> Environment: Finding a lockdown benefit. - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Environment: Finding a lockdown benefit.

I don’t know if there can be anything beautiful that comes from a worldwide pandemic, although perhaps many of us will be more resilient as a result of it. The Greek origin of the word Pandemic means ‘All-People’; and while we currently have to do our best to avoid all people, I’ve been noticing all the wildlife around me that little bit more.

At first, lockdown meant that people vanished from the streets, the cars stopped moving, and the world grew still. Birdsong became a gentle reminder that the world was still waiting for us. It was peaceful. Each morning from my kitchen window I’ve watched the handsome orange-breasted bullfinch flirt with his girlfriend. I’ve noticed more bumblebees this year than ever before – often slamming into my window as I work.

The environment has had a brief reprieve from we humans: air pollution has dropped, and animals have visited places once off-limits to them. Endangered sea turtles have once again returned to lay eggs on deserted beaches in Brazil, and other wild animals, previously driven out of their natural habitats, have been seen to reclaim some of these areas.

We’ve also changed our habits: working from home, spending more time in nature. And according to The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, as a result of Covid-19 many of us are now considering plant-based alternatives to meat – another unsuspected plus for the environment*. Now things are tentatively opening up, and the (for the moment) gentle thrum of cars and buses now cuts through the birdsong, it’s made me realise quite how much impact we have on the world. From the steps we take, to the food we eat.

Personally, I’ve felt more attuned to nature than I have in some time. Being shut-in has made me value our natural environment more. I wanted to discover what else I could do to reduce my impact, as the world slowly returns to normal. How could I support and grow this connection to nature, as the world comes out of lockdown?

I spoke to Christian Arno, CEO and founder of Pawprint, a soon-to-be launched eco-conscious App/Progressive Web App. I asked about his thoughts on the pandemic, and where Pawprint would fit into a world which has changed so dramatically.

According to Christian, Pawprint’s launch will give people the ability to track their carbon footprint and see the changes they make in real terms; providing practical advice and calculating the overall benefit. The inspiration for the app came from conversations between Christian and his father, and the latter’s exasperation with understanding his environmental impact. Christian developed the app as a tool to address this frustration, offering tips for reducing a person’s carbon impact and a way to measure it. He hopes that Pawprint will empower individuals to make small changes to support the environment.

I was surprised to learn (according to Pawprint) that I’m saving 560 kg CO2e per year just from being vegan; the same as driving 1,050 miles in terms of emissions. Of course, this doesn’t absolve me of any other responsibilities. According to Pawprint there are other actions I could take, such as:

  • Make a flask of tea/coffee in the morning to avoid re-boiling the kettle and save around 22 Kg CO2e per year, the same as driving 41 miles in terms of emissions.
  • Only eat seasonal veg and save up to 75 Kg CO2e per year, the same as driving 140 miles in terms of emissions.
  • Use my starchy pasta water on plants (its starch is nutritious to plants) and save around 164g CO2e and 156L of water per year – I now have another excuse for pasta every day! (Note to self – buy more plants).
  • Only pre-heat my oven if the cooking instructions demand it and save 16 kg CO2e per year, the same as driving 30 miles in terms of emissions.

Just making these small changes, all possible in lockdown, would save me 113.164 kg of CO2e per year. That’s the same same as driving from my home to Manchester. Add my plant-based mileage to that, and I’ve saved enough CO2 to take me to Monaco.

Speaking to Christian, it’s clear that the opportunity we have to make a difference at this singularly unusual time is a one-off thing. The world will never again stop and give us pause like this. Breathing in the fresh air around us, we should take a moment to consider how we can use this global event for positive change.

I think we can all agree that, right now, a bit more control over the world is just what we need. At the time of writing, Pawprint is still to launch; in the meantime, you can find useful advice on their website pawprint.eco. Until then, I’ll be sipping my coffee (from my flask, naturally) and staying vigilant for potential bumblebee rescue missions.


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