Covid-19 and the Environment: Lifestyle Switches

Alex Game

November 20, 2020

Covid-19 has devastated the world this year and it has had humongous impacts on societies around the world. The obvious impact is the tragic death toll which we can’t shy away from. But we must look at what positive changes have occurred in people’s lifestyles that we can enhance to protect the environment for future generations. This pause in normal life offers an opportunity, a crossroad of choices. Should we use this as a total reset, or will we go back to our old ways when we finally overcome this awful disease?

When I went home for lockdown in March, I left not knowing when I would be returning. I came home to glorious sunshine, and even though we were all being told to stay inside I was yearning to somehow enjoy some of the sunshine. I decided that I needed to get fitter and running wasn’t on the cards, so what was next best? Cycling! I began cycling all around the Essex and Suffolk, drifting into the beautiful Constable Countryside.

I have brought this love for cycling back to University and have purchased a second hand bike, put down my bus pass and now cycle to work and university at least four times a week. This has made me realise that we all can make changes that have real impacts on the environment.

I am just one of many to pick up this love for cycling over lockdown. People have understandably been told to avoid public transport, which has resulted in a small cycling revolution across the cities of Europe. Paris has seen a €20 million increase in cycling funds since the start of the pandemic, Milan has a €115 million fund to try and stimulate cycling in the region, Brussels has seen a rise of 44% in bike use and Boris Johnson pledged £2 billion to a bring about the “golden age of cycling” in July. 

It is hugely encouraging to see more investment in cycling infrastructure around Europe. Cycling must be at the heart of how people get around modern cities. Bikes are nimble, fast and offer you the chance to not be beholden to the timetable of public transport.

Cycling creates 0 emissions, and thanks to innovation, you can now even get e-bikes (Electric bikes). And at a time when our health is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, cycling is excellent for helping you maintain a good level of fitness. Not only did my love of cycling get me into cycling but I became an Uber Eats delivery cyclist and lost about 6kg in the process. These are some of the additional benefits of getting on a bike: earning some extra cash, helping the economy turn green and improving my health.

Working from home has become another norm in 2020. The Office For National Statistics reported that 86% of people who worked at home in April 2020 did so because of Covid-19. Companies such as Google told employees in July that they would be working from home for the next 12 months at least. This is a huge change for both economy and the environment. Researchers in New York found that Carbon Monoxide rates had lowered 50% since the morning commute all but ended.

This is only good for all of us. Having clear air should be a foundation pillar of every 21st century city. Working from home isn’t likely to carry on forever but we have realised that we would benefit from reducing the amount of time we go into the workplace each week, both for our own benefit and the environments.

With many companies looking to reduce the amount of office space they use going forward, Zoom and Microsoft Teams makes this change possible. By making small changes like this, we can have a profound effect on the environment. A study by the Dutch Met office into nitrogen oxide (NO2) noticed a steep reduction in the amount of NO2 in the air over lockdown periods in a number of European countries. This highlights the benefits in a reduction of fossil fuels being burnt and is why the move to electric cars is important and the future.

These changes are for both the planet and for ourselves. Cycling offers a great opportunity to keep fit and an opportunity to get out the house in the lockdown period. Working from home offers more time with family or friends (obviously after lockdown), less time wasted commuting to and from work.

These two issues are hugely important to achieving a clean capital economy and will be difficult lifestyle changes for people to make. Working from home offers a win win for society and people. It means that they create less of a carbon footprint, create the same output and people have more time with their family and friends. Covid-19 has offered the perfect opportunity for people to test-run these changes before they implement them post-lockdown for real into their lives.

This opportunity is so huge that it must be grasped by all of us, it is an unexpected chance to change a lot of things that could have an immensely great impact on our environment and this opportunity has to be taken.

Written by Alex Game

Alex is a campus coordinator with the British Conservation Alliance

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