fruit at a farmer's market - environmental sustainbility

COVID-19 And Environmental Sustainability In America

Since the implementation of social distancing regulations in March, many homebound Americans have taken a close look at their consumption and waste habits. Moreover, almost everyone has faced scarcity of essential goods such as toilet paper, paper towels, medical respirators, disinfectant spray, hand sanitizer, hand soap, eggs, and even beef, pork, and poultry. This is likely the first such experience for many millions of middle- and upper-class Americans. Consequently, privileged members of a society that has wallowed in excess for two generations or more must now count calories for non-aesthetic reasons; must abide by volume purchase restrictions at grocery stores; must be mindful of how many times they wipe and how much paper they wipe with.

Also, Americans are now generating a greatly increased proportion of food and packaging waste in their own homes as opposed to in restaurants, cafes, hotels, and schools. As a result, they are gaining new insights regarding how much trash they create and how many nutritious items they just toss in the garbage. Furthermore, by shining a spotlight on intense COVID-19 outbreaks in meatpacking facilities across the nation, the media has raised awareness of the unhealthy, unsafe conditions that many essential workers in the food supply chain face.

With two months of altered perspective under their belts, Americans are generally not happy with what they have observed. And, a notable new poll suggests that most want to do something about it.

A new poll regarding environmental sustainability in America

According to a recent survey of 2,000 people, 64% of Americans have been inspired by their quarantine experiences to make eco-friendly changes to their behaviors. These results come from a study conducted by market research firm OnePoll and commissioned by bedding and furniture company Avocado Green Mattress. Here is some additional breakdown of the measured impacts of quarantine:

  • 55% of Americans are recycling more;
  • 43% are using fewer paper products;
  • 44% are reducing food waste;
  • 66% are more concerned about the ethical treatment of livestock;
  • 58% have reduced their meat intake;
  • and 88% believe it is important to teach children to live in an eco-conscious way.

Small steps you can take to make a difference

While some Americans choose to be exceptionally “green” in their everyday behavior, one need not adhere to an extreme diet or vastly restrict his or her indulgences in order to make a difference. Vice recently compiled a list of simple ways to lead a more environmentally sustainable life, including:

  • Prepare A Meal Plan:
    You will be more conscientious in your grocery shopping and less likely to waste food.
  • Use Reusable Grocery Bags:
    You will create less paper and plastic waste and eliminate the chance of coronavirus infection from store-supplied materials.
  • Purchase Local Produce And Meats:
    This will reduce your carbon footprint because the products do not have to be chilled and transported long distances. And, if you buy at a farmers market, you will be wasting less packaging and supporting the growers and ranchers who need it most.
  • Avoid Disposable Utensils:
    Obviously, this reduces unnecessary landfill waste when you order meals for take-away.
  • Set A Timer On Your Air Conditioner:
    This action will lower your energy bill and contribute to a reduction in the burning of fossil fuels.
A cell phone on top of a bag with a recycle symbol - environmental sustainability in America

Governmental deregulation during the pandemic

It is worth noting that these environmentally friendly trends among consumers are coming at a time when the governments of some of the world’s largest industrial nations, including the US and China, are relaxing regulations on pollution and the burning of fossil fuels. ELEVATION has already reported on the concern that such measures will derail “green” international growth strategies and undo the ecological benefits of transportation limitations and industrial slow-downs that have occurred during the pandemic.

Notably, at the end of March, President Trump announced that his administration would reverse vehicle pollution standards that were put in place by President Obama in 2012. The Obama rules would have required new cars and trucks to achieve a fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Mr. Trump has reduced that goal to just 37 miles per gallon, claiming that such deregulation will help automakers and reduce consumer prices.

However, some experts argue that the Trump order might have the opposite effect. Nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Consumer Reports has conducted an analysis showing that the measure will cost Americans $460 billion in fuel savings – the equivalent of an additional $0.63 per gallon gas tax. It will also cause 2 million fewer vehicle sales over the next 15 years.

These potential consequences, along with concerns about prolonged legal wrangling between the federal government and individual states, have compelled some leading auto manufacturers to oppose the proposed deregulation. In an unprecedented move, Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, and BMW recently formed a pact to cooperate with the state of California and to continue producing vehicles with efficiencies much closer to the Obama target than to the Trump threshold. The automakers want to avoid production redundancies and remain competitive in the global market, which continues to call for more efficient vehicles. Mercedes-Benz is reportedly preparing to join the pact as well.

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