With people all across the globe being required to stay indoors, coronavirus lockdown inspires people to adopt sustainable living habits. Companies and business practices have had to change, as they can no longer carry on business as usual. Quarantines have forced us to adjust to a new way of life. Could something good have come out of this pandemic after all?

This ‘eco wake-up call’ spreads out across many fields. From people beginning to question the use of animal products to city-dwellers craving the fresh, unpolluted air. Health and wellbeing is at the top of everyone’s list of priorities, and recent studies have shown that more people are wanting to make eco-friendly lifestyle choices. The main obstacles being simply not knowing where to start and the accessibility of a sustainable lifestyle during these times.

Consumers Are Learning To Make More Conscious Choices

Coronavirus Inspires Sustainable Living Habits

The awareness of conscious consumption has been kicked into overdrive during the pandemic. Staying at home has inspired people (and not given us much choice otherwise) to break out of their comfort zones and replace their boredom with fun eco-activities. We have seen people experiment with making their own natural cleaning products, start backyard composting, reuse items they would normally throw away and jump aboard the home-baked bread trend. The restrictions on work have put many people under financial restraint and insecurity, meaning more people are saving money that would otherwise be spent on mindless shopping.

Readers have stated that their home clear-outs have led to them rediscovering items they had forgotten about. Many said that they did not realise how much excess stuff they had accumulated, and that they felt a sense of relief when adopting new minimalist practices. A recent UK survey showed that 44% of people have pledged to cut back on their spending, while 82% are making more sustainable purchases (Accenture, 2020). 1 in 3 people have ranked sustainability as a major component when making purchasing decisions.

The Great Decluttering of 2020 – Many people adopted minimalism and Marie Kondo style organising during quarantine.

Another recent survey conducted in the US by OnePoll, showed that 70% became more aware of their unsustainable home habits. 64% of the 2000 Americans whom participated said they have had an ‘eco wake-up call’ since the start of pandemic. In particular, people were taking steps towards reducing their food waste, using less paper products and questioning the ethics of animal consumption.

We hope this ethical revolution of consumer behaviour is going to stick around!

Read Next ⫸ What Is A ‘Conscious Consumer’ & Why It Matters

Survey conducted by OnePoll for Avocado Green Brands (April 14-17 2020) with a sample of 2000 Americans.

People Are Eating Less Meat

Coronavirus Inspires Sustainable Living Habits

Along with the home-baking trend, more people are exploring vegetarian and vegan alternatives in their diets. There has been a sharp increase in the organic foods market, local veg-boxes and plant-based foods. These foods are seen as healthier, safer and more environmentally friendly. A Mintel report recently revealed that 25% of British people asked said that a plant-based diet was more appealing to them during the coronavirus pandemic.

US trade group, Plant Based Foods Association, said that they saw a 90% rise in plant-based food sales at the start of the pandemic. UK retailers, The Vegan Kind, stated that vegan-meat sales spiked 148% compared to the previous year, while vegan cheese sales rose by 95% and Tofu sales hit an 88% growth.

These changes are partly due to restrictions on normal food supplies in supermarkets and closure of restaurants. However, the majority of people who were asked in a survey for the International Food Information Council, stated that they switched to plant-based alternatives due to health concerns.

People Are Questioning The Use Of Animal Products

Coronavirus Inspires Sustainable Living Habits

COVID-19 is a ‘zoonotic’ disease, meaning it originates in animals and can be spread onto humans. It is believed to have been spread through the Wuhan ‘wet market’ in China, which sells many exotic, endangered and illegally trafficked animals. But this is not the first time a virus has been spread from animal consumption to humans. Many of us will remember that in 2003, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus (also known as SARS) affected over 8,000 people and caused an estimate of 800 deaths across 32 countries. Other diseases of animal-origin such as HIV, Ebola, and H5N1 influenza are still very much alive today.

The earliest cases of infected people with SARS and COVID-19 were those who had handled, prepared and sold infected animals. These cases were amongst people who had purchased or consumed wildlife from infected areas, and those who lived nearby. Animal diseases spread more easily when the animal is sick, stressed, or stored in unsanitary conditions (such as stacked cages). Such viruses and diseases are not only spread by eating meat, but through touch and air-borne transmission. Meaning an infected animal that is used for meat, dairy, traditional medicine, wild pets, bone (such as ornaments and jewellery), fur or skin can also transmit infection.

Knowing this is enough to put anyone off their food.

