As we tentatively emerge out of lockdown and start to adjust to a new “normal”, it’s important to consider what lockdown has taught us.
Across the world, we’ve seen the unexpected positive outcomes of lockdown, from animals roaming free in big cities, dramatic decreases in the level of air pollution in India and China and clear canals in Venice.
But what does this mean for us going forward?
Well, for starters, it’s clear that our habits have for a long had a detrimental impact on the climate. With the current rate of ever-increasing carbon emissions fuelling climate change, we’ve seen the resulting rise in natural disasters with catastrophic consequences and outlooks for the future of our planet and populations worldwide.
This is why, as we emerge out of lockdown, we need to be increasingly mindful about our impact on the planet and work towards restoring a natural balance – one in which human behaviour works in harmony with the Earth.
Lockdown has brought significant temporary changes such as restrictions on international flights, a huge drop in the number of cars on the road and with that, lower levels of human-induced pollution.
Now as things slowly return to “normal” we must re-address our ways of working, travelling and living our daily lives to create a new “normal”. Few of us want to go back to what we had before.
Here are six ways you can do just that!
1. Try more eco-friendly travel
Lockdown saw a reduction in all forms of travel – from cars on our roads, trains on the lines, buses on the streets and planes in the sky.
Of course, whilst non-essential travel was put on hold, we also saw just how much we over-rely on cars. As restrictions eased and walking and cycling became great new ways to take a breath of fresh air, pop to the shops – and also keep fit at the same time – we’ve seen just how over-reliant we are on carbon-emission travel.
So, as we return to work and begin to see friends and family again, it’s important to do our part to reduce the carbon emissions incurred by the way we travel. This means walking further and more often, cycling to work and using public transport (but only when it is safe to do so) – and always considering whether a train could be a better option than a plane for journeys within the UK.
Adopting these critical changes means we can take much-needed better care of the planet, and also our own personal health and fitness too!
2. Develop flexible-working practices
The world has changed since Covid-19 as more and more people have now adapted to working from home. But what has this taught us?
In a nutshell, that it can be done and and it can be done well for that matter. Expelling many long-held myths about working from home, research and experience have shown that flexible home-working not only increases productivity but can also be great for job satisfaction. It gives employees the independence to manage their own time in a location that suits them.
This is why, as we begin to ease restrictions from lockdown, many businesses and universities have decided to permanently make the move to home-working. This is not only good for employee morale but will also do wonders to reduce carbon emissions caused by thousands of people trying to get to their offices every day. It will also help reduce congestion and air pollution.
It’s therefore important to start the discussion with our workplaces to call for more flexible home-working.
3. Switch to a staycation
As countries all over the world have fought to contain the spread of Covid-19, lockdown resulted in less international travel. This measure also had an unexpected additional benefit – a reduction in carbon emissions caused by air travel.
Air travel contributes around 2.5% of the world’s global carbon emissions so, it’s important that we do all we can do to reduce this figure as global travel restrictions continue to ease. It’s critical that we think carefully and remain mindful of our choices when travelling, in particular when it comes to personal vacations.
But how can a person go on an environmentally-conscious holiday? The answer is simple: a staycation! Rather than taking a trip abroad, why not try some of the hundreds of great locations here in the UK?
With lots of natural beauty stops from Land’s End to John O’Groats, to the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands, we’ve got mountains, beaches and lots of places of great natural wonder. There are plenty of great sites to discover!!
4. Appreciate green spaces
Since the early days of lockdown, being able to go out for one walk a day certainly increased our appreciation for green spaces. Now, since lockdown has since eased and people are looking for socially-distanced ways to socialise, more and more people are now spending time outdoors picnicking in parks, visiting farms and going to the seaside.
Appreciating the outdoors is definitely a great way to remind ourselves of the importance of protecting the planet from the harmful effects of climate change. However, we must ensure that our green spaces are kept clean to protect local wildlife.
So, whilst you can now enjoy more time outside, please don’t forget to not only maintain social distancing but also to clean up after yourself, by recycling and disposing of your rubbish appropriately. This way, we can all continue to benefit from our wonderful local green spaces!
5. Protect and preserve wildlife
With added trips to local parks and daily walks out in the fresh air, lockdown has unexpectedly increased our love of all things natural and green! So, why not turn your back garden into a wildlife haven and help protect local wildlife?
There are many things you can do to attract wildlife including creating nesting spaces for birds and installing a bird feeder. You can also build a pond to attract newts, dragonflies and tadpoles. Or, you can simply you can plant nectar-rich plants to attract all kinds of insects from butterflies to bees.
There are dozens of ways in which to make your garden wildlife-friendly. Take a look at these great ways to get started and prepare to welcome some feathery, furry creatures into your garden!
And if you haven’t got a garden, remember to spruce up your balconies or window-ledges. See if there’s a nearby community garden or allotment. There’s also been an increase in “guerrilla gardening” around trees on our pavements too!
6. Get creative!
With non-essential shops closed to the public during lockdown and (for some of us) more time on our hands, many of us have enjoyed getting creative at home by reusing, recycling and reducing our waste and consumption habits. Of course, this has revealed some great hacks and ways to get thrifty with everything from making homemade copycat beverages, enjoying home-made toiletries and revamping our wardrobe with a few small amendments.
In fact, being restricted to purchasing only essential items during our weekly shop has also brought attention to our harmful consumer habits. In this increasingly high-consumption world of fast fashion and trend-led shopping, lockdown came with a much-needed wake-up call to change this consumer culture!
It’s now vital that we take stock of what’s a necessity and what is – to put it bluntly – a waste of energy and resources. We know that our consumer habits have a massive impact on world carbon emissions and therefore as shops begin to slowly open again, we need to be mindful of the impact of our behaviour on the environment.
So before you buy those new jeans or set of plastic-packaged soaps, ask yourself: do I really need this? Can I make this at home? Can I get this from a charity shop? Is there a more environmentally-friendly alternative? And don’t be mistaken: this all applies to online shopping too!
Treading gently on this Earth
At its core, Islam advocates for a mindful coexistence with the Earth, in which people work in harmony with nature and not against it. In the holy Qur’an, Allah (SWT) describes humans as the custodians of the earth or the protectors and calls for Muslims to tread gently on the Earth:
“And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace…” (25:63)
Therefore as Muslims, it’s our religious obligation to do all we can to protect the planet from the harmful effects of climate change. From changing our own personal habits to advocating for climate action, every action we take to look after God’s Creation is, in essence, an act of worship.
So, as we reflect on the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown, let’s not be in a hurry to return to “normality” pre-Covid. We must remember to make critical changes to protect the wellbeing of not just ourselves but the whole planet.
Whilst the Coronavirus sadly continues to impact heavily on the global population and each and every one of us, unfortunately so too does climate change.
So, let’s be mindful of this as we move forward and work towards a healthier happier planet for everyone and every living thing.