COVID-19 lifestyle changes can help to repair our climate – but will they continue once the outbreak is over?

PUBLISHED: 14:35 22 April 2020 | UPDATED: 14:56 22 April 2020

CO2 emissions are down by 40-60% due to the COVID-19 crisis. Picture: Supplied

CO2 emissions are down by 40-60% due to the COVID-19 crisis. Picture: Supplied


We are in the grip of the COVID-19 crisis. It is restricting us in all areas of life, and causes so much suffering. But we know it will pass and afterwards we will reorient ourselves. Other topics will soon re-emerge, one of which will certainly be climate change.

How will we look back and reflect? Here are a few statistics on our carbon footprints, and what effect the current restrictions have on our emissions.

Taking into account UK production and import of goods, the average person in the UK produces 12 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per year. To gradually achieve the UK 2050 climate change targets, this year the average should be 10.5 tonnes.

The current reduced movement and air travel is reducing humanity’s carbon footprint massively. For example, not holidaying in the Canary Islands saves a massive 2 tonnes of CO2 equivalents per person! Not driving a car for two months saves over half a tonne (more for 4-wheel drives).

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Many families are now happily walking or cycling together, with many people working from home. When social distancing ends many of us will remember the lovely quiet roads and hopefully choose to travel less. It will be good to be with colleagues again, but we may find we can continue with home working.

How about food? This accounts for up to three tonnes of CO2e per person per year, but can be lowered when food is not wasted, and by eating less meat, fish, processed, or air freighted goods.

In the current climate, it is more of an effort to get food, and many of us will find we’re wasting as little food as possible. Life skills are also developing in terms of creative cooking, freezing or sharing food which is close to its sell-buy date.

Finally, each of us produces between two and five tonnes of CO2e per year just by buying ‘stuff’. Yes, we are still buying online, but as many shops are closed we are thinking twice about what we need, and we are overall consuming less – which reduces our carbon footprint.

For example, once you have used up your liquid handwash, why not opt for a soap bar, which requires less energy needed for transport and no plastic pollution? A small change, but clean hands with minimum harm for the planet!

So, how about reflecting on the changes you have had to make in this crisis, and why not explore if you can happily build them into your life when this outbreak is behind us.

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