From cycling to upcycling: how Covid-19 could kick start conservation

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Written by Ayna Custovic

Whilst the effects of coronavirus on humanity have been devastating, the environment has seen dramatic improvements as a result of the pandemic induced lockdown. With millions stuck indoors, an inadvertent shift has occurred towards an environmentally friendly lifestyle which, if we are to each take the lessons forwards, could kick start conservation with an impactful durability.

One of the surprising side-effects of coronavirus that could have a profound impact on long-term conservation efforts has been the dramatic increase in bike sales, which has occurred due to a variety of influences. 

With all but essential businesses shut down, the ban of all non-essential travel, and road closures across the world, the number of vehicles on the road has radically decreased. It is a new era: cyclists finally have the roads to themselves and, with the absence of the pernicious pollutants that seep from the usual stream of traffic, can finally taste the fresh air. The pandemic has also cast a dark light on public transport, particularly for the London Underground. For those that weren’t already put off by being squashed between sweaty strangers on their smartphones, the fear of contracting the virus has done the job and cycling offers a social-distancing friendly solution. And whereas we once prioritised work, gym and social life, the quarantine has shown us the importance of fresh air, outdoor exercise and time out – and cycling nails all three. 

It’s no surprise then that sales of bikes have soared since the lockdown was announced. But whilst the impact of the lockdown will eventually fade, the positive effects of cycling won’t. Cycling will reduce your carbon footprint and the benefits of cycling and outdoor exercise are well-known. For those who have discovered the option during lockdown, don’t merely cast your bike aside once public transport and cars are back in action. A bike is for life, not just for quarantine. Otherwise, we are poised to turn the increase in bike sales from what could be more cyclists and a step forwards for conservation to simply more wasteful resources polluting the planet. And for the government and wider society the question must be: how can we transform our car dominated roads to bike-friendly once the lockdown is over?

A surge in upcycling has been another inadvertent effect of coronavirus. Most shops have closed during the lockdown, resulting in an increased demand for online retailers that cannot be sustained by their supply of stock. With many businesses shut down, millions of people have found themselves struggling financially. And with the lockdown leaving everyone but essential workers stuck at home, people have needed to get creative with how they fill the sudden vacuum of time they have. This combination of factors has led many to upcycling: a craft that uses what you already have, is budget friendly, and provides a pleasurable and productive way to spend your time.

Ayna Custovic – Aurhor

Conservation is one of the biggest benefits of upcycling, and a widespread interest would be a huge step forwards towards an environmentally friendly lifestyle that supports the planet rather than profiteering companies. But whilst it is easy to find the option of upcycling when trapped at home with limited buying options, we must endeavor to make it our choice post-lockdown. There is a high probability that there will be a surge in buying once businesses reopen and capitalism resumes, and to ensure that the progress made during the pandemic is sustained it is important that we continue upcycling over acquiring.

Whilst there are myriad other ways in which the lockdown has led us to become more environmentally friendly, it is vital for us to remember that whilst these changes are in themselves progress we must aspire to continue along this path post-coronavirus – without the lockdown lifestyle to inspire us. We run the risk of simply falling back into the old habits of consumerism and convenience unless we specifically make the choice to continue embracing these changes, even when we have the alternative easier options before us. This pandemic has shown us what we are capable of; it is up to each of us to continue choosing conservation over capitalism. In times of such darkness, this hope for the planet can help give hope to humanity. 


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