COVID-19’s Effect on the Environment

Uchenna Bright is the Eastern States advocate of E2. She has an extensive background working in NRDC and experience developing multifaceted strategies to deliver lasting change while making sound economic decisions to successfully transform markets in a productive, sustainable way.

Sarah Simon, on the other hand, is the E2 New England chapter director of the state we at Parkaze call home. She has previously worked as Deputy Director of the Division of air quality at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and is currently the designated representative to the government Governor’s Implementation Advisory Committee, a public stakeholder group.

In this interview, we talked at length about the connections between business, clean energy, and parking.

 

Has COVID-19 impacted our environment in a positive manner?

Sarah: There are a lot of factors from COVID, because we’ve been destroying habitat, etc. But the transportation side of things, it looks like the emissions and the air pollution is way better than it was before COVID.

Part of the new problem is that as we all have to social distance, we’re all going to start relying on private cars for safety, from now on, and that’s a real challenge to her mobility, especially in Boston, the traffic congestion, that kind of thing.

Uchenna: Yeah, I would wholeheartedly agree with that. For any sort of positives you might see now on the transportation side could be completely erased. Once people start getting back out in their individual cars, the VMT (vehicle miles traveled) is gonna go up dramatically.

In order to reduce the vehicle miles, we’ll just have to share some more rides. You can do it in your own car with your own family pod. It’s just a temporary change in how we do our businesses and affairs. Hopefully, when this all subsides, there might be a rise again into our habits or behaviors that have led to this kind of situation.

What can we, being a startup here at Parkaze, do more as businesses from a smart energy perspective? How can we make more empowered decisions when it comes to sustainability?

Uchenna: You can bring in more people. So for instance, in our Southeast chapter, we can have an event and people from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia can come and be a part of that conversation without actually traveling anywhere. Rethinking how we work, how we commute, and where we’re focusing our sort of intensity is our new thought pattern.

I completely agree that the nature of work and where we work will hopefully change. All these cars we have for commuting– and I will say that my last job, I was commuting 100 miles a day in my car, because there was no other way to get there– now the car itself stays unused for 95% of the time, if not more. The whole way we think about getting around has to change and how we design our cities to accommodate that and store these cars is very important. We have other better things to do with our streets: bicycling, walking and improving transit.

What are these challenges that Massachusetts, particularly you know, with Boston are facing in terms of the use of land, and the under utilization of parking to a better effect?

Sarah: You know, there’s been some resistance to that. It’s hard to make different lanes to think of our cars and our spaces differently. There’s been talk about more curbside pickup and delivery, whether it’s your whether it’s your Amazon delivery truck, which hopefully will all be electric soon, or your own picking up an official rideshare commercial business.

There’s a lot of different options that we have to think of really innovative stuff that we maybe can start thinking about now.

What would you say to new businesses or young businesses about being sustainable or eco-friendly?

Uchenna: I would say get involved. A huge part of our ability to get things done is our members, so our members advocate for policies, and their business voice has a huge impact on decision making. Because they understand the economic value of these policies that we’re pushing. It’s absolutely critical, from a membership standpoint, that our members be 100% involved in, in the the policies that we’re advocating for environmental entrepreneurs, our organization is individual members, individual people who are either building businesses or concerned about how business interacts in the in the culture.

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