The Green Lining of Social Distancing

With a new global pandemic in full-swing, we find ourselves living in unprecedented and fearsome times. For every fumble and misstep from governments around the world, there have been equal numbers of amazing scientific advancements in our understanding of the COVID-19 virus and how best to mitigate its impact. Unless you’ve been living in a hole, you’ve noticed a massive shift in the narrative away from containment and toward a strategy of mitigation. Shoot, even ISIS is warning it’s fighters to hunker down.

Solid evidence-based policy based on scientific research has introduced us all a hot new coupling of words: social distancing. The idea is that we should all limit our contact with other humans as much as possible in order to slow down the rates of transmission. At this point, it’s assumed that pretty much every human on planet earth will contract the virus, and for many of us, the symptoms will feel like the flu at worst or maybe even nothing at all, at best. However, for people over the age of 60, those who are immunocompromised, and/or have other significant comorbidities, especially those relating to respiratory health such as asthma and COPD, the risk of developing severe symptoms requiring hospitalization and even death is far greater.

Obviously, if you are feeling unwell and experiencing flu-like symptoms you need to stay home to prevent infecting the truly vulnerable. What if you are feeling well? Should you still practice social distancing? Absolutely! Perhaps one of the most insidious aspects of the COVID-19 virus is its ability to be transmitted even before you develop symptoms. This sneaky trick, combined with only causing mild symptoms among so much of the population, is certainly the major reason for its ability to continually evade containment efforts and become the global pandemic we are currently living through.

If we all practice social distancing we should be able to slow down the rates of infection to the point where hospitals do not become overwhelmed which would cause the number of deaths to be far greater simply due to an acute lack of resources. Read more about “flattening the curve” here. Staying home can literally save lives. And guess what? There’s a green lining as well.

Here is a quick list to motivate your inner greenie to help keep you socially distant:

  • Eating out is very wasteful– the waste associated with eating out has been well documented. From what so many of us leave on our plates to the enormous amounts of food waste we don’t see from the back of the house. Food waste has a particularly ugly carbon footprint since its production and delivery to your plate is so energy-intensive. Once you consider the fertilizers, pesticides, and the physical space (think of land clearing) that all go into food production, the numbers add up quickly. Then add to that the carbon cost of storage (refrigeration, freezing, etc.), transportation and packaging of all that food and you can start to appreciate why so many hardcore greenies skip out on eating so often. So go for that multi-course meal you’ve seen online or in a magazine or simply whip up one of your tried and true classics. Either way, the earth will be thanking you.
  • Staying in means driving less- This one is pretty straight forward. First off, there’s the gas you won’t burn. But along with that goes reduced wear and tear on your car. Ever kilometer/mile you drive brings you closer to needing new tires, new oil, new filters, new belts, etc. Each of those items have their own carbon footprint associated with them, plus you save money!
  • COVID-19 infection isn’t the only one- While the northern hemisphere is nearing the end of its cold and flu season, the southern hemisphere is just getting ready. Already, cases of influenza-A are being reported at hospitals around Australia and other southern nations. Guess what? Social distancing will prevent the spread of the flu, the common cold, and numerous other infections. Not only does this have a great social benefit there are cost and carbon savings here too! Enormous resources are needed to keep hospitals in working order. Believe it or not, a study has been published on the carbon footprint of healthcare. The more we can reduce the burden on our healthcare systems by limiting the transmission of infectious diseases the more lives we will save and carbon we will keep out of the atmosphere. It’s a win-win!

So if you’re having trouble with the isolation, remember not only are you saving lives, you’re doing a good turn for the environment as well!