Environment and the Pandemic Pause

By Raman Solanki

As I click leave meeting on my yet another prolonged Zoom call, I couldn’t help but look out the window to relax my eyes that have been under immoderate strain lately. Outside the window I admire the John Hancock building shimmering the Boston skyline, but something seems bizarre in the New England air.

The skyline seems vividly clear! I rub my eyes to ascertain it is not a mirage or a side effect of staring at my reflection on my laptop screen. I also see fewer cars out on the street and fewer planes in the sky. The entire city seems to be on pause!

This pause has not only happened in the environment but in my own life. From not refueling my hybrid car often to an imminent pause on air-travel, this great pause can also be a catalyst to a great-recalibration in my life.

From the death of Justice to the orange sky, my TV screen is full of how bad the 2020 environment has become. How it is now or never to be the change we wish to sustain in this world. I have discovered the following five actions one can do during this pandemic-pause for the environment.

1. Review the chemicals in cleaning products: I am sure the last time you bought a cleaning product (like soaps, shampoos, dishwasher, detergent etc.) you didn’t look at the chemicals it contain. This pandemic pause has given me some extra time to review the chemicals in my cleaning products as many of them contain chemicals such as phosphorus, nitrogen and ammonia that can harm our rivers and lakes. While our waste treatment facilities do an amazing job to remove most containment, some like triclosan, which is harmful to aquatic organism still end up in our rivers.

2. Plant native or acclimatized plants to promote biodiversity: Did you know you can limit the amount of runoff entering our local waterways? Planting a rain garden using native plant species is a great way to help limit the amount of pollution that makes its way into the river.

3. Support local business and reduce carbon footprint: This pandemic has been harsh on everyone especially small businesses. Instead of ordering a product online to be shipped across the country, consider buying from local businesses. Many local businesses have option on their websites for pick-up or delivery within a few mile radius. It is not only an amazing way to help the local economy and reduce carbon footprint, but it is also a great opportunity to get to know people in your own local community.

4. Unplugging unused electronics: Now this one might be a bit hard to do, especially during this pandemic. We are all browsing Tik-Toks (while we can) or in our Zoom-room trying to understand what the speaker is saying as the voice keeps breaking up. It is imperative to unplug our unused electronics to save some dollars and reduce our effect on nature.

5. Reduce your meat consumption: There are myriad benefits of eating less meat. The adverse health effects of beef and pork have been well documented and health professionals have recommended consuming less of these meats. This pandemic pause has given us more time to advocate and active our diligence of what goes in our fridge.

These are unprecedented times indeed and they have given us more time to self-introspect. As the Boston skyline clears due to the new normal, I look forward to the next-normal, a better-normal.

About the Author: Raman Solanki is the Vice-President of the Harvard Extension School Environment Club