The climate has seen improvement in months during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Business Insider, flights around the world have dropped by the most significant rate many have ever seen. 

Flagstaff resident Daniel Salazar, who is passionate about wildlife and the planet, said he has seen many changes in the environment since the pandemic began. 

“I think the pandemic has helped benefit the planet because a lot of commercial flights and trucking around the world has been shut down,” Salazar said. “At the same time, I don’t know how much it is really helping because of how bad cases are right now.”

Salazar also said he hasn’t seen a change in human culture since March because everyone is still out and about. People are continuing to shop and many people are not wearing masks, Salazar emphasized. 

Senior climate change activist Haley Sweet said she has seen some positive impacts on the planet, like a decrease in air pollution levels since travel has slowed down. A decrease of 26% was seen at the pandemic’s  peak.

“People need to be more considerate of others and the environment because the pandemic has shown the human race that anything can change in an instant,” Sweet said. “We need to encourage less industrialized activities and more natural, self-made activities.” 

Megan Smith, a Flagstaff native studying engineering science with an emphasis in environmental engineering at Loyola University in Chicago, said she has seen differences in pollution. 

Smith said with every new sanitation standard, there is a drawback. Masks have a positive impact, but the increased use of disposable masks is adding to an increase in plastic waste, she said. 

“With the pandemic, some restaurants turned to the internet by placing their menus online to be accessed with a QR code, but other restaurants turned to disposable menus and cutlery, which adds to the plastic crisis,” Smith said. 

She said she feels these new standards, while good for the health of humans, can be bad for the environment. The increase in waste from single-use masks add to the plastic pollution crisis, as does the plastic cutlery restaurants have started using, Smith said.   

Restaurants have become a huge contributor to waste due to new mandates requiring gloves and masks, Smith said. She worked in the restaurant industry for two years prior to the pandemic, experiencing the impacts of waste a restaurant produces firsthand, she said.

“I think, after the pandemic and post-recession, we need to develop better global policies and respond to health crises,” Smith said. “Although this often comes down to bureaucracy and apparently the belief in science, the lack of federal response and support for health care workers definitely needs to be reformed. We also need a new global policy for climate change. The pandemic showed a decrease in CO2 levels, which in turn indicated the negative effects of humans on the environment.”

She said the pandemic was an eye-opening experience for some individuals regarding human impacts on the environment. The best thing people can do is stay informed and demand change from representatives, Smith said.

Despite the impacts of COVID-19, the pandemic has highlighted the negative situation of the environment. There are still ways society can work together to improve human impacts on the planet.