As the covid-19 pandemic unexpectedly took over the world, it changed humans’ habits and behaviour for a lifetime. Not only were planes grounded, but everyone was afraid and full of anxiety and anticipation of stepping outdoors.
These unprecedented times have opened our eyes concerning the natural world around us. As humans locked themselves away indoors, the natural life of the planet blossomed. Aquatic life returned to rivers, and smog and pollution lifted in some of the world’s densest cities like India and China, creating cleaner air for all to breathe.
Before the pandemic, the effects humans were having on the planet was not so apparent, and the slow damage continued almost unnoticeably over many years. But the drastic change in halting movement among consumers and business operations has shown a positive fall in greenhouse gasses and pollution emissions across continents.
The world has transformed in a matter of months. China’s emissions fell by 25% at the start of the year resulting in a 11.4% rise in good quality air. The satellite images of Europe have also shown a drastic change. The image shows a gradual but substantial fading of nitrogen oxide emissions over northern Italy with the same for the UK and Spain. The pandemic has had a profound and almost immediate effect on the climate, but can this last?
There are many reasons why emissions have dropped, and sustainability has made its way into our lives during a global pandemic. Transport has been one of the most considerable changes as many are now traveling less by air and even working for home currently means less commuting. As a result, transportation accounts for an astonishing 23% of global carbon emissions, almost a quarter, and unsurprisingly, these have fallen.
However, what will this look like in 5 years to come as the effects of the pandemic become weaker and consumers are able to return back to normality? Will these figures level out, will they skyrocket, or will they remain relatively lower than pre-pandemic levels as more consumers become conscious about sustainability?
Have consumers become more ethical due to pandemic?
Consumers have dramatically evolved as a report by Accenture in 2020 found that 35% of consumers focused on necessities like food and house home items like cleaning products over the pandemic compared to luxury goods, including fashion and home decor. In addition, about 60% of these consumers were reported to have made an environmentally friendly and sustainable purchase since the pandemic hit.
Consumers have been slowly becoming more mindful concerning the types and amount of food they waste while continuing to shop more cost-effectively consciously. Food consumption has seen a considerable change, especially as many have turned to online shopping during the pandemic. An American study has found that online shopping reduces the impulse to buy unwanted items.
Many consumers have also turned to buying locally sourced food as it helps to minimise their carbon footprint whilst supporting local businesses. This has helped reduce food waste, but planning meals in advance has also helped consumers refrain from buying items they will not be using. Thus, controlling food and purchasing only what consumers will use will improve sustainability overall.
Fast fashion is a considerably enormous industry with very low sustainability efforts, producing a whopping 20% of global wastewater and 10% global emissions. However, as consumers become more aware of their impacts on the environment, re-wearing and upcycling old clothes or even re-selling old clothes has soared in popularity.
As the pandemic halted social occasions, loungewear became ever so popular, which has had a knock-on effect on the fashion industry as a whole. The demand for fashion has slowed down, and consumers are less tempted as they begin to consider how much they will use clothes and now understand theory can re-wear items many times. As a result, a colossal 100 billion garments are made, of which consumers buy 80 billion leaving the remaining 20billion to be burned, making the industry drastically unsustainable.
The pandemic has also helped to bring to light unethical working conditions concerning some mainstream brands, which has increased consumer awareness and in some cases, made them even boycott brands. With these factors in mind, and the apparent and obvious consumer effects on the world, and the knowledge consumers have today, there is a chance the lessons on sustainability the pandemic has though us today are here to stay.