Zoonotic diseases threaten not only human health but economic development, animal well-being and ecosystem integrity – UN Environmental Programme

The OnePoll survey claimed that 66% of Americans began to think twice before eating meat and consuming other animal products. People are starting to question the ways in which animals are being treated and our unhealthy dependency on them. Public awareness rose in the US, with the release of President Trump’s announcement to kept slaughterhouses open during the pandemic. This decision was made despite the alarmingly high transmission rates at a number of these slaughterhouses. Employees were being forced to go to work even after reporting having coronavirus symptoms, putting employees and consumers at a high risk. A major slaughterhouse was announced as being the ‘biggest coronavirus hot spot in the country’ by The New York Times.

Public awareness of the connection between animal agriculture and climate change has also increased. Animal agriculture is the second largest contributor of all human-induced GHG emissions after fossil fuels, representing 14.5 percent. The production of animal feed, land use, processing and the livestock’s digestive processes (methane release) create a huge environmental disaster. Animal agriculture is a leading cause of deforestation, excessive use of resources, air and waterway pollution as well as biodiversity loss. Cattle (beef and dairy) farming alone contributes to 65% of the sectors emissions.

Climate Change Is A Priority In The Recovery After Coronavirus

Coronavirus Inspires Sustainable Living Habits

The pandemic has heightened people’s awareness of environmental challenges such as climate change, pollution and waste. A recent survey by BCG found that 70% of participants were more aware now than ever before of the connection between human activity and climate change. It became very obvious that when all normal human activity was put on hold during lockdowns, the environment in which they lived started to change, for the better.

With nobody in the streets, wildlife ventured further into towns to reclaim their land. With the lack of vehicles on the roads and industrial businesses closed, air pollution in many countries has improved. Delhi’s city-dwellers could finally see blue skies through the thick smog, for the first time in years. Even the Venice canals ran clear and new life started to appear. It was hard not to notice these positive changes.

In the UK, cities saw a dramatic decrease in air pollution, as much as 60% compared to 2019. While in New York, NO₂ levels (Nitrogen Dioxide) dropped by 30% and in China they fell by 25%. The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that approximately 7 million people die of air pollution related illness. While 91% of the world’s population are still living in areas where air quality is below their guideline limits.

So the real question is, will these environmental improvements have a long-term affect?

Getting Back To A ‘New Normal’

Coronavirus Inspires Sustainable Living Habits

It has been over a year since the first outbreak of COVID-19 and many countries have already lifted restrictions in hope to return to some sort of normalcy. But is going back to the way things were really the best option for human health and our planet? The World Health Organization thinks not, and that a ‘new normal’ is a vital stepping stone towards a ‘new future’.

We have already adapted our daily lifestyle habits by wearing masks, hand hygiene and working from home. And many of us have pledged to carry on our newly found sustainable habits. 81% of participants from the OnePoll survey said that they were dedicated to sticking with them.

Experts believe that working from home is here to stay and many businesses have already made permanent changes to working patterns. Many companies are ditching the 9-5 office structure and giving employees the choice. A recent survey by Slack, revealed that 72% of 9000 workers preferred a ‘hybrid’ approach to work, with a choice between working remote and at the office. Those long commutes to work and back are a thing of the past, which means a decrease in transport related carbon emissions.

Remote working is the new norm and it is here to stay.

The positive environmental impacts we have witnessed may serve as an inspiration for a sustainable future. The global lockdowns have proved that a united approach to climate change is possible, and can be readily implemented by countries in times of disaster. The improvements of environmental conditions across the globe is an indicator that the planet’s degradation caused by human activity can be reversed (with visible improvements in as little as 2-3 months).

Society is adaptable and if the pandemic has taught us anything it is that a strong community is the key to overcoming future struggles. People are willing to help each other and can deal with big change, even sacrifices, when it is crucial for the protection of public health. Climate change is a public health crisis as it affects not only the planet, but every single person on it.

Shifting towards a greener economy provides greater opportunities for governments, investors and businesses at the same time addresses environmental sustainability and economic growth challenges‘ – Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, World Green Economy Organization

Coronavirus Inspires Sustainable Living Habits

We have the opportunity now to reinvent a new future for ourselves and the planet. Recovering from this pandemic is going to require a commitment towards reshaping global economic activities in the direction of a green economy. Businesses and investors, now more than ever, have the chance to invest in more sustainable solutions for economic growth and developments in greener technologies and practices.

Taking the necessary steps towards a circular economy will take time and is not easy. But the reward will be a world with less social injustices and environmental degradation. And instead an economy that supports a sustainable future for people and planet.

Read Next ⫸ How Coronavirus Pandemic Has Impacted Food Security