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Top 5 Ways to Act on COVID-19 and Climate Change Simultaneously

April 2020 by Emma Richards

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most people (if you’re following the advice) are finding their lives reduced to more basic functions, leaving many feeling as though their ability to implement emission reductions is decreased, e.g. perhaps through not being at work. But never fear, for many of the actions we’re taking have a positive effect, both against the spread of COVID-19 and the severity of its wider impacts, as well as helping to mitigate our impact on climate change. So, what are these actions?

1. Stay at home

By now, we hopefully all know that the quickest way to slow the spread of the virus is by social distancing, largely this involves staying at home. By staying home we’re taking fewer trips by car, which directly reduces the emissions from vehicles. With habits, such as the return to only visiting the supermarket for one big weekly shop, changing under lockdown, will we see lasting changes to the way we organise our time?

2. Don’t have fires

Fire services are requesting that we don’t have garden fires as these can add strain to the already overburdened emergency services when fires get out of hand. Additionally, when we burn garden waste it releases smoke containing carbon dioxide and carbon particulate (soot), which contribute to the greenhouse effect and increase localised air pollution. For those suffering from COVID-19, which attacks the respiratory system, the smoke from garden fires can exasperate lung conditions, potentially leading to hospital admissions for those who are currently managing their symptoms at home.

3. Shop local

By choosing to ‘shop local’, using independent greengrocers, bakeries, etc. we’re helping to support small business owners through this difficult time. The supply chains of independent shops and services are often more local than that of larger chains, again helping to support local producers, but which also limits food-miles and the emissions associated with transportation.

4. Social distance

We’ve already touched on social distancing through staying at home, but what about when you’re out and about? Given the close proximity to others when using public transport, and a decrease in vehicles on the road (thanks to all those staying at home!) many are opting for active transport instead, cycling, running and walking all being popular choices. Active travel is largely an individual transport mode, so limits our chance of exposure to the virus and of us from transmitting it if we’re unaware of being carriers. Additionally, active modes of transport are zero-carbon and play a key role in helping us to become a zero-carbon society by 2050 or sooner.

5. Avoid unnecessary purchases

Buying things we don’t really need, whether that be online shopping or panic-buying items in bulk we won’t be able to use up for months (and we’ve all seen the images of shelves emptied of pasta and toilet rolls), leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions through deliveries producing further nitrous oxide, and waste creation which, when it reaches the landfill, leads to methane being emitted. By choosing to purchase only that which we require, we; reduce the strain on our food systems, help to keep key workers safe by limiting the likelihood of those working within supply chains being exposed to COVID-19, ensure there’s enough of the essentials for everyone, and keep our emissions low.

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