environment lifestyle

What happened to green habits during the pandemic?

In going about your everyday life since the pandemic, have you noticed how some environmental habits have disappeared? Perhaps a local cafe doesn’t do ceramic mugs any more, even if you’re drinking in. Or the cafeteria might have switched to paper plates. Maybe you are yet to venture back into a charity shop. I’d noticed some of these things anecdotally, but Aviva‘s latest How We Live Report has some figures and I’ve stuck them in a graph:

Having asked people the same questions for a few years in a row, we can see the percentage of people recycling before the pandemic was at 73%. Then it nose-dived during the pandemic, and then re-bounded to 71%. This isn’t necessarily down to people’s habits. Councils needed to suspend services at certain points due to staff shortages. We were without glass box collection for a while.

Other things haven’t fully recovered. People are giving to charity shops and buying secondhand at slightly lower rates, though it’s single-use plastic that stands out to me. The pandemic seems to have reset progress on plastic, presumably because of concerns over hygiene. The momentum on tackling plastic may be gone, and that’s something we will need to pick up again.

A couple of things have improved post-pandemic. The number of people reducing the number of flights they take has risen. This may be environmental awareness, or it may be reluctance to fly, or the increased use of online alternatives. Either way, that’s positive.

The number of people choosing a vegan diet has risen from 5 to 6 percent, although I don’t really know why it would drop in the middle – nor why so many people gave up on eating less meat in 2020 and then started again.

It’s probably too early to say for sure how Covid-19 has changed our habits. It’s still rumbling on, and disruption is ongoing in many places. But it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out, and where environmental campaigns will need to focus in future.


  1. I’m returning to my attempt to be as plastic free as possible and we are thinking more carefully about travel plans, but Covid did make this all more difficult. For example I have yet to visit Grain and Sustain for my dried goods where you can weigh it into paper bags or my own container (which I did remember to take to the fish shop the other day. It is a slow process getting back the mindset though.

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