Nature and COVID-19: How to Enjoy the (New and Improved) Outdoors During the Pandemic
There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has been immensely stressful for virtually everyone. From job loss to healthcare concerns, there’s really no escaping the effects of COVID-19 — particularly because we’re forced to hole up in our homes in order to flatten the curve. Although the U.S. holds over 45% of the global pharmaceutical market, there isn’t yet a vaccine for the virus. Our best chance to prevent the spread of infection is to keep a safe distance from others and minimize contact with the outside world.
And yet, there’s evidence to show that parts of the outside world may actually be healing — in more ways than one. It might surprise some to learn that the effects of COVID-19 haven’t been entirely bad. Of course, the loss of life and the effect on the economy have both been astronomical. But with fewer people commuting to work each day, carbon emissions have been significantly reduced. U.S. roadways average more than 5.8 million accidents each year and automotive transportation is typically viewed as necessary, with 13% of the entire world’s steel used for automotive purposes.
However, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that’s taken place as a result of COVID-19 has been nothing short of staggering. The International Energy Agency is reporting that global energy demand is expected to fall by 6% this year, with the demand for coal predicted to fall by 8%. That represents the largest decline since World War II. Overall, the lowered emissions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 8% in 2020 alone, which would be the largest yearly decrease ever recorded. People across the country and across the world have reported seeing clearer skies as a result of the pandemic. And while it’s likely that the pollution will return once the economy is reopened, there’s never been a better time to get outside.
Not only is the air quality likely better than ever, but nature can provide a whole host of benefits in times of stress and uncertainty. You can get some exercise (which will release endorphins and other feel-good hormones), up your vitamin D intake, and improve your overall mental health by getting outdoors.
As long as you’re smart and safe about your outdoor activities, it makes a lot of sense to spend time in nature right now. But how can you make sure you’re able to enjoy the great outdoors without putting yourself or others at risk?
- Wear or Bring a Mask: If you’re in a public place, you need to have a mask with you. Just because a park is large doesn’t mean you won’t see others on your walk. If the path isn’t wide enough to stay six feet away from others, you’ll need to wear a mask.
- Plan Out Your Visit: When you’re planning to visit a public park or another outdoor area, do what you can to avoid crowds. Try not to go during times you know these areas will be busy, as this will make it hard to maintain social distancing guidelines. You may also want to check with local ordinances to ensure the park is still open before you go.
- Don’t Take Risks: Don’t engage in risky behaviors that might result in an accident or injury. Even if you think you’re a skilled outdoorsman, getting hurt while you’re in a public place will put others at risk. Keep in mind that with fewer people around, you could be putting yourself in grave danger. Stick to safe activities.
- Give Notice When Passing: If you’re going for a run or a bike ride, you need to take extra precautions. You should always wear a mask in these situations, as you’ll be more likely to transmit germs or be infected if you’re breathing heavily. But you should also give advance notice when you’re passing by others and give them time to move away from your path.
- Stay in Your Own Yard: Those who have green spaces at home should take advantage of these areas. Not only will you minimize contact with others, but you may find you actually enjoy being home more if you do. You can start a garden, bird-watch in the backyard, or work out on the lawn. But unless you’re playing or enjoying these activities with your own kids or members of your household, make sure to do so in relative isolation.
The outdoors can provide tons of activities to enjoy during the pandemic, but remember that being outside in nature doesn’t mean the virus can’t be transmitted. You’ll need to make smart and considerate decisions at all times, whether you’re visiting a local park or you’re enjoying a walk in your neighborhood. While nature can help us stay healthy, it’s no match for COVID-19 — so make sure to do everything you can to minimize your risk while you enjoy the fresh air.