Think of the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear the word ‘environment.’ The answer, of course, varies from individual-to-individual, but I can say with some conviction that for many of us, it would not involve the area inside our houses.
The reason for this is simple. By focusing our attention solely on the overall global environmental impacts of human activities, we’ve begun to hope for singular, large-scale solutions to environmental crises.
These (e.g., global reductions in CO2 levels) are too large for us to implement alone, and so we wait helplessly for that miracle moment. However, COVID-19 pandemic has shown that this approach is passive. Immediate, small scale remedies undertaken at the individual level to environmental issues are the need of the hour—ones that can be localised to the home.
It’s no news that the COVID-19 pandemic took the world entirely by surprise. Underprepared, understaffed, and underequipped healthcare institutions struggled to deal with the speed and intensity of the outbreak globally. The global tally of COVID-19 cases rose from 121,000 on March 11 (when WHO declared the outbreak a global pandemic) over 20 million by early August. That’s an increase of 1600%!
To check the rapid spread of the Coronavirus, manufacturers worldwide engaged in the large-scale production of cheap plastic goods such as PPE kits, gloves, and masks. The negative environmental consequences of such processes were largely ignored. Once again, the human need was put above environmental welfare, and plastic pollution worldwide soared.
Experts fear that this will devastate natural ecosystems and wildlife across the world. Many animals are known to mistake discarded plastics as possible food items and consume them. This can have deadly consequences. What’s worse is that even if they don’t eat the plastic, they can still get harmed by it in various ways, for instance, getting strangled to death by accidentally getting fragments in their noses.
There have, however, been some positives to this pandemic. As humanity struggled like never before to deal with the consequences of national lockdowns, several countries reported reduced pollution levels. Also, they saw a resurgence in their animal and plant life. Major water bodies in countries like India and China became relatively cleaner as well.
Thus, while the ongoing pandemic has served as a painful reminder of some of the world’s worst environmental crises, it has also revealed that our planet is resilient.
We must quickly learn from the environmental implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last few months have demonstrated that environmental degradation and recovery are twin realities of modern existence. Our actions will decide which prevails over the other. If we are to save the planet, the time to act is now.
The home is where teens can start. Many aspects of the environment are connected with our daily domestic activities-from the food we eat, to the water we drink to even the paper we write on. Therefore, teens can contribute significantly to improving the environment by adhering to sustainable practices while doing household chores.
For instance, when learning to cook, they can pay particular attention to how much their family eats per meal. This will allow them to minimize food wastage when they make meals in the future. Cleaning too will become a less wasteful process if teens keep in mind that a single toilet flush uses 6-10 litres on average—almost three times what we drink per day.
More adventurous individuals can also begin small home gardens. This adds to the biodiversity of their area, but it will also sensitize them to the needs of local plant and shrub varieties.
Additionally, teens can also try to reduce chemical wastage in their homes. Though this is rarely looked into, most of the cleaning liquids, oils, and pesticides that we pour into kitchen sinks or gutters are incredibly harmful. They can easily contaminate water reservoirs if not properly disposed of. The easiest way to prevent this from happening is to use them in diluted solutions, especially if they are concentrates. Other prominent ways teens make the environment greener include recycling, avoiding single-use plastics, and using energy-efficient appliances.
By adopting such eco-friendly attitudes to everyday tasks, teens can also inspire positive changes in people around them. Their actions will generate awareness about environmental issues amongst family members, peers, and other acquaintances who will be encouraged to follow their lead in becoming ecologically considerate. Hence, what starts as an individual change can soon spark a collective movement.
This kind of joint participation is especially important for several environmental activists. Their message is clear: Given that the environment bears the brunt of all our actions, we can save it from further damage only if we work together. Put another way, till environmental loss becomes a matter of personal consequence, the progress we can make on related issues will be limited. And no one needs to understand this more than teens-heirs to an already ravaged world.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought us back to our houses. It’s time that the environment finds a way home too.