Helping the Environment During a Pandemic

by Shreya Birudavolu ’24

Source: Joyce Wang ’22

Published Feb. 24st, 2021

The pandemic has affected many areas of life, but one that is less discussed is how it has affected the environment and how we can help as individuals. Although we may not be able to do everything we used to, there are still some simple and easy ways to make a difference from our own homes.

One of the main effects of the pandemic on the environment is an increased use of energy. A survey of MHS students showed that 56.3% of students always leave their charger in the outlet when their device is no longer charging. With online learning and the increased use of technology, it becomes more important than ever to reduce energy consumption through smaller actions like taking chargers out of outlets and unplugging unused electronics. 

While energy consumption is definitely a pertinent issue, it is not the only one—water pollution is also a major factor of the environmental problem. 80% of the world’s untreated wastewater is dumped back into the environment, polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans. Each year, unsafe drinking water kills more people than war and all other forms of violence combined. 

So how can we help? A simple, yet highly beneficial, thing to do is to review the chemicals in the cleaning products you use, such as cleaning sprays, soaps, shampoos, dishwashers, and detergents. Many of these products contain chemicals like phosphorus, nitrogen, and ammonia that can harm our waterways. Though wastewater treatment facilities help, some chemicals can still end up in our rivers and negatively affect sensitive freshwater systems. During the pandemic, we have been using more of these products. Now is the perfect time to start reviewing the chemicals we are using, so that we can lessen our impact on our waters. You can even make your own homemade disinfectants!

In addition, due to the pandemic, many of us have been forced to work from home, so why not bring the outdoors inside with house plants? There are many benefits of having house plants: not only do they reduce carbon dioxide, but they also increase humidity, reduce levels of pollutants, cushion outdoor noise, reduce dust, and keep the temperature down. Studies show that they even improve your overall mood and help people to feel less stressed, more productive, and all-around happier.  

And finally, we can do our best to support eco-friendly companies. As consumers, we have the power to support environmentally-friendly companies who sustainably source their products. Many of these companies use a portion of their proceeds to take action against the environmental crisis, ensuring that your money will be used for a good cause.

It may seem like things like unplugging a device and buying a plant couldn’t possibly make a difference, but our actions as individuals have more of an impact than we think. When asked who they think should be responsible for helping the environment, 58.4% of MHS students said they believe everyone should do their part, including industries, the government, and individuals. All of these little things can add up to collective change and make a difference in the world. 

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