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Coronavirus has certainly changed the way we live. With the ‘Stay at home’ order, schools, offices and factories limiting their activities, airlines that cancelled up to 90% of their flights, our habits have seen a drastic change in the past few months. However, whilst we have been focusing on how to restructure our lives, let’s look at the huge impact that this virus is having on the environment. 

Pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen sharply following countries’ attempts to contain the spread of the virus. With many industries and businesses shutting their doors, carbon emissions have dropped significantly. New York has faced nearly 50% reduction in the level of air pollution compared with this time last year. In China, the total amount of days with good quality air was up 11.4% compared with the same time last year in 337 cities across the country. Marshall Burke, Associate Professor from Stanford University, claims the reduction of carbon emissions in China may have saved at least 77,000 lives. In Italy, satellite images show a huge reduction of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air. 

It’s amazing to see the positive effects that lockdown is having on our planet, but the amount of waste being produced is another story. Coronavirus has created a huge demand for disposable medical products such as single-use gloves, surgical masks and sanitizer which has led to a huge rise in medical waste. In Wuhan, the volume of medical waste has risen from 40 to 240 tons a day according to the South China Morning Post. 

http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1180527.shtml

Not just medical waste has been on the incline, but everyday plastic items are being encouraged to use, rather than sustainable alternatives. For example,in the US reusable bags have been banned in New Hampshire because they seem more likely to carry Coronavirus. As well as this, in the UK, Starbucks are not accepting reusable cups from customers anymore and are now serving in disposable single-use cups as an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus. 

With emissions at an all-time low, but an increase in plastic waste, we have contrasting positives and negatives to how the environment is being treated due to this pandemic. However one question to arise from this, is how do we transform our habits to not just let the planet breathe, but continue breathing? What lessons can we learn from this time to better fight climate change and global warming in the future?

Here are some ways we can minimise our environmental impact from home: 

1. Make your own reusable face mask with fabric scraps or old clothes. https://www.greenmatters.com/p/how-to-make-your-own-mask 
2. Using refill bottles of hand sanitizer to reduce plastic usage 
3. Shop smart, reduce food waste and only buy food you will use.
4. Donate any food you might throw away to food banks. Find the nearest food bank to you:  https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-help/find-a-foodbank/ 
5. Use fabric scraps or old clothes to use as alternatives to paper towels.




 

 

 

Fact / Image sources:
www.newyorker.com/podcast/the-new-yorker-radio-hour/the-coronavirus-and-climate-change-the-great-crisis-of-our-time
http://www.climateaction.org/news/coronavirus-scientists-reveal-reduction-in-global-air-pollution-and-nitroge
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200326-covid-19-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-the-environment
https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2020/03/16/coronavirus-lockdown-may-have-saved-77000-lives-in-china-just-from-pollutionreduction/#5ef8b49334fe
https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3065049/coronaviruschina-struggling-deal-mountain-medical-waste-created
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51767092

     

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