How can social distancing help the environment?

Amid the outbreak of the coronavirus, people across the globe are cutting back on travel and spending more time at home in an effort to flatten the curve. As citizens settle in to the great indoors, businesses and roads everywhere have fallen quiet, social gatherings have been postponed, and flights and road trips have been canceled. The silver lining in all of this? A decline in air pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases.

Reducing transportation emissions

Schools and universities are temporarily closed, and students are switching to remote learning platforms. Employees are spending their 9-to-5 at home. Conferences and concerts are being canceled or hosted online. With the virus rapidly spreading, reduced travel also equals reduced carbon emissions in communities where more and more people are spending time at home.

According to the U.S. EPA, transportation accounts for the largest portion of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions—cars, trucks, commercial aircraft, railroads and so on all contribute to the carbon emissions produced from this sector. When we cut back on flying, GHG emissions decrease significantly. According to The New York Times, experts say it takes eight years of recycling to offset the carbon emissions from one round-trip flight from New York to London.

Already planning ahead for when you can move around a bit more? Learn more about greener transportation strategies.

Increasing home energy use

However, although travel costs are significantly decreasing, our home energy expenditures may be increasing. Staying home may mean you’re using more heat and electricity in the house, depending on what the climate is in your current location. Fortunately, there are a few different ways you can minimize your energy use while you’re spending a bit more time social distancing.

1. Use your blinds to control the temperature of your space.

Use the sun’s natural heat to help keep your home warm and minimize how often your heat turn on throughout the day. If you’re living in a warmer climate, be sure to keep them closed to help decrease how often your air conditioning has to work to cool your space. Learn more about the energy efficiency benefits of window blinds.

2. Grab a blanket to save further on heating costs.

Keeping your thermostat on the lowest comfortable setting can help you save on heating costs, but it can also mean wearing a few more layers as you relax around the house. Instead of reaching for the thermostat when it gets a little chilly, try putting on warmer clothes, including sweaters and thick socks, and add an extra blanket to your bed. Check out how to keep heating costs low in winter.

3. Reduce, reuse, reycle.

Even though we’re not in our normal routines, remember to recycle your newspapers, beverage containers and other paper goods if there is a recycling program in your community. Be mindful of waste reduction strategies, and ensure you know what your local recycling guidelines are.

4. Be smart about water consumption.

Piling up on dishes with more meals and drinks at home? Try running the dishwasher only when there’s a full load. If you’re hand-washing your dishes, try not to leave the water running. Learn about ways to decrease your kitchen water use.

Find more sustainable tips and tricks in sustainable goals: New Year’s resolutions you won’t quit.

Cut carbon use even more at home