Last year, the pandemic certainly gave us all pause to reflect on our personal and professional priorities. The impact of that short impromptu global shutdown was seen throughout the world with reports of less air pollution, lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduction in natural resource pressure which was accompanied by surges in use of packaging material and disposal of household and medical waste. In a 2020 TIME magazine article, it was hoped that the COVID-19 pandemic would be an “an opportunity to leverage work between the public and private sectors and scientists…and see if we can work together.” We did, but will it last?
This year’s theme #RestoreOurEarth extends the message from the pandemic about living simply and mindfully as we consider our ecological footprints and handprints. The concept of minimalism is used to extend sustainability principles that are based on the original 1987 definition “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Many of us practiced minimalism during the pandemic, we limited our planetary impacts by consciously focusing on our immediate needs – food, water, shelter, and family/friends. This is also connected to the three pillars of sustainability which include society, economy, and environment; together it is all inter-connected and impacts to any one pillar can result in knock-on effects on other pillars.
As we emerge from the pandemic, our individual and collective actions still play a critical role in promoting eco-friendly behaviors that support a stewardship ethic. As we restart the global economy, let’s look towards re-creating the vision of a thriving, sustainable community where we rethink our actions to support a restorative impact on planet Earth. Short term stewardship actions should be replaced with long term sustainability actions that support a “practical, sustainable life” enabling us all to reduce our ecological footprint and increase our handprints. And, UF/IFAS Extension can help you on your sustainability journey with classes on sustainability, composting, civic engagement, microplastics, and so much more! Be sure to contact your local Extension office or the author for information on upcoming classes in your area.
Remember #everydayisearthday, and although sustainability might seem like an overwhelming concept, it is possible to rethink daily actions, and restart the sustainability journey at any time. As you re-examine your ecological footprints and handprints, consider this quote from Maya Angelou, “we need much less than we think we need”; let us use this to drive our actions together to #RestoreOurEarth.