With the recent publication of the Sixth Assessment Report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, conversations turned from pandemic to environmental impacts. However, the two are intertwined in many ways.
Because of the pandemic, people in many parts of the world made significant changes to how they live, work, play, and shop. Many consumers have also shifted their shopping priorities, whether temporarily or not. Businesses also changed how they operated. These shifts shows that major sudden changes in lifestyle and business practices are not only possible, but sometimes quite beneficial on many levels.
For instance, companies and governmental agencies thought carefully about which employees needed to be on-site and who could work remotely from home, which resulted in fewer miles driven and reduced gas consumption in 2020.
However, disposable carryout containers and utensils proliferated as takeout dining increased. That, along with the temporary (in most, but not all places) shift to disposable retail bags, led to more petroleum-based single-use plastic packaging ending up in landfills, as many of these bags are not recyclable. While some coffee shops and grocers are bringing back their reusable cup and bag programs, it will take some time for consumers to return to their pre-pandemic habits with reusables.
Climate change remains front of mind. 2021 has so far brought major weather events including the Texas ice and deep freeze event in February, an expansive wildfire season and dangerous heat out west, and a challenging hurricane season that has so far included major flash flooding in the northeast. As people are uprooted by these events and forced into close living quarters with people from multiple households (whether multigenerational or in emergency centers), they can become coronavirus spreading events as well.
Freedonia analysts remain on watch for disruptive events as well as innovations that could provide solutions.
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