Sensory experiences are an integral part of our daily lives, from the sound of birds chirping in the morning to the taste of our favorite food. However, it's easy to forget that our actions can have a profound impact on the environment and the sensory experiences that come with it. As we celebrate Earth Day amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it's more important than ever to find ways to be mindful of our impact on the environment and preserve the sensory experiences that make our planet unique.
I think it’s safe to say that this Earth Day, on April 22, 2020, is going to be an Earth Day unlike any other (and not just because it’s the 50th anniversary).
At c|change, we care greatly about our community and the environment. Green initiatives are a big part of what we’re doing to achieve B Corp certification, and if you haven’t seen our project the Clouds of Change, give it a look. We planned to join the clean-up party at North Avenue Beach here in Chicago but this event was wisely cancelled in light of COVID-19 and social distancing recommendations. However, there are still many ways to celebrate Earth Day from home, even from your couch—and doing so is just important as ever.
You may have seen recent news stories of plummeting emissions (25% lower in China!) and clear skies in cities around the world, or fish returning to cleaner water in the canals of Venice. With many workers (including c|changers) working from home, energy use is declining as well. Though daily residential energy use in the U.S. is expected to increase 6-8%, demand from commercial buildings will drop by 25%, easily offsetting the rise in home energy use.
Though these stories are very inspiring (especially in a time like now!), they may ultimately be a bit misleading. Axios compares the drop in emissions to “a person who loses weight while sick. It’s a byproduct of a bad situation and by definition should and will not last.” What’s needed is lasting, fundamental change to ensure green ways of life when we’re all back at the office, commuting every day, with industrial production humming along per usual.
Which brings us back to Earth Day, and the importance of continuing climate activism at this time. We’ve included some tips below on how to celebrate Earth Day in unique times. Stayed tuned to the Earth Day website for more on digital get-togethers and activities, and let us know what else you’re doing to be green on April 22!
10 green things you can do from your couch
No getting up necessary!
- Contact your representatives. Even with the focus on responding to COVID-19, there are still policies being discussed or passed that impact the environment. The Union of Concerned Scientists and the Environmental Defense Fund both can point you to issues that require your representatives’ attention—call, email, or write them a letter to let them know what matters to you!
- Encourage your friends on social media. Your friends, family, and followers on social media may also be wondering what to do for Earth Day while shelter-in-place orders are in effect. Or, they may have forgotten it’s happening at all. Give them a reminder by sharing some inspiration with them; share what you’re doing, or something interesting you read—maybe like this blog post?
- Work by a window. Though working from home means using more energy from home, you can take advantage of the days getting longer and sunnier to save some energy. Try to take advantage of natural light during the workday to lower your energy bill.
- Start composting. Ok, you’ll want to leave your couch for this, but not your home. Spending more time at home also creates more waste at home, but composting can make sure food scraps and yard waste (which make up almost 30% of what we throw away) don’t end up in a landfill. Check to see if there are local compost services in your area, or read guides like these on how to compost at home, even in a small apartment.
- Buy from certified B Corps. Companies that have completed B Corp certification have not only made a commitment to use business as a force for creating a healthier environment, but have met B Corps’ high standards for environmental performance. Look for the B Corp symbol when buying clothes, cleaning supplies, beer, ice cream, or most any kind of product or service.
- Use Remark to ask businesses to waste less. Think your last online shopping order came with way too much packaging? You can encourage businesses to use eco-friendly business practices through Remark. Once you’ve signed up, text Remark any time you have “eco feedback” for a business, and Remark will (politely) contact them on your behalf.
- Recycle as much as you can. Be sure to learn about your city or municipality’s recycling program and do your part to sort, clean, and properly dispose of your recyclables. Got other waste that your recycling program won’t take? Terracycle can help you recycle most everything.
- Find ways to use less electricity with Sense. Homeowners can install a Sense device in their home’s electrical panel to monitor electric output and get recommendations on how to cut back use. Web Developer Cori Dante said installing one led her to replace outside halogen flood lights with LEDs, which made a big dent in her electricity usage. You can order one from your couch (though installing it means you’ll have to get up).
- Set up a bee habitat. And for those who have a backyard, you can increase the number of pollinating bees in your community by setting up a bee habitat. Kevin O’Rourke, Motion Graphics Designer & Video Editor, watched YouTube tutorials to create his own using cinder blocks and logs with small holes drilled in them. Now he’s expecting to see hundreds of (non-aggressive) bees pollinating plants in his and his neighbors’ yards. “Cool to see it work out after not knowing anything about it!” he said.
- Take an inventory. Spending extra time at home (a lot of extra time, for many of us) is the perfect opportunity to take stock of the types of waste we create, and then to think of less wasteful alternatives. Using plastic wrap or plastic bags to store leftovers? You could try investing in some silicone reusable baggies or wax food storage wraps. Is almond milk your go-to? Consider making your own to eliminate packaging and have almond meal leftover for baking. You could even look into zero-packaging alternatives for household items, like Dropps instead of typical laundry detergent that comes in a plastic bottle.
And one for when we’re all back at the office:
Stick with the green habits you’ve built. You’ve likely built some green habits without even realizing it: namely, reusing glasses, plates, and silverware instead of single-use plastics. Make these habits stick by getting a refillable water bottle, or using the forks and spoons in the office kitchen to eat your lunch.
From contacting your representatives to buying from certified B Corps, there are numerous ways to celebrate Earth Day from the comfort of your couch. However, it's equally important to continue these efforts when we're back at the office, commuting every day, and contributing to industrial production. By making sustainable choices, we can help preserve the sensory experiences that make our planet so special and ensure a healthier, greener future for generations to come.