How has COVID-19 impacted our environment, and how can we replicate the good, and avoid the bad?

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What You Need To Know:

As a result of COVID-19, our lives have changed. In order to stay safe during this unprecedented time, we have stayed home, worn masks, and followed new, unimaginable safety procedures that collectively have changed our lives. Along with the impact that COVID-19 has had on our daily lives, these changes have also impacted our environment.

Without anywhere to go, people have been driving less, leading to decreasing CO2 emissions, which positively impacts our air pollution. On the contrary, this virus has negatively impacted the environment because of the amount of waste that we have produced. From the excessive use and disposal of masks to increased packaging required to serve food in restaurants and to provide takeout options to limit exposure, landfill waste has immensely increased, which will lead to air pollution, the destruction of natural resources, health problems for animal species, groundwater pollution, and poisoning natural landscapes with disease and bacteria.

With these consequences of COVID-19 in mind, it begs to question: How can we recreate the good, and eliminate the bad? With such a wide range of environmental impacts of this virus, there are certain procedures and actions that can be done in order to eliminate excessive waste, and produce less air pollution by using more environmentally friendly transportation.

 

The UN Sustainable Development Goals that this project focuses on are sustainability and climate action. To make our communities more environmentally friendly and safe to prevent COVID-19, taking action to promote sustainability and climate action are vital.

Research:

With billions of people being forced into the confines of their homes, having to completely change their daily routines, the significant environmental impacts that followed were inevitable. Some of these impacts have been positive, while others have been negative. 

One of the most significant changes has been in CO2 emissions. On average, people have been driving their cars less, leading to changes in air pollution throughout the world. Also, airplane travel has significantly declined, as people have not been able to travel because of COVID-19 safety guidelines. Some of the most apparent examples of this can be seen in China and India. In the first stages of lockdown, China produced 200 million fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide compared to previous years. This was because of reduced air traffic, oil refining, and coal consumption that resulted from the nationwide lockdown. In India, the Himalayas became visible again for the first time in decades, and air quality improved because of the lowering levels of air pollution.

  

 

On the other end of things, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased the amount of waste circulating in landfills and oceans. From disposable masks to plastic packaging for takeout, the necessary safety precautions for combating the coronavirus have produced more waste then previously created. On a personal level, I has seen a sharp increase in the trash produced at my school, as the majority of students wear disposable masks, and with the school lunch being packaged in excessive plastic to reduce contact and the possible spread of germs on surfaces. Even on an individual basis, people have been accumulating more trash that ends up in the local landfill, as well as on the streets, and in bodies of water. This increase in waste production will, if continued at the degree that it is now, lead to animal populations going extinct, environments being destroyed, and air becoming more polluted. 

I conducted a survey with the teachers at my school to see how their trash production and driving has changed since the pandemic began. As I predicted, the majority of people were driving less, and creating more trash.

Interview:

I got the chance to interview the owner of a local pizza restaurant, Big Bon Bodega, who has used sustainable packaging to keep her customers safe from spreading COVID-19, and to keep our environment safe. 

Why did you make the effort to use sustainable packaging? Using sustainable packaging such as wooden forks produces less plastic disposables, which is better for the environment. 

Has using sustainable packaging affected the cost and profit of your business? Yes, it has definitely changed it by a few percent, but balancing the cost and protecting the earth in worth the extra cost. 

In what ways is sustainable packaging good for the environment? Avoiding plastic to make trash biodegradable leads to less trash in the landfill. 

Has this move to sustainable packaging been impacted by COVID-19 guidelines and safety procedures? Yes, most businesses are producing more waste to package goods, and we have increased our use of biodegradable packaging to be better for the environment.

Solutions:

The main issues at hand, when considering the effects of COVID-19 on our environment, are the changing levels of CO2 emissions, and the increased amount of trash produced. In order to continue to decrease CO2 emissions, significant routine changes would need to occur, and people would have to sacrifice quick and accessible transportation. While this may seem intimidating, there are more simple ways of reducing our daily carbon footprints while still living normal lives. Eating less animal products, composting, producing less food waste, washing clothes with cold water, turning off lights when possible, and using public transportation and carpooling are small changes that can be made to our daily routines, but will make a big difference in the long run. 

Also, one of the biggest contributors to waste production right now are disposable masks. When throwing away masks everyday, the amount of trash in the landfill will increase, and could affect our wildlife and environment if continued. An easy solution to this would be to wear reusable masks, that are regularly washed. Doing this is just as effective at combating COVID-19, but is much better for the environment.

 

By using sustainable packaging, excessive waste, that will end up in landfills, can be avoided, and safety precautions for COVID-19 can still be followed. Any of these four options can be used in composting, and can be used as fertilizer in gardens, which could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If restaurants and schools were to use any form of sustainable packaging, it could have significant impacts on our environment and landfills.

Feedback:

Please let me know what you thought of my project, and what I can do to improve upon it. Thanks for viewing my page!

Works Cited:

Link (Google Doc) 

5 Comments

5 comments

  1. Hi!
    Your project looks super detailed and its really interesting to see all those statistics. When I think about my personal environmental impact in the environment during the pandemic, I think it has definitely decreased, as I don’t have to commute to school and other places anymore. I am also not travelling, and planes have a huge impact on the environment.

  2. I really like your ideas and options for better sustainable packaging because we do use too much plastic for packaging which needs to stop. These options presented if used as the new packaging material could be very beneficial

  3. Hey! Your project is really interesting! It’s crazy to see the increase in waste production during the pandemic. It’s harder to make sustainable choices with many regulations and restrictions put into place, however, it is so important. I liked the alternatives and options for more sustainable packaging. It seems feasible to implement. Great job!

  4. Hi! I thought your project was great and really important. I was surprised to learn that your respondents trash production increased on average. A question I have for you is as follows: How do you think that we as a culture can incentivise people to wear reusable masks? I believe that we will have to find a way to convince people that sustainability is more important than convenience.

  5. Hi! i loved the different types of solutions that you posed-I’ve recently been wondering about what changes I can make to my life in order to become less harmful to the environment, and I think that you webpage outlined and detailed some of those ideas really well. Good job!

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