A year ago, the world just stopped. We’re now building immunity through vaccine rollout, but no one was immune to the hardships–medical, financial, psychological– brought on by COVID-19. We’d be remiss not to mention that, overall, the pandemic has not been positive. But here at Plaine Products, we like to celebrate the small wins. And we’re with you–we can’t wait until this is all over. Yet, there have been some bright spots over the past year. We can’t wait to get back to life as we once knew it while hanging on to some of these silver linings.
We Can Make a Difference
As lifestyles changed due to quarantine, we all saw the impact that it had on the earth. Air pollution decreased and people were able to see Mt. Everest from Katmandu for the first time in a decade. In high-traffic areas such as Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Seattle, there was a dramatic difference in air quality. Residents spotted dolphins playing and swimming in the Arabian Sea and the canals of Venice. Much of this positive environmental change was due to the decrease in travel, as well as a decrease in commuting for work and school. While the world is looking forward to children going back to school, many think the trend in working from home will stick. It’s obvious the impact of these choices for industries matters far beyond their corporate culture. The good news of it all is that we see the impact that our actions have on the world. We’ve seen what is possible when we work together with the Earth in mind.
Did you notice the trend of the pandemic purge? Everyone, it seemed, was cleaning out closets. With extra time on our hands to Marie Kondo or give our spaces The Home Edit treatment, so many seemed to get serious about decluttering. More time at home meant more awareness on how much garbage one household can accumulate. Normally the waste we create is spread out amongst the places we go during the day – work, school, eating out. But that was not the case during quarantine. As a result of this greater awareness, some are shifting to more sustainable goods and looking for reuse options.
A 2020 global survey by management consultancy firm Accenture said that consumers “have dramatically evolved”, and that 60% were reporting making more environmentally friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases since the start of the pandemic. Accenture added that “nine out of 10 of that percentage said that they were likely to continue doing so.”
Plaine Products experienced growth during the pandemic and has seen, and worked with, other companies who are joining the circular economy movement. That’s good news for us, for companies like ours, and for the Earth as well.
Experiences, Not Things
With travel opportunities postponed, the ability to make purchases limited, and a greater abundance of free time, we’ve opened ourselves up to more experiences, much of it with an eye towards not only sustainability but also self-sufficiency. For some, rage baking turned into a healthier, more sustainable habit of cooking and baking at home. Home gardens are on the rise, as is composting. Before the pandemic, we looked at convenience as a top priority, but now we’re seeing lifestyle shifts as households are becoming more mindful of food sources that are more sustainable.
More Sustainable Travel
The problems brought about by global tourism pre-pandemic were all too obvious: overcrowded cities, environmental degradation, and high CO2 pollution from air travel. During the pandemic, as people had the flexibility to work and school from other locations, a new trend of driving, visiting smaller towns, and staying longer started, according to Airbnb. Spreading out the impacts of tourism, the good and the bad, can help address earlier the uneven impact popular destinations felt.
As things open back up, there is also potential for accommodations to be more sustainable and for visitors to learn more about sustainability as they use them. Increased use of clean energy, non-toxic cleaning products, energy efficiencies, recycling and composting waste options, and less single-use plastic through the locations are all great options.
Hit the Trails
As vacations stopped, staycations became really popular. It was impossible, for a while, to even find a bicycle. Parks all over the country reported record numbers of visitors on their trails. Hiking and biking get more people out in nature. Our hope is that the more we experience the beauty of the world, the harder we will work to protect and preserve it. As Timothy Egan writes in this piece for the New York Times, this is an opportunity for us as environmentalists to help individuals connect their newfound, or re-found, experiences in nature to the desperate need to fight climate change and defend the planet if we want to continue to experience the beauty.
Awareness of Inequality and Racial Injustice
2020 brought us more than just a global pandemic. It also brought a growing awareness of the numerous injustices towards the BIPOC community. The heavier impact of COVID on Black and Brown communities highlighted what has always been true: pollution has always affected those communities unfairly. Years of poor air and water quality are the reality for many. As we look for solutions to climate change, we have to take social and environmental justice into account and look upstream to the source as well as cleaning up the downstream impact.
A lot changed over the past year, and, at the same time, we made a lot of changes. We wore masks. We cleaned our hands more. We worked and went to school from home. We kept our distance. We stayed home. These changes made a difference. We made these changes for our own health and safety. These changes were our response to an emergency situation. As we get back to our pre-pandemic lives, though, we hope that we take the lessons learned from these changes and use them moving forward. Our actions made a difference for the better. Let’s continue on this path, with these lessons learned, to see what more we can do, together.