Coronavirus and the Climate

Coronavirus and the Climate

View profile for Bryony Cole
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Over the last couple of years, like many people, I have been trying to make changes to more sustainable and eco-friendly products. Back in the office, before COVID-19 turned everything upside down, we had our very own Green Team leading the way. However during a litter pick with a local group recently, collecting up discarded masks and copious amounts of tissues and wet wipes, the Extinction Rebellion protests (July 2019) and Greta’s march on the Bristol City Council buildings (February 2020), both of which we had front row seats to from the our office in Central Bristol, seem a lifetime ago.

Many people saw the decrease of pollution as a silver lining during lockdown. The canals of Venice cleared[1] and video after video of animals roaming the city streets were shared. In Bristol, plans to ban diesel vehicles from the city centre have been shelved as the lack of commuters has already led to the drop in air population they were working to achieve[2].

But as good as this news was, as we creep further out of lockdown and into the “new normal” we need to ensure we continue to take steps to combat climate change, and not just move the problems away from the city centres and into our local communities.

Many of us have been spending more time in our green spaces, and as a result, I have seen countless bins overflowing with litter. While the local councils need to respond to this new high use and have more collections, we can all help by taking our rubbish home, or simply carrying our litter to an emptier bin. Before the rule of 6 came into force we managed to have a few socially distanced park meet-ups with our colleagues. Each time David not only supplied the drinks, but also collected up the empties to put in his recycling box at home.

Another reason for the bins getting so full is the increased use of takeaway cups and containers as many cafes are not able to safely allow people to sit in. I have never actually bought a reusable cup after seeing a short report about how Italians drink coffee[3] that said they never have a takeaway. Instead they always sit in, even if it’s just for a minute (helped by the fact they generally drink espresso) as the coffee itself is just part of the ritual, a pause in the day, which I loved.

We also have a shelf of reusable cups in our office kitchen for anyone who needed to pop-up out for a caffeine boost (orange cups of course). However, as the café in one of my favourite local spots is one of those only doing takeaway cups, I have now invested in my own reusable cup, and happily enjoyed two cups of tea last time I was there.

And of course, let’s not forget the facemask. I haven’t been for a single walk in the last month or so without seeing at least one discarded on the floor and it’s reported that huge numbers are washing up on shorelines[4]. There are many places to buy good quality reusable masks, as well as clever crafty folk making their own. You can even contact David for your very own Conscious snood! As well as helping the environment, I think seeing a colourful array of masks is a much nicer experience than everyone wearing the plain white ones, after all they are replacing our smiles! Just remember to wash them regularly and not to judge those without them as it may be for a hidden medical condition.

For many of us our local communities really were our offices. Although we’re still connected online, I think it’s really helpful for us to join groups where we live, and now work, to help continue the fight against climate change. An added benefit is feeling we are taking some control in these uncharted times, as well as the possibility of much needed face to face contact.

My neighbourhood has a local Facebook Group as well as using the Nextdoor App[5]. On there we have discussed ideas such as setting up an ‘Amazon day’ so that non-urgent deliveries all come on the same day (hopefully with the same driver), successfully opposed the felling of trees by the river to make way for a new phone mast and arranged the litter pick I joined.

If your local area doesn’t already have something maybe you can devote your old commute time to starting one. I’m sure there are many people in houses surrounding you who would be keen to connect and contribute.

If you need a reminder about why it is so important for us to combat climate change now, I recommend watching David Attenborough’s latest programmes, Extinction: The Facts[6] (BBC) and A Life in Our Planet (Netflix).