From less pollution to family bonding: The unexpected benefits of social distancing

Caroline Allen
Contributor
People are settling into a new way of life. (Getty Images)

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, social-distancing is a new term the world is all too familiar with.

In the UK, social distancing means avoiding all non-essential contact with anybody outside of your household. This is particularly important for over 70s, people with underlying health conditions and pregnant women.

As social beings, this temporary pause seems to go against all of our natural instincts.

Despite this, there are glimmers of hope emerging. From the way we manage food waste to the pollution in the air, there have been some unexpected benefits to social distancing.

Read more: How to look after your mind during coronavirus pandemic

Lower greenhouse gas emissions

The world’s abrupt hibernation has had a positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions and with more social distancing planned for the coming weeks, the benefits will continue to increase.

Coronavirus has already temporarily reduced China’s C02 emissions by a quarter while electricity demand and industrial output remain way below their usual rates.

China’s coal and steel output produces 27% of the world’s greenhouse gases. With shorter working hours and closures of construction sites, this has had a big impact - even if it’s just temporary.

Reduction of travel plans

While having a holiday you’ve been looking forward to cancelled is frustrating, feel safe in the knowledge that these cancellations are helping the environment.

Recently, mounting pressure has been put on people travelling the world to curb their plane usage.

Even Prince Harry and Meghan Markle came under fire for using a private yet as opposed to a commercial airline.

These unfortunate cancellations have led to a 37% decrease in nitrogen dioxide in the air, compared to last year.

Readings from ESA’s Sentinel-5P satellite showed that there was a huge drop in nitrogen dioxide over big cities, including Milan which - along with the rest of Italy - is in lockdown.

Read more: How to cancel your wedding due to coronavirus

To add to this, with people unable to travel in cars, there has been a marked decrease in carbon monoxide levels caused by car exhaust fumes.

New York researchers told the BBC that car exhaust fumes were down by about 50% from last year.

Thriving wildlife and sea life

Italy is battling the world’s second largest coronavirus outbreak at the moment. These unimaginably challenging times have brought little glimpses of hope in the form of dolphins, though.

A video emerged showing dolphins swimming in an almost empty port in Sardinia - as well as in Venice - which are both usually packed with boats.

With less people travelling by air, road and sea, we might begin to see previously shy animals rearing their heads in unexpected areas.

Food appreciation

We’ve seen people reacting to coronavirus by stockpiling food in the past few weeks.

While this is the negative impact the coronavirus is having on food waste, there has also been a rise in people using what they’ve got more wisely.

Some influencers have been encouraging fans to challenge themselves to cook different dishes than what they would usually cook in a bid to not waste food.

This extends to all household purchases, too - from toilet roll to cleaning products - there has been a shift in the way we use them.

Read more: The difference between an antigen and antibody test

Spending time with our families

While many people are unable to spend time with their families, that hasn’t stopped us from using technology to communicate with them.

Five of the world’s top apps to download at the moment are group video chat type apps, with Houseparty - a way to chat and play games with numerous people virtually - taking the top spot.

In uncertain times, we can be grateful for easy access to technology allowing us to keep up to date with our families as well as work from home with relative ease.

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