After weeks of staying indoors I couldn’t decide whether to write about COVID-19 or to completely avoid it. So, I’ve gone for somewhere in the middle.
When I came back from my honeymoon in January after visiting places such as Bora Bora, I vowed to lead a much more sustainable lifestyle. Like many people, David Attenborough’s stark warnings about plastic pollution in Blue Planet made me change some of my habits.
However, on my travels it really hit home that we all need to be doing more after seeing first-hand the impact that unsustainable activities have on the environment, wildlife and cultures.
Where COVID-19 brought sustainability to mind is in the dramatic images that show the decrease in carbon and nitrogen dioxide emissions thanks to the reduction in industry and transportation.
Some scientists have said that by May 2020 CO2 emissions could be at their lowest level for a decade, although the declines will likely be short-lived because atmospheric concentrations of CO2 aren’t the same as CO2 emissions.
Yet COVID-19 gives us another stake in the ground to consider the changes we can all make when it comes to the future of industry, work and our consumer choices. And what’s even better is that widespread ethical and sustainable ways of life or ‘purposeful consumption’ are more available than ever before.
People want convenient, relevant and personalised services and sustainable services are now incorporating these benefits to help people minimise their environmental footprint with ease.
For example, Loop is an online shopping service that’s as easy as Ocado, which helps make zero-waste a reality for households. The likes of Unilever, Nestlé and Proctor & Gamble products are delivered in reusable containers and empty ones taken away and sterilised before being used again.
Businesses need to take the lead
Change won’t be instant and it’s imperative that businesses set an example and enable consumers to make changes for the better and help re-write the rules of legacy consumerism.
An Ipsos MORI survey found that only 6% of UK respondents think primary responsibility for a more ethical, sustainable consumerism lies with themselves. In contrast, 51% said that the primary responsibility lies with businesses.
Fortunately, brands and people of influence are already taking action. The likes of Tesla are rewriting the rules of automotive – showing that legacy ways can be changed and better consumerism achieved.
And in the music industry, Coldplay took the decision not to tour the Everyday Life album in order to reduce environmental impact. Instead, the band live-streamed concerts on YouTube and performed a gig at the Natural History Museum in London, with profits going to an environmental law non-profit.
So, what can you do to help?
WIRED recently launched a special issue, How we will all solve the climate crisis, which it was working on long before the pandemic. As the essayist Mary Annaise writes in her piece, “It’s true that you can’t solve the climate crisis alone, but it’s even more true that we can’t solve it without you”.
The answer to “What can I do?” isn’t simple, but Annaise advises to join something bigger than yourself because it’s about a collective drive for better. It’s not about one thing but always thinking what can be done next and how you can bring other people along with you.
Responding to the climate crisis is long haul and needs to become part of everyday life for everyone. It’s about climate commitment not a single climate action. We can’t undo what’s been done but we can limit the damage and not let it get worse.
What are your sustainability initiatives for this year and beyond?