We get it. You don’t want to hear anything about COVID-19 and the pandemic, and neither do we. We’ve all lived through a harrowing experience we’d rather forget, and FAST!
But, we can’t run from reality either. Despite declining infections and rising herd immunity, we’re still far away from normal. Even the “new normal” still seems like a mirage far off in the distance.
The pandemic has reshaped the world in ways we can’t even begin to imagine. Along with it, global sustainability trends have shifted too, and not always for the best.
Today we look at the old, and emerging sustainability trends brought on or influenced by the pandemic.
What do they mean for us and the planet? What lessons do we take from our collective pandemic experience to rebuild our lives and the world in a sustainable, equitable, and inclusive way?
Changing Sustainability Trends
1. Increased sustainability awareness
Sustainability awareness has increased during the pandemic. People have realized that it’s not too late to save the planet. There is hope yet!
The pandemic and its lessons have made some people more aware of how even small actions can make a big difference.
In the UK, for example, 52% of adults say they are more environmentally aware now than pre-pandemic.
Collectively, the pandemic has shown that we are all interconnected and that our actions have far-reaching consequences.
Indeed, we’re seeing a surge in sustainable practices, including using less plastic to planting trees.
There’s also a greater focus on social equity, as people struggle to understand how the pandemic has disproportionately impacted certain groups of people, such as the poor and marginalized.
People are more on the environment. There’s increasing realization that pandemics can come from human activity, e.g., encroaching on forest land that disturbs critical ecosystems leading to viruses jumping from wild animals to humans.
2. Pandemic-related pollution and COVID waste
The pandemic has also brought some adverse environmental impacts. We’ve seen a surge in pandemic-related pollution, from COVID waste to plastic use.
COVID waste is created from the manufacture of personal protection equipment (PPE), such as masks, gloves, and gowns.
It’s estimated that up to 95% of this waste cannot be recycled or reused, and much of it ends up in landfills and oceans.
This creates a huge environmental burden, as traditional landfills cannot handle such large volumes of waste. At sea, the waste is affecting marine life and ecosystems.
In addition, plastic is being used more than ever before to prevent the spread of COVID.
Hospitals and other public places are using disposable gloves, masks, aprons, and other plastic items to prevent the spread of the virus.
This is a colossal waste of resources as most of these plastics cannot be recycled and ends up in landfills.
The pandemic has also highlighted our unsustainable practices in using disposable plastics.
We can no longer ignore the negative impacts of our throwaway culture on the environment, and this pandemic is forcing us to change our habits for good.
3. Work from home movement
The pandemic has also led to the rise and acceleration of the work from home movement.
With so many people now working remotely, there is a greater focus on telecommuting and using technology to connect with colleagues and clients.
This is excellent news for the environment, as it reduces our reliance on cars and other forms of transportation.
It’s also good for our health, as it allows us to avoid the stress of commuting and air pollution.
At the same time, companies are stepping up to support their employees, make the transition, improve retention, and become more sustainable themselves.
For instance, with the COVID testing for businesses health guidelines in some states and regions, companies are stepping in to ensure their staff has access to the much-needed COVID tests.
Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword. It’s an important topic for many people, and sustainability advocates are looking to ensure that businesses are as sustainable as possible.
4. Rise of the “conscious shopper.”
The pandemic has forced many of us to reevaluate our lives. One way this is happening is in the rise of the conscious shopper. People are increasingly looking for sustainable options, whether food, clothing or other products.
This trend was already happening before the pandemic, but it has only accelerated in recent months.
More people are now interested in sustainability and want to support businesses that align with their values.
There are several reasons for this shift. One is that people are becoming more aware of the impact their choices have on the planet.
They also realize that sustainable options can often be just as affordable as traditional ones. And finally, many people are looking to take action in light of the pandemic, both for their own health and for the health of the planet.
All of this is good news for sustainability. It means that we’re finally starting to see a fundamental shift in how people think about consumption.
We’re moving away from a culture of excess and towards one of sustainability and responsibility.
There’s still a long way to go, but this is an important step in the right direction. Let’s hope it continues!
5. Increasing recycling rates
In times of crisis, people often turn to their communities for support. This is undoubtedly the case with sustainability, as we’ve seen a surge in recycling rates in recent months.
People realize that they need to do their part to help minimize the impact of the pandemic on the planet.
They also recognize that sustainability is important, not just during a pandemic but also all year round.
This is great news for sustainability! It means that we’re making progress even when things are tough.
People are coming together to support each other and fight for a better future. We still have a long way to go, but this gives me hope for the future.
The pandemic has created many challenges for global sustainability trends, but it’s also an opportunity to rethink how we live in harmony with each other and our planet.
We must learn from past pandemics that have ravaged societies throughout history; pandemics were not caused by deities punishing us for our sins but rather from how we live and interact with nature.
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