While there has been much discussion on the economic impact caused by nationwide restrictions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, little has been said about the positive effects on the environment.
As it is well understood now, there is a clear link between global carbon dioxide emissions and human activity - transportation, industry, energy generation, and land use. Hence it is no surprise that when key parts of our everyday life (schools, gyms, offices, and more) are closed, remarked improvements in air quality are noted.
Looking ahead, while nobody knows when it will all be over, one thing is sure - we'll be able to learn from it in many ways.
Since the declaration of the pandemic,many businesses in the goods and service industry have had to close their doors or significantly reduce staff in compliance with social distancing guidelines. In other sectors work from home policies and virtual meeting software have been fully adopted to keep businesses going. Now, looking ahead, while nobody knows when it will all be over, one thing is sure - we'll be able to learn from it in many ways.
Building footprint can be reduced without affecting work
As a direct result of stay at home guidelines and the increased adoption of virtual meetings and online courses - organizations in the private and public sector are realizing that large building spaces are not essential to their operation.
So, what are the implications ? If post COVID-19, more organizations were to keep portions of their staff teleworking, many building meters would see reduced energy use, and in the long run fewer new buildings would be needed leading to reduced carbon emissions from both delivered energy and embedded carbon emissions associated with the buildings.
As increased numbers of the U.S. workforce transitions to full-time virtual teams, the reduced occupancy levels in buildings will likely lead to less cars on the road at any given time of the day.
Reduced travel is good for our wallets, our body and the environment
A recent article in USA Today cited Steve Harding, Director of Traffic and Connected Services at HERE Technologies as saying that "COVID-19 is having a rolling impact on traffic congestion across the U.S", with significant reductions in traffic levels across the country.
The decline in traffic is partly due to the reduction of commutes associated with everyday life activities such as going to work, school, gym, or the movie theater.
If reduced travel would take place year round, it would likely result in sustained reduction in air pollution from the transportation sector (14% of US emissions in 2010) and given that the average American spends 18 days driving per year, with an average of eight hours and 22 minutes per week on the road, drivers would likely experience less stress and fatigue as well as savings on on car insurance, maintenance, and fuel.