COVID-19 has impacts on climate change. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
The Literacy Guild

Opinion: Four ways to continue climate findings from COVID-19

An unexpected consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic is a huge reduction in global air pollution and mitigation of one of the major factors that contribute to human-driven climate change. According to the State of the Planet Earth Institute from Columbia University, one of the primary causes of climate change is global warming: the result of too much carbon dioxide being emitted into our atmosphere, creating a heat-trapping blanket around the earth. The heat continues to build, resulting in such consequences as species extinction.

There are several factors that escalate the issue of global warming, but the most significant contributor is greenhouse gas emissions.

During COVID-19, with travel, industry and overall halt of rapid progression, it actually deescalated our climate issues or at least slowed down the damage. The current shut down of the world economy due to the pandemic is actually evidence that humans are capable of changing their behavior on a massive scale in the face of an emergency.

Obviously, self-quarantining and isolation from our outside environment are not realistic beyond the necessary controls of the COVID-19 virus. However, we can continue to do our part and maintain some lifestyle changes that will keep slowing down the progression of global warming.

Even though this issue still seems to be much larger than ourselves, we can look at our current situation to see how we do in fact make an impact when we act as a whole. It was small lifestyle changes that led us to this climate crisis, and it can still be small lifestyle changes that can make a difference. Here are four ways you can continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to help save our Earth, even after COVID-19.

  1. Think about going (part) vegan!

Livestock and dairy production are responsible for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Healthline. Therefore, a diet with less meat and animal products can make a significant dent in reducing global warming. A drastic diet change like veganism is difficult and for some even impossible, but trying to consume more foods that consist of grains, vegetables, fruit instead of meats can already have a big impact.

Aside from it being beneficial to the environment, veganism, or overall less meat consumption, is also an excellent way to have a healthier lifestyle. Less meat in your diet can increase daily intake of vital nutrients, lower risk of heart disease and even control weight, according to Healthline. Next time you select groceries, try considering more plant-based options for food to increase your selection of non-meat foods.

In the current pandemic, many people have started their own home gardens as a source of fresh produce, and it is far easier to grow an edible garden than to raise livestock. This practice can extend beyond the current situation and become a common habit that can increase non-meat diets.

  1. Try Solar Energy

It is possible to install solar panels in your home yourself, or you could seek assistance from a local installation company. Electricity is responsible for a large portion of carbon emissions produced in our country each year, according to energy.gov. By switching to solar energy, it decreases the number of harmful emissions released into our atmosphere.

According to a solar panel installation company, Solar Energy World, the average household emits close to 20 metric tons of carbon pollution each year, which can be reduced by three to four tons annually by installing a solar power system

Switching to solar energy is another way many families reduce their monthly electric bills. On average, households are saving well more than $100 every month from switching to solar energy, according to Energy Informative.

Neighborhood action, such as solar campaigns to put everyone in an area on solar energy, are another way you can help your entire community switch to clean energy, making an even greater impact. Homeowners can agree and collaborate on plans to switch to solar as a neighborhood. With more people participating, you can decrease the cost of installation as a whole.

Having each home be an electricity generator through solar panel installation can reduce air pollution, monthly bills and decrease the chances of a blackout. The current pandemic highlights how switching to solar panel powered homes can actually be generally a good safety measure in emergencies.

  1. Choose Electric or Hybrid Cars

In the market for a new car? Try going electric.

Traditional gasoline-powered cars increase greenhouse gas emissions in our environment and add to the warming of the planet, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Many families are switching to electric cars to also save a lot of money.

According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable energy, an average American family household devotes about ⅕ of their spendings towards transportation. Electricity is cheaper than gasoline, and the prices are far more consistent.

Along with powering your car, an EV costs a lot less to maintain than a traditional gasoline vehicle. The prime reason for this is because gasoline cars have a lot more moving parts that need to function in order for the car to work.

According to The Balance, it costs about $1,186 a year for maintenance of a traditional gas car. The cost of maintaining an EV is about one third the cost of a gasoline car.

COVID-19 has revealed yet another benefit of electric vehicles, namely a sanitation one. Those who have to stop by gas pumps to refuel find that they are exposing themselves to even more to the virus, whereas those with electric vehicles are able to recharge in the comfort and safety of the virus-free home.

  1. Vote for who supports your climate change beliefs.

One of the most effective ways you can really make a change, whether in your neighborhood or in the country, is to vote for someone you agree with. By doing that, laws and agreements can be passed, making the change widespread and public.

A law was passed in New York City in March banning free plastic bags at local stores, according to nyc.gov. This has been done by several other states previously, which allowed for more states and cities to follow. There are many people bringing in their own reusable bags to grocery stores, making more people aware of the issue.

The more changes that are made, the more others will follow and more good will be done to our environment. To make a change, we need to be a community and support decisions beyond ourselves that are for the better of our world. Voting is a simple but powerful act to transform communities into clean energy strongholds.

Putting our world on pause as we fight the pandemic is an opportunity to reflect on and realize how we can minimize our unnecessary wants and needs, putting aside short-term conveniences that have long-term consequences to do our part for the planet we call home.

Take this as an opportunity to realize where you can make small adjustments to your lifestyle to save more in this critical time.  It has been small lifestyle changes that are causing our world to suffer, and it can be small lifestyle changes that are going to save it. Start today, start small and the impact will be great.