Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2024

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


John Van Buren


In 2020, the world was launched into a global pandemic it was completely unprepared to fight. This pandemic began in the midst of tragic environmental disasters, including the largest wildfire recorded in California history. Once the global lockdown began, many long-standing environmental problems began to remedy themselves due to the sudden halt of human interaction. However, there were major environmental setbacks in the healthcare industry as increased medical waste and single-use items became a necessity. This thesis addresses how the pandemic impacted the environment through a lens of sustainability and public health, and how healthcare industries can be more prepared to fight another pandemic. Chapter 1 discusses the pandemic’s positive ecological impacts due to quarantining and social distancing, such as the improvement of air quality and the reduction of noise pollution. It also discusses the negative consequences of COVID-19 on the environment, namely the proliferation of hazardous and pollutant medical waste and disposable masks. Chapter 2 delves into the past and present state of the healthcare industry's preparedness and sustainability in dealing with pandemics like COVID-19, and how it has changed in the COVID world. Chapter 3 discusses pandemic-related economic costs in the healthcare sector to the industry and citizens, and the waste-management difficulty exacerbated by excessive medical waste. Chapter 4 discusses public policies implemented throughout the pandemic, and how they impacted the environment and public health. Chapter 5 discusses what we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and how we can create more sustainable practices in a healthcare setting while still preserving the abundance of caution necessary in the current state of medicine.