household waste by sticking to the three Rs rule. Firstly, reduce the number of everyday items you buy that come in non-sustainable, single-use packaging. For example, try buying loose fruit and vegetables when grocery shopping, rather than any that come in plastic containers. Secondly, reuse the packages and containers you do buy as much as possible before you throw them away. And finally, when you get rid of packaging, make sure to recycle all the material you can to conserve natural resources and limit landfill use.

Cut down on food waste

As with many consumables, the production, distribution and preparation of food can create greenhouse gases. One way to tackle this is to reduce food waste, thereby reducing the amount you buy. In this time of mass quarantine, it may also limit the number of trips to the supermarket you need to take. Key to this is forward planning of meals and setting aside anything you don’t eat for another time. Some foods, such as meat and dairy, tend to have shorter use-by dates, so buying longer-life items like fruit and vegetables may help you plan ahead.    

Switch to a renewable energy provider

By relying on fossil fuels to power our homes and businesses, we cause yet more pollution and plunder the earth of its natural resources. But by switching to renewable energy we can contribute to a healthier planet and build a more sustainable future. Whether it’s from solar, wind, hydroelectric or other sources, this is undoubtedly the right thing to do and progress has been made in the UK, with renewable electricity overtaking fossil fuels for the first time last year, but there is still work to be done. So, while you’re working from home, consider signing up to a cleaner, greener energy provider and become part of the solution rather than the problem.

Think twice before driving

We all know by now that our cars have a pretty big environmental footprint. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that a typical passenger vehicle emits around 4.6 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. Even though you’re already helping the environment by not driving to and from work every day at the moment, you could go further by leaving your car in the garage when running other everyday errands during the lockdown, like going to the shops or driving to get daily exercise. By walking, running and cycling more during this time, you’ll stay fit and healthy as well as protecting the environment. In time, you may realise you don’t need the car at all!

For businesses and individuals, now is a good time to start taking steps to acknowledge climate change and help protect the environment. But there’s no reason the measures you introduce now can’t be continued post-crisis. Introduce some of the following changes to carry on reducing your carbon footprint long after we’ve overcome coronavirus:

  • Change the way you travel: Practise walking, running or cycling where possible, and choose to take public transport rather than driving your car.
  • Change the way you buy: Opt for quality products that will last longer, and try to repair them before replacing them. Rent or share, rather than buy, larger items that you don’t often use. And, if you don’t drive regularly, consider joining a car club.
  • Change your home: Check your draught-proofing and insulation to make sure your home isn’t losing energy unnecessarily. Then consider switching to low-carbon heating while using LED light bulbs and energy-efficient appliances.

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