Happy Earth Day! Now what do we do?
When we observe Earth Day every April 22, we acknowledge how important it is to take care of our planet and make decisions that won’t impact our descendants. But why is Earth Day even a thing? For those of us who have forgotten (or never knew) its origin, here’s a brief summary:
Earth Day started in 1970 because a large number of people across the country started becoming aware of the damage we were doing: inefficient cars using leaded gas; industrial waste and sludge flowing with almost zero regulation or oversight; worsening air pollution.
The push really started in 1962, when New York Times best seller Silent Spring by Rachel Carson lit a fire under people who educated themselves on the environment and the connection between pollution and public health.
Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson was an early proponent of the concept that we can do more to preserve the environment. The effort grew every year and is now observed around the world.
With all that in mind, here is a short list of simple ways you can observe Earth Day
- Plant something. You don’t have to be part of a major reforestation program to make a difference. If you plant a tree, you help decrease a city’s temperature, contribute to the cleaning of the air and the production of oxygen.
- Use reusable bags. Americans use an estimated 100 BILLION plastic bags a year and we’ve all seen videos and photos online of whales and birds being harmed or killed by plastic. They also take up a lot of space in landfills and it takes them 500 years to decompose. Reusable bags are the solution.
- Use a refillable water bottle. Yes, most of us have learned to recycle the plastic water bottles we use, but still there are an estimated 2 million tons of plastic water bottles ending up in landfills. It also takes more than a million barrels of oil to manufacture them in the first place.
- Speaking of reusable, invest in some reusable straws, cups, to-go containers and utensils to decrease your footprint on the environment even more.
- Participate in a litter cleanup. They’re going on all the time this time of year; jump in with a group that’s organizing a cleanup - beach, park, highway, whatever - and don’t forget to wear gloves! You might even make some new friends.
- Replace your old incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs. Wait till they burn out, of course, but then make the switch. LED bulbs use much less energy than either incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, and they last much, much longer.
- Line dry your clothes. If you have the space and the ability, give it a try this summer. Save the energy your dryer uses (the smell of sunshine in your clean laundry is a bonus).
- Save a tree; switch to paperless billing. The less paper you use, the happier the environment will be.
- Recycle plastic bags. If you are still using plastic grocery bags (we’ll admit they do have their uses) make sure you’re recycling the ones you don’t use instead of putting them in the trash. Remember - 500 years in the landfill. Most grocery stores have collection bins.
- When the time comes, and you feel safe doing it, buy as many of your groceries as you can at a local farmer’s market. You’ll be supporting local growers and also sparing the environment. Did you know that food in grocery stores travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to you? Think about all that fuel consumption and wear and tear on highways.
While you’re enjoying the spring weather that we’re sure must be on its way soon, show your appreciation to the earth by taking care of her in the things you do.