Back in March, Good Together published its first episode about COVID-19. The pandemic felt temporary at the time—a few weeks or months of lockdown, and everything would be back to normal. Now, we know that COVID is here to stay.
There's a silver lining, though: it's easier than ever to make eco-friendly choices. Our lifestyles have changed drastically, and almost all of these changes have been for the better.
Working From Home
Although working from home has been an adjustment, it is having a positive impact on the environment. From reports of first-time blue skies in Indian cities to wild mountain goats roaming streets in Wales, nature has been slowly creeping back into our lives.
Less Commuting, Less Pollution
Remote work has taken a significant source out of the pollution equation: the daily commute. As Quartz reports, driving to and from work creates more greenhouse gas emissions than any other activity.
When we think of having a more planet-friendly commute, we often think of carpooling, taking public transportation, or upgrading our car to a hybrid or electric vehicle. Not all of these options are available to everyone, though. Especially for people living in suburban and rural areas, there was little to be done about the daily commute.
But with COVID-19 forcing most of us to work from home, cities around the world are seeing a dramatic reduction in car-related pollution. The U.S. government predicts that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have dropped by 7.5%. In some cities in India, China, and Europe, harmful air pollutant concentrations are down by up to 60%. That's a significant win for the environment.
Setting Up Your Home Office for Success
To make working from home more comfortable, try to set up your home office in a quiet, separated space. Carving out a workspace in a closet or adding a permanent desk to a multipurpose room can make a huge difference in your mindset during work hours. Bonus points if you can create an ergonomic office area by investing in a good office chair or a sit-stand desk.
Upgraded Wellness Practices
If you can't upgrade your workspace equipment, don't fret. There are simpler ways to improve your work time at home. Adding plants to your workspace can reduce health issues such as headaches, sore throats, or skin problems. Meditating or concentrated breathing can also help. Practicing mindfulness has been found to increase traits such as compassion, empathy, and feelings of connection.
Better Work Boundaries
Whether it's the knock brush of Slack or the ding of a calendar reminder, we're more connected than ever before to work through our devices. Setting boundaries for yourself will help you avoid being always on.
Set up calendar notifications for breaks so that you get up from your desk, stretch, use the restroom, and even take your dog out for a quick jaunt. At the end of the day, put your phone and computer in do not disturb mode so that you don't hear or see any work-related notifications. Some people even delete work apps from their phones on non-workdays, so that they can truly disconnect.
When you're working, try putting a small sign next to your computer or on your office door. The sign creates a boundary with your family members so that you can focus on work during certain hours. Having a productive workday will nip the temptation to spend extra time at your desk in the bud.
Having a structure to your day will help you create more space between your work and home lives, too—even if they coexist in the same room. Try creating a morning routine where you get up, put on work clothes, and walk around the block. Simulating a commute can help you mentally transition. You can do the same at the end of the day by walking around the block and then changing into comfy home clothes.
Eating at Home
With many restaurants closed or at lower capacities, we're also eating at home more than ever before. Before the pandemic, nearly half of all dollars spent on food in the United States were spent eating out. With more time at home, it's easier than ever to cook healthier, more cost-effective meals.
Gardening is Good for Your Mind
As we discussed in our home gardening episode, it's easier than ever to start a garden. And lots of people are doing it: seed companies like Johnny's Selected Seeds out of Fairfield, Maine saw a 270% increase in orders after the U.S. declared COVID a national emergency.
Gardening also has positive mental health benefits. Connecting with the soil and seeing the literal fruits of your labor can reduce stress levels and symptoms related to depression and anxiety. In an increasingly anxious world, gardening is the perfect at-home activity.
Cooking Healthier, Cheaper Meals
At-home cooking is healthier and costs less than eating out. Most of us have more time than ever before to spend on cooking delicious, healthy meals—especially with all the time saved from a 10-second commute. Laura and Liza love this Yucatan Shrimp recipe from the New York Times if you're looking for inspiration!
And many of us are dining in more than ever. In a recent survey, 54% of people said they cook more now than before the pandemic. 75% of respondents have become more confident in their cooking abilities during quarantine.
More and more people have been relying on grocery delivery services. Online supermarket visits were 162% higher in March 2020 compared to March 2019. Those online orders have continued to rise each month. Just last week, Laura noticed that most of the people at the store with her were shopping for other people via services like Instacart!
Leaving Your Home
Our routines for leaving our homes have changed, too. Laura and Liza both noticed that they are going outside more than ever before, specifically to connect with nature. Laura takes her dogs on long walks to explore their new city, while Liza spends time in her garden.
National & Local Parks
Pre-pandemic, the majority of people were spending up to 90% of their time indoors. Now, going out in nature is one of the few possible activities while still maintaining social distancing. If you go to a local or national park, please pick up after yourself, follow any posted guidelines, and practice social distancing. And of course, don't forget your mask.
Support Small Businesses
Brick and mortar stores, restaurants, bars, wineries, and craft breweries all need support during this time. Even if they aren't open for regular business, there are several great ways to show your local favorites some love:
- Buy a gift card to use later on
- Order for curbside pickup, if available
- Give them a shoutout on social media
Seeing the world come to a halt has been the perfect time to reflect on the small choices that make a significant impact. As we move forward with the new normal, you can still evaluate what you can do to make your work, home, and community better.