All of us began 2020 with bright goals and resolutions to accomplish within the next year and even decade; workout more, learn an instrument, travel the world. A lot has changed since we all made our resolutions over four months ago, but what didn’t change is the dire need to save the planet.

Today, April 22, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a day of great unity and history meant to spread environmental awareness. The first event, held in 1970, had 10% of the U.S. population participating making it the world’s largest civic event to date (Earth Day). Now, around one billion people take part in Earth Day activities around the world each year.

The day began as a unified response to an environmental crisis of oil spills, smog, and rivers catching on fire. It has continuously evolved and has even led to the passage of landmark environmental laws, such as The Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

The theme for Earth Day 2020 is climate action. Climate change has been one of the most pressing topics today and serves both great challenges and opportunities. The topic has been particularly brought up in light of the Coronavirus pandemic due to the global initiative of staying inside to prevent the spread of disease.

According to USA Today, cities have shown a decrease in air pollution since social distancing practices have been implemented. Emissions-detecting satellite images have shown lower levels of nitrogen dioxide, a gas most commonly released by automobiles, in major cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.

China also saw a drastic reduction in these levels across the country, especially around Wuhan. Dr. Fei Liu, a NASA air quality researcher, has observed that this reduction is more significant and has lasted longer than in past years.

Although improved air quality is a positive, it is only temporary because this method is not sustainable. By the time the virus is controlled, and people begin going back to work, the world’s nitrogen dioxide levels will go back up and continue to climb. However, it does not necessarily have to be that way.

The Coronavirus has greatly shone a light on the idea of impact in numbers. It may seem like individual impact does not make a difference, but the more people that get on board to take action for a more sustainable future, the greater the results can be. It took only a few weeks to decrease the amount of nitrogen in the air with everyone following social distancing protocols; if everyone were to do the same with even the most minor environmentally beneficial changes, we could have a healthier future for the generations to come. Take a look at some ways you can get involved on Earth Day and beyond.

Individual:

  • Set up a home garden. Home isolation has made many people desperate for things to do, so what better way to curb boredom than to start your own garden with plants like fruits, vegetables, and flowers!
  • Attend local environmental events (or host them!). It’s hard to do this during a nationwide pause on social interaction, but there are many other ways to get together with a community of people and improve the environment. Consider attending or hosting an online video discussion to brainstorm, or find socially-distanced volunteer opportunities.
  • Wash clothes in cold water
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle!
  • Unplug technology when it is not in use
  • Look for the Energy Star label when purchasing appliances
  • Consider swapping your home furnace for a heat pump – furnaces idle all day like a car.
  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs
  • Power your home with solar or wind – this is one of the best ways to fight climate change
  • Change the way you eat – try to eat less meat and choose local foods when possible
  • Carpool with coworkers or consider other ways of getting to work, such as public transpiration, biking, or walking
  • Make caring for the planet cool. Post on social media sharing ways that you help the planet – you may inspire someone!

Workplace:

  • Get reusable bottles for employees to help reduce plastic waste (and rep the company!)
  • Allow telecommuting. Social distancing as a result of COVID-19 has already made many businesses have to implement remote work plans if they haven’t already had them. This is the perfect time to find a plan that works for your company and start a telecommuting plan once America can go back to work.
  • Improve general air quality and brighten up the office with indoor plants
  • Power off computers at the end of every workday
  • Set up recycling bins in convenient areas around the office

In the end, everything we do individually and together does matter. Everything counts. Let’s hope that our current situation will help make us all create a brighter and better future ahead.