The number of COVID-19 cases is rising exponentially across the world and so too the death toll, prompting public officials to implement lockdown measures across cities and whole nations and encouraging citizens to follow social isolation guidelines such as washing and sanitising hands. staying away from social gatherings and events, avoiding public transport, working remotely and staying at home whenever possible.
The outcome of staying at home and practicing social isolation, however, brings about a sad irony – our planet is healing. With shops and restaurants closing and more people working from home, there are fewer private cars on the road and most planes have ground to a halt all of which have contributed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and environmental protection. Pollution has eased up and carbon emissions have been dramatically cut, a result that harrowing years of climate negotiations had been unable to achieve before COVID-19.
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In response to COVID-19, Earth Hour events have been cancelled at landmarks around Australia including the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Luna Park Sydney and Melbourne. Instead, WWF will host Earth Hour a little differently this year, giving people everywhere the chance to still get involved in one of the world’s largest and longest running grassroots environmental movements via a digital livestream – #EarthHourLive.
This year for the first time on Saturday 28 March at 8.30pm local time, WWF will livestream Earth Hour, kicking off with live crosses to lights out from around the the world, performances from musicians, comedians and other special guests.
Earth Hour 2020 will be a digital-only event to protect the community in line with government COVID-19 requirements, so that everyone can safely get involved with Earth Hour from the comfort of their homes.
“Staying connected as a community and looking for positive ways we can contribute is more important than ever as the world responds to the coronavirus crisis,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman.
“This year will be dramatically different as we all strive to control the spread of COVID-19. Many of us will be spending our Saturday night at home, but we can still connect to a community of supporters around Australia and be part of a positive moment for the planet.
“Nature is the planet’s life support system and gives us everything we need; from the air we breathe, to the water we drink, to the food we eat. If managed properly and protected, nature can provide an immediate, cost-effective, scalable and durable solution to address climate change.”
Launched in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour has grown to become one of the world’s largest grassroots environmental movements, inspiring individuals, businesses and groups to take action to protect the environment. Now in its 14th year, the event is observed in 188 countries and over 7,000 cities are expected to participate.
But switching off the lights is just one action to take. Here are some other things you can do to make Earth Hour the most effective one yet.
Sustainable dining practices
One-third of all the food produced globally is wasted. With the coronavirus lockdown causing mass hysteria and causing people to panic-buy and hoard essential supplies such as toilet paper, pasta and tinned food, this is an opportunity for people to implement sustainable dining practices: shop locally-grown produce, cook at home, eat leftovers, use up produce and make their food supply stretch for as long as possible. Doing this will help to reduce emissions –22% of it attributed to the agricultural industry– and thus mitigate climate change.
So the next time you hit the supermarket, choose organic produce, ease up on junk loaded with preservatives and opt for fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meats and follow social distancing measure when you’re in the shops.
Reduce plastic waste
Now is the time to reduce your waste by bulk buying, avoiding single-use items and doing-it-yourself.
So start planning your grocery trips and bring your reusable produce bags and shopping bags with you. Bulk buy toilet paper or install a bidet. Make your own cleaning products and reuse the spray bottles you already have at home. Wash with bar soap and water. Replace shampoo and conditioner bottles with shampoo bars. Swap out your disposables with reusables.
Check out this comprehensive list of zero waste swaps to live a low waste life while also self-isolating.
Switch to green energy
This coronavirus outbreak has forced families to stay at home while observing social distancing protocols. This is the time to switch to a green energy provider since you will be using more electricity and gas than you otherwise would be since you’re spending more time at home.
This is also the perfect time for the family to bond. Maybe repair a strained relationship with your partner or call the sibling you hardly see? Use this time to form stronger relationships with each member of the family and don’t forget to encourage them to switch their lights off for Earth Hour too!
The coronavirus has been deadly for some and caused much grief for families who have lost loved ones, but there is little doubt it has also been a blessing in disguise for the environment. The pandemic has also forced individuals to slow down and reevaluate their priorities; spending time with loved ones, eating healthier, improving mental health and maintaining a fitness routine.
So use this time to stay home, save lives and don’t forget to help save the planet by switching off your lights and committing to sustainable lifestyle changes this Earth Hour.
Earth Hour is on Saturday March 28 from 8.30pm to 9.30pm local time. The #EarthHourLive stream can be viewed on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram and at earthhour.org.au/earth-hour-live.
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Feature image of Earth Hour at Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra. Image supplied by WWF-Australia.