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The coronavirus lockdown led many of us to believe we’d been more environmentally-friendly. We travelled less, cycled more, and read that pollution dropped to its lowest levels in 100 years. But there are other ways we may be damaging the environment – without even realising it.
It can be hard to think about our environmental impact when we’re experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety due to the pandemic, but the latest report by Bloomberg revealed that even though greenhouse gas emissions dropped, the earth is still on target for its second hottest – if not hottest ever – year.
For those concerned about the environment, it may be worth thinking about other changes you can make to live a more greener life – yes, even mid-pandemic. Here are five things you don’t realise are impacting the planet.
1. The internet is a silent, but deadly, driver of climate change.
Thought binging TV on streaming services was fine? Wrong. Although exact levels of energy use are contested, many think tanks including The Shift Project have published research claiming our use of streaming platforms is detrimental to the environment.
We assume “the cloud” that stores our data as a fluffy, vaporous, literal cloud that hangs in the air innocently – but this is clever marketing. The cloud is actually another term for the data centres that consume vast amounts of energy to power our TV habits. Energy is also required to keep data centres cool, while they serve viewers throughout the year and across the world.
So, when we’re watching TV on our sofa, the images being sent across to our screens (thanks to the internet) may be reaching us by unsustainable energy resources. Perhaps rationing our TV intake much like we do junk food is one healthier solution.
2. Meat and dairy replacements aren’t necessarily the answer.
Some meat-free food has unethical means of production. For instance, some of the soy-based products we enjoy in the UK derive from soy beans grown on farms, which have been established by cutting down trees.
Parts of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed due to increased production of soy, and experts say deforestation is causing around 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.
While going meat-free is great, it’s worth trying to go the extra mile to think about what you’re eating and where that food comes from. Cutting out dairy and eggs can help, as livestock accounts for more than 80% of global agricultural land.
3. Some of your favourite brands may have dodgy environmental credentials.
It’s always worth triple checking the green credentials of your shampoo provider, food manufacturer, or streaming service provider.
Some companies may preach about their eco credentials, but aren’t as ethically upstanding as they may seem. There’s no simple way of working out if a brand you love is sustainable – but things to watch out for include Fair Trade Certified logos on food and the Global Organic Textile Standard on clothes.
For clothes, you might also want to use an online fashion checker, where you can see what brands say – and what they actually do ethically – around wages. Before shopping, type in the brand name to see how transparent it is regarding its supply chains.
4. Paving over your garden could be detrimental.
Soil is one of the lesser-told heroes in our fight against climate change, but only if it’s looked after correctly. Soil protects our natural environment – it provides the nutrients to help trees grow. And in the event of tragedies like forest fires, which are more common due to climate change, soil helps restore the ground and make it fertile again for new plants to grow.
It also retains carbon dioxide. In fact, it’s the planet’s second largest pool of carbon dioxide – second only to our oceans. Broadly speaking, the more soil and greenery in your garden, the better: plants use carbon dioxide to survive so there can never be enough of them.
5. Showering daily is actually unnecessary – and is causing the planet harm.
Not showering daily has somehow become culturally unacceptable, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest it’s unnecessary to shower that often to be fit and healthy. Plus, according to a survey by Waterwise, modern showers are on average worse for the environment than older ones. So there you have it: stay in bed that extra 20 minutes a few mornings a week and help save the planet.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.