We never imagined the world would be put on hold. Even two months ago, it was impossible to imagine the duration of stay at home orders, temporary shut downs, and unemployment. The virus has not only taken many lives, but it has forced the entire world to change course.
This comes with intense emotions. From frustration to fear to grief, the uncertainty of the world is hard to process. As a senior, I was counting the days until graduation. We were entering “senior spring,” the period of time filled with celebration, friends, and adventures. I’ve felt frustrated as my graduation was canceled, schools were forced remain closed until the end of the school year, and the large celebrations such as college signing day, canceled. Beyond the physical events, I’ve had to grieve the sense of normalcy. I’ll never attend this school again. I’ll never be in class with these teachers. I’ll never get to partake in school traditions. It breaks my heart.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent plenty of time grieving. Four weeks to be exact. But now, amongst the fear, uncertainty, and sadness, I’ve started to find meaning.
With fish once again in the Venetian canals, kangaroos jumping through Adelaide, Australia, and global emissions dramatically reduced, it’s time we learn from the Earth. While under less stress from transportation related emissions, the Earth is responding. This hasn’t reduced climate change, but it has proved that the Earth is happier when people aren’t producing as much pollution.
Now is the time to change. With everyone at home, there is a necessary pause. We can evaluate our environmental impact. We have the time to think about our lifestyles. As a society, this is the time to build an awareness and drive change. We can modify our lifestyles and consider policies that will lead to a more sustainable post-quarantine lifestyle. The saying goes “it takes 3 weeks to build a habit,” and right now, we all have three weeks to try something new. For many of us, we have three weeks still at home. My school year just finished, so I have three weeks of no studying, work, or activities. As a family, it might be three more weeks of school. With all the uncertainty and change occurring in our daily lives, it might be the time to incorporate new, more sustainable routines into our lifestyle as we navigate this time period. It might be the time to sneak a new habit into the transition period so we emerge into the new normal stronger and eco-friendlier.
In March, I made a commitment to get outside every single day. After almost three months, this small habit has changed my life and will stay with me into the “new normal.” My family is starting to grow our own vegetables, incorporating gardening into our lives as a form of stress-relief and time together.
I challenge you to start now. Take the transition to become the person you want to be, whether that is someone who spends more time with family, goes for a walk each day, or spends less time on social media. Consider your impact on the Earth, recognizing your ability to make small adjustments to your routines to create a large environmental impact. Beyond the environment, take the time to evaluate priorities and your mental health, taking the new pockets of time in your daily life to make the changes you’ve always wanted to change. Here is a list of small list of habits, 5 minute or less, you could start today:
- Take a walk after dinner
- Switch to cloth napkins (and use them every day!)
- Plant seeds (and water them every day)
- Stretch each morning
- Sketch one drawing a day
- Drink coffee outside in the morning
- Declutter one object a day
- Take five minutes to sit outside in silence
- Read every day
- Compost (then tend it every day)
- Journal every day
- Take a photo each day
Embrace the transition, as much as possible. It is time to start today, building a better lifestyle and a cleaner Earth.