Cleaner Water and Air: Coronavirus and the Environment


photo from NASA used by creative commons license

One of the most positive side effects of the corona virus has been a temporary improvement on air and water quality in many places around the world.

Many of us have been understandably focusing on the negatives that COVID-19 has brought us, and let’s face it, the negatives certainly outweigh any positives.

However, there is at least one major positive outcome that COVID-19 has caused: human impact on our planet.

Since the Coronavirus shutdown we have seen a major global reduction in air pollution, water pollution, and overall waste. Essentially, humans have been giving our overstressed planet a much appreciated break.

Travel has been greatly reduced due to social distancing, and this has not only brought gas prices down drastically, it has also lowered emissions. This especially applies to public transport such as planes and buses. These means of transportation are no longer safe without risking spreading COVID-19.

The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) says that China’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel consumption were reduced by 25% because of measures taken to contain the coronavirus.

There has also been a noticeable change in waterways that have been used less in areas where social distancing is prevalent.

One example of this can be found in the canals of Venice, Italy. According to the BBC, the waterways of Venice have become visibly more clear due to a lack of travel on these canals. There has even been a resurgence of dolphins in the area since the canals are not crowded by boats.

Another way the environment is positively impacted by the Coronavirus is through reduced consumption of consumer goods.

Since people are only supposed to leave the house for essential goods, this reduces trash spawned by spontaneous shopping trips. Not as many people are buying luxury goods, so there is not a demand for mass production for nonessentials at the moment, which in the long run will reduce novelty products that would have likely ended up in landfills.

More home cooking will also positively affect the environment.

Dine-in is no longer an option, and people are out and about a lot less, so trash produced from fast food and takeout places has seen a decline. Additionally, stores and restaurants that are still open are for the most part closing much earlier. This helps to reduce both vehicle and power plant emissions and single use container waste.

In essence, COVID-19 has had devastating effects on our lives, but for the environment it’s not so bad.

As a tree hugger, and an optimist, it brings me joy that our planet is experiencing reduced air pollution, water pollution, and trash thanks to this unfortunate virus.  Maybe it will inspire us to take better care of the environment when this is all over.