As the 50th anniversary of Earth Day comes around, the world is in a very tough situation at the moment. The pandemic we are going through has been drastically changing the lives of everyone around the world and causing lots of harm and stress to many people. However, instead of focusing on the negative effects of this pandemic, we wanted to bring some positivity by trying to look at the one silver lining. Although humans are facing serious challenges during these times, the earth is temporarily getting to breathe and heal again.
As we are all well aware by now, many places around the globe are facing mandatory shutdowns and telling residents to stay home. This has led to a large decline in the demand for transportation and a slowdown in manufacturing along with some other side effects. The outcome of all of this has been a drastic drop in emissions and the demand for coal and oil is lower than it has been in a very long time. Some research from the University of Melbourne has shown drastic improvements in the quality of both air and water due to this decrease in pollution.
In China,according to the Chinese ministry of Ecology and Environment, the air quality went up by 11.4% when measured across 337 cities compared to the previous year. This is due to emissions falling by 25% at the beginning of the year and coal use falling by an impressive 40% as well. A similarly positive picture has been painted in Europe, with Satellite images showing Nitrogen Oxide emissions fading away over Italy, Spain, and the UK. Yet another benefit that has been observed with the reduction in emissions, has been the acceleration in the healing of the hole in our Ozone layer. With less harmful gasses being polluted into our atmosphere, it has given our ozone layer the necessary break it needed to accelerate its healing process. As a result, the hole is now smaller than it has ever been since 1982.
Despite all of these positive effects, they are only impacting our environment in the short term. When normal life will resume, there will be additional environmental implications.
The future is in our hands.
The biggest environmental takeaway from this pandemic is that our actions have a drastic impact on the environment. Seeing that our actions can help shape our future, should give us hope and motivate us as a society. If we want to take advantage of the positive effects on our environment, we will need to work together to make them last long-term. Although it is not feasible from an economic standpoint to reduce our emissions long-term to the point that they are now, there are smaller changes we can implement that will have a significant impact long-term.
A 2018 study led by Corinne Moser at Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland found that when people were unable to drive and were given free e-bike access instead, they drove much less when they eventually got their car back. While a study in 2001 led by Satoshi Fujii at Kyoto University in Japan found that when a motorway closed, forcing drivers to use public transit, the same thing happened – when the road reopened, people who had formerly been committed drivers travelled by public transport more frequently.
Both of these examples are ways in which humans adapted to their circumstances in a manner that benefited both the environment and their health by becoming more active. These are just two simple ways that have been studied and found to help our climate. There are plenty more ways in which both businesses and individuals can implement small changes, that combined will have a large positive impact.
It’s our time to make a difference
Bouncing back as a society will take time and it might be a difficult task for some businesses and individuals. However, after being beaten down as a global community by this pandemic, it will be time to rebuild together. This is the time to take action and initiative to build a better environmental tomorrow for all of us and for future generations to come. While there are many ways we can take actions in our individual lives, and many policies that should be implemented to make a difference, we want to focus on what we know best, and that is the reduction of paper.
While we could sit here and talk about all of the benefits of digitization, we understand that is not a route that every business or individual is comfortable with at the moment. So in light of that we want to provide some general information on why we think paper waste is an issue, what are some ways to mitigate that.
For starters, It is estimated that in North America, about 40% of waste is paper. This is a significant figure, because although it is a useful product, it is harmful for the air, land and water. Over 30 million acres of forest are destroyed annually to harvest wood that is used to produce paper. Taking away all these trees not only reduces the quality of the air but also takes away the habitat of all the species that live in those forests. Taking away those forests means ruining entire ecosystems.
On top of cutting down all those trees, for a single A4 sheet of paper to be produced, it takes about 10 litres of water. And if the production process isn’t damaging enough to the environment, when paper isn’t recycled it ends up being burned, a process that emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere adding to the air pollution. As a whole, the paper industry is the 5th largest consumer of energy in the world. Focusing on cutting down on the use of paper would have a significant impact on the environment and on the air that we breathe.
In order to help reduce paper waste, here are 10 ways you can mitigate paper waste:
- Think before you print
- Take electronic notes
- Try and change as many of your bills or invoices as possible to electronic ones
- Always choose electronic receipts over printed ones
- Keep recycling bins easily accessible
- Only use recycled paper for printing needs
- Use both sides of paper instead of printing single-sided
- Reduce unsolicited paper mail as much as possible
- When a paper document is necessary, use single spacing to minimize the amount of pages used in the document.
- Finally, encourage your employees, coworkers, friends, and family to follow the tips mentioned above
We hope you find these tips useful and that you consider giving them a try! If you have any additional tips you’d like to share with us, we’d love to hear them in the comments below.
From the Polar Imaging team, we wish you a happy Earth day!