In 1970, the first Earth Day motivated and energized people to take action and think differently about life on the planet. Earth Day itself is about educating, celebrating, and becoming engaged in ways in which we can improve and reduce our impact on the environment around us. Fortunately, the good behaviors of Earth Day have been increasing and spreading for 39 years and things like recycling have become second nature.
As more and more individuals, communities, schools, businesses, and governments become involved in the types of things Earth Day encourages, there is an ever-growing opportunity to make a difference today, tomorrow, and every day. Use Earth Day to jump start even more eco-friendly behaviors in your lifestyle. Need help getting started? Here are eight easy ways you can reduce your carbon footprint and improve your impact on Mother Earth:
No matter where you are, you have an opportunity to recycle used items rather than throw everything in the trash. Instead of sending all your waste to landfills, pick up recycling bins from your local distributor and start sorting. If you’re lucky, your recycling center won’t require you to pre-sort your items, but all you need is one corner in the kitchen, garage, or outside to place a bin or bag where you toss your recyclables. From cleaning containers to food containers, cereal boxes to paper napkins, and junk mail, much of what comes into the home can go out of the home in the recycling bin rather than the trash can. In addition to “standard” recycling, e-waste now also has recycling solutions. Trashing cell phones, computers, and other electronics contributes highly toxic substances into soil and groundwater, but with today’s recycling programs, old electronics can be safely repurposed.
The best way to integrate good reuse practices into your lifestyle is to modify your purchase habits so that you are buying durable products with long life spans. Choose items that can be reused rather than trashed or that can be repurposed for other uses. Instead of buying paper plates and napkins and plastic serving ware, pull out your own plates, silverware, and cloth napkins for the next party. If you’re headed on a road trip, take a mug from your cabinet to use at the coffee shop instead of their paper or Styrofoam cups. Opportunities to reuse items you already have also inspire a bit of creativity-who said you can’t use a glass spaghetti sauce jar for your goldfish?
Reducing is the practice of minimizing the amount of “stuff” that you use and throw away in order to avoid making waste in the first place. If you carry reusable grocery bags with you to the store, you are by default reducing the amount of bags you might have otherwise used. If you carpool to the gym, work, or the store with a friend or neighbor, you are reducing the amount of carbon generated by multiple cars. If you rely on natural light to fill your room (so long as you can see), you reduce the amount of electricity you are generating. Like many other eco-friendly habits, reducing must first start with making the choice. In this case, we must decide to use less as often as we can.
Do you have a mattress, TV, or bike that you no longer need or want? If selling on eBay is not up your alley and all you want is to move your goods to a new home rather than the landfill, Freecycle is an international, non-profit, web-based solution. The Freecycle Network has over 4,700 groups with over 6 million members and all you have to do is join your local Freecycle Yahoo Group and you can post, share, give, and receive products for free and save them from going to the landfill.
While there are many reasons for maintaining a “paper trail,” much of what used to be done on literal paper that kills trees and takes up space on desks, in drawers, and in files can all be done electronically. From note taking to letter writing to bill paying to shopping, you can save trees and reduce trash by choosing to do as much as possible online. There are many options for electronically paying bills and when you can shop online, why do you need to receive the catalogue? When paper does come into play, be sure to first use it for scrap paper before tossing and when it’s time to toss, recycle it.
The closer the food, products, and services you buy are to your home, the less they have to travel to get to you; and less travel means less energy expended on the overall production of that item. Buying local also eliminates the need for a “middle man” and is an investment in your local resources as well as the environment. Try your local farmer’s market as a starting point for buying local and get to know where your food is coming from.
From the home to work to school, there are many ways to reduce the amount of energy you use that you can implement wherever you are. Turn off lights when you’re not in the room. Unplug items that are finished charging. Use CFL bulbs in place of the incandescent, energy-consuming alternatives. Make sure your appliances are in good working order to reduce energy drain. Insulate your home and replace drafty windows and doors to improve the heating and cooling of your home or office.
It’s reported that a family of four uses up to 400 gallons of water a day. By making a few simple changes in routine, we can help conserve water for future generations. Little changes make a big difference: turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth; only run a full dishwasher; repair leaky faucets and toilets; and choose products that meet water-efficiency programs.