In the midst of a global pandemic, it can be easy to forget about other ongoing global concerns as people rush to take care of themselves and their families and adjust to an unprecedented way of living. However, it is important to note that environmental issues are still present and changing due to the coronavirus.
All over the news, statistics showed that carbon and nitrogen dioxide emissions were decreasing during the worst points of the pandemic (March to April). This is due to many reasons such as the decrease in production and travel. It is easy to think that this will have a direct effect on mitigating the effects of climate change. It may not be that simple. As we have already seen, people have gone and will go back to travelling and buying what they want when they deem that it is safe again. This means that emissions will probably go back to where they were before the pandemic, and any progress that was made would be lost. This is if no action is taken soon to regulate emissions to keep them about where they are now.
COVID-19 has impacted the environment in negative ways as well. The production of waste has spiked in some areas, with people across the world using more single-use plastics and disposable masks. The plastics are on the rise as more people use plastic cutlery when eating takeout, or the increase in the use of plastic gloves for daily use. Another negative aspect is that elected officials have been focusing their efforts on sending support out to those who need it, so there has not been enough attention on environmental issues. For example, industries that harm the environment have been scrambling to produce as much as they can to bounce back from the worst points of the quarantine, which has led to an increase in both air and solid pollution.
What can we do about the effects of the coronavirus? On a personal and community level, we can strive to produce less waste. One popular way to create less waste is to invest in a few reusable masks. This ensures little to no waste as you can wash them when they get dirty instead of just throwing them out. I have invested in a few masks myself, and I have found them to be an essential as I am helping the environment while protecting others by limiting the spread of COVID-19. A small act of sustainability that goes a long way is to prepare a set of reusable utensils. Often, takeout food comes with plastic straws and silverware. Carrying a set of metal or bamboo utensils instead is a little yet important way to combat waste.
Lastly, I recommend limiting spending from large manufacturers that are contributing to pollution of the Earth. Each time we order an item from a large distributor like Amazon, we are contributing to manufacturing and transport pollution. Perhaps take a look at local stores who have been struggling during the quarantine. This is a great way to limit our footprint while supporting local economies. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an air of confusion about the environment, but with small actions on a local level, we can help to mitigate emissions and keep working towards a better future while we return to normal.
Molly Showers is a sophomore studying Biology at Stony Brook University. She is from the Adirondacks in Upstate New York. She has always had an interest in what she and others can do to help protect the environment. She is excited to be working with the Ashley Schiff Preserve to spread the message of conservation and respect for the ecosystems around us!