How Much Has My Quarantine Helped the Environment?

From canceled commutes to what you eat for dinner, your new daily habits could be having a big positive impact on the planet.

Our daily lives look a lot different these days. Wearing face masks to the grocery store has become the norm, and important holidays or life moments are celebrated online instead of in person. But above all, as COVID-19 (a novel strain of the coronavirus) began to rapidly spread across the country, many employers told their staff members to work from home if they could. Whereas less than 4 percent of employed Americans worked remotely before the pandemic, that number has now jumped to more than half, a recent Brookings study found. Your daily commute is not the only everyday habit that could (and should) change forever after coronavirus.

Working remotely has benefited the planet

Sheltering in place may not always be convenient, but there is one plus side: It’s helping the environment. Not only are we driving less, but some of us are also eating less meat, drinking less coffee, and even doing less laundry. Cutting back on everyday habits like commutes and coffee consumption can lower our carbon footprints—and benefit the planet. On that note, it’s also the perfect time to break up with toilet paper, and here’s why.

Our new routines are already having a huge positive impact on the environment. In New York, carbon emissions have fallen by nearly 50 percent compared with last year, according to researchers at Columbia University. Colorado reported improved air quality in April as ski resorts closed and traffic levels dropped. See the improvements for yourself with these incredible photos that show nature rebounding during coronavirus.

Calculate how your new habits are helping

Curious about how much you’re helping the environment by working from home? Zippia, a career resource and technology company, recently launched an interactive calculator that determines how you measure up. “With so much information out there on how much the environment has benefited from this slower pace of life, we thought it would be interesting to see how much people have personally impacted the environment,” says Kathy Morris, Zippia’s marketing manager.

The calculator focuses on two major environmental factors: Carbon dioxide emissions and water usage, according to Morris. You’ll answer questions about how your everyday habits related to these factors have changed, including the distance of your commute and how often you shower. “Each question people answer is used to calculate their individual impact based on averages,” Morris says. “For example, the average person drives 29.2 miles a day which averages out to be roughly 1.4 gallons of fuel. This daily commute releases roughly 12,441.8 grams of carbon dioxide. The number goes up or down in the calculator depending on your personal commute.”

You might be surprised by how far the small changes to your usual routine can go. Drinking one cup of coffee a day instead of three can add up to 12 gallons of water saved a month. Taking one less round-trip flight a month saves an average of 163 pounds of carbon. Cutting out a 30-mile daily commute reduces carbon emissions by 213 pounds each month. When you consider an entire office or nation making these changes, “you can see why the air is clearer in so many big cities,” Morris says. Bet you didn’t know you have these 15 bad earth habits, either.

What you can do in the future

To reduce your carbon footprint once you return to the office, Morris suggests carpooling or using public transportation instead of driving. She also encourages companies to continue offering more flexible schedules for its employees. It would be a win-win situation, Morris says: Telecommuting, even just one day a week, would help the environment as well as improve worker satisfaction and productivity. But until it’s safe to venture outside again, here are 40 more great ways to reduce your carbon footprint without leaving your home.

Brooke Nelson
Brooke is a tech and consumer products writer covering the latest in digital trends, product reviews, security and privacy, and other news and features for