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World Earth Day – how staying at home is helping to save our planet too

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Alex Bigland Stewardship, business transformation

Today marks 50 years of World Earth Day. Since our founding Venquis has recognised that how we behave as a business transformation specialist has a part to play in how transformational that change can be for the environment and communities that we and our clients operate in, so World Earth Day is a good moment to pause and take stock of where we are now.

It would be impossible to write anything at this moment in time without acknowledging the very different world we find ourselves in. It is an uncertain world with a whole range of challenges still to come. But in any pivotal moment there is always good to be found and one of the biggest winners in this global pandemic is ironically the earth itself. It seems fitting to mark World Earth Day by looking at some of the positive impacts Lockdown has had on the environment we live in.


Positive impacts of Lockdown

Commuting has all but stopped in the UK and many other countries around the world, meaning fewer cars, trains and buses, and flights are grounded. The rumble of traffic is no longer the background noise that so many of us experience wherever we live. By staying at home, we’re not just saving lives, we’re helping the planet too. As a result of the drop in transport usage, air pollution has significantly decreased in major cities all over the world. Pollution maps for London now reveal greens across all boroughs (low pollution levels) in comparison to the deep reds (high) for the same period last year. Asthmatics and those that suffer from respiratory diseases are quite literally breathing a sigh of relief but all of us feel the benefits of improved air quality.

There have been other positive effects too: we’re no longer able to print in the same way we would if we were sat in the office, saving huge numbers of trees in the process. We are learning to use digital signatures and we are realizing how little we really need to print. Lights have gone out and air conditioning and heating has been switched off in office blocks everywhere saving energy and reducing the carbon footprint.

And by having to stay at home we’re not buying lunch in plastic cartons, we’re not getting our coffee fix from non-recyclable coffee cups and we’re not buying drinks in plastic bottles. We’re thinking twice before we make a purchase, so there is less mindless waste being fed into the system. Everyone now has time to sort their rubbish properly! We’re being forced to think sustainably and it’s good for us.


Returning to 'normal'

But this is a (hopefully) relatively short term blip. Before long we will be planning returns to our offices and our old habits but as we do so, we are presented with a great opportunity for each one of us to think how we can maintain a positive impact on the environment. In fact, it is doubly important that we capitalize on this, as when manufacturing industries fire up again, there’s a risk that in their effort to catch up, pollution could become worse than before. So stop to think. Do you really need to commute to the office every day? Can you keep on reducing the amount of plastic you use? What part do you play in making our world sustainable?

Think how much you’ve enjoyed the sound of birdsong over the last few weeks, the clear skies and the lack of ‘grime’ encrusted on your skin and clothes after a day at work. Businesses and individuals alike should use this moment to appreciate the benefits of remote working on the climate and we should return to work, when the time comes, with renewed vigor to find a more sustainable way forward.


Alex Bigland runs the Venquis Stewardship programme.