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The Effect of COVID-19 on the Environmental Impact of Our Lifestyles and on Environmental Concern

Luc Van Ootegem, Elsy Verhofstadt, Bart Defloor and Brent Bleys
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Bart Defloor: Department of Economics, Ghent University, Sint-Pietersplein 6, B-9000 Gent, Belgium

Sustainability, 2022, vol. 14, issue 14, 1-14

Abstract: Since the beginning of 2020, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic made it necessary to change our lifestyles (e.g., restrictions on transport or travelling and forced telework). This has also changed the environmental impact of our lifestyles. To quantify that impact, we used surveys to calculate the Ecological Footprint (EF) and environmental concern of Belgian respondents in 2021 and compared this to the EF-situation in 2017, before COVID-19. We observed that the EF became significantly lower during the COVID-19 crisis. Of course, this change in behaviour is the result of compulsory measures. Therefore, we asked about people’s willingness to reduce the EF permanently, particularly after COVID-19 and on a voluntary basis. We observed that, in 2021, respondents had a strong desire to return to a pre-COVID-19 lifestyle and that they are even less concerned about the environment than they were in the period before COVID-19. Moreover, these results hold after taking into account the effect of different explanatory variables in a multivariate analysis. As a general conclusion, there is little or no evidence that COVID-19 will fundamentally change the environmental impact of our behaviour or our environmental concern if there is no associated public intervention. There is a need for policies that make use of the potential created by COVID-19 (e.g., stimulate working from home and increased cycling).

Keywords: environmental impact; ecological footprint; effect of COVID-19 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O13 Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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Citations: View citations in EconPapers (1)

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