The Benefits of Sheltering in Place for the Planet

Jori Hamilton – Contributing Writer

Posted on Tuesday 16th June 2020
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Many people have had it with the shelter-in-place mandates. After all, there has never been a time in history when the whole world stayed home for two or three months. Humankind isn’t exactly prepared for staying indoors for so long. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel: many parts of the world are starting to breathe a sigh of relief as the outbreak numbers drop and the quarantine orders are relaxed.

We’re not 100% there yet — it’s likely we need to proceed with caution for a while longer. It may be harder than ever to responsibly stay home, but if you look at the positives of your actions and learn from them, you may be able to endure the isolation better. 

A Reduction in Your Carbon Footprint

As most of the world was forced to isolate and stay home, each person’s negative impact on the environment was reduced. As everyone used less transportation, everyone’s carbon footprint was reduced. It’s a good thing, too. Fuel prices were rising sharply just before the pandemic, threatening to affect small businesses and people who could barely afford to commute.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the average vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. CO2 is a greenhouse gas; it traps heat and warms the earth, causing the greenhouse effect. Individuals and businesses contribute to global warming with their choices in how often they drive or fly, or by the type of utilities they use to power their homes and businesses. 

Some may dispute whether global warming is real, but the climate changes of the past few years provide a strong case for global warming. NASA’s Climate Change and Global Warming site provides objective evidence of how the earth is impacted by greenhouse gases. Fortunately, our collective reduction on the dependence of fossil fuels has given the planet a temporary break so it can recover. 

Better Air Quality

People may agree or disagree with the stay-at-home mandate, but it was a necessary measure enacted for the public’s safety. Some people saw it as a threat to their rights and called it martial law. However, the mandate worked

One of the unintended results came in the form of improved air quality. Most cities known for the heavy layer of smog that hid their skyline now feature clear skies. One of the most poignant images is the view of the Himalayas, which can be seen again from India for the first time in decades. 

As fewer people commuted, the pollutants responsible for health conditions such as asthma, allergies, and heart conditions have been reduced. If you or a loved one suffer from any of those conditions, sheltering in place has not only benefited the planet but their health too.

A New Way to Work

The global pandemic forced people to find innovative ways to continue with their lives. One of the most significant is remote work. Telecommuting is the future. As technology continues to improve, it makes it possible for people to work from home or other remote locations more productively. Remote work may provide people better job stability so they can continue to work through a natural disaster or a crisis. But telecommuting has far-reaching changes that benefit the planet. 

Remote workers have less of a need to commute daily, dramatically reducing their contribution to pollution and greenhouse gases. Besides the reduction in commutes, as people choose to work more from home, the need for large offices or headquarters may end. Working from home could also reduce the energy needs of the industrial and commercial sectors, reducing the strain on the planet. 

Forced Sustainability

If we had to take away something positive from the coronavirus pandemic, it could be how the changes in our lifestyle have positively contributed to the environment. Call it “forced sustainability” — staying home pushed everyone into living a more environmentally conscious life.

Now that we’ve gotten the hang of sustainability efforts in our self-isolation, continuing the many practices we’ve picked up could continue to benefit the earth. Take this time to think about how much humans actually impact the earth and how widespread changes can make all the difference.

As quarantine rules are relaxed or lifted altogether, continue to practice conscious and sustainable habits. Consider riding your bike more often or walking instead of turning to the car for all your errands. If you have to go back to work, speak with your co-workers about organizing a carpool program to share in the commute. 

Make changes around your home to reduce the amount of energy and resources you consume. Simple projects, such as adding flow valves to your faucets and showerheads, can reduce the amount of water you use. Switching incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs can be done in just a few minutes. Regardless of what you do, take the lessons from the shelter-in-place orders to be more conscious of how you affect the planet.

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