Earth Day 2016 ~ Simple things you can do to make living on Earth a little better
It's Earth Day's 46th year.
As I was writing this piece, the image of a somber and depressing Time Magazine cover that I remember from early childhood came to mind. Of all the weekly Time Magazine issues that were delivered to our home year after year, this is the edition that left an indelible impression.
I went looking through the Time Magazine vault yesterday, almost as a lark, not expecting to recognize the cover if I could even find it. But here it is, the February 2, 1970 issue which is pretty much exactly as I recall it.
A six year old at the time, I remember being completely absorbed – and traumatized by this image, spending hours dissecting the left and right comparatives. Is this what my world was going to look like when I became an adult?
The article, apocalyptically titled “Fighting to save the Earth from Man”, begins… The U.S. environment is seriously threatened by the prodigal garbage of the world's richest economy… Bam. The piece presaged as much as it prompted society's need to address environmental issues. It announced the upcoming “teach-ins” that were to be staged by young activists all over the country on April 22, 1970. Indeed, twenty million Americans took part in the demonstrations on that day which has since been designated as Earth Day.
Here we are, 46 years later with, thankfully, a planet that has not quite shut down but is still in dire need of our love and attention. Which is why today, Earth Day, is the day to show that we care by adopting new eco-friendly habits. We already know all of this, but a friendly reminder never hurts, right?
EASY THINGS TO DO TO HONOR EARTH DAY
- Recycle e-waste: It's important to recycle electronic materials safely and correctly, which means NOT in the trash. Electronic goods are full of toxic materials (lead, mercury, cadmium,…) that contaminate landfills. Here are some suggestions from the EPA on where to recycle phones and computers. If you don't find what you're looking for, Google the term “where to recycle electronics” for find a proper recycling center near you. These places will also likely take other dangerous waste products like household chemicals, paints, batteries, etc.
- Reduce food waste: we wrote about that here. Watch the documentary. It will definitely get you motivated to make some changes.
- Reduce plastics: Think especially of all those disposable food containers. Swap for bulk purchases when possible. But the easiest? Give up plastic water bottles. Please.
- Bring your bags: Though many cities have abolished plastic bags by now, it's not a policy that works well. In some cities, you pay 5¢ to get the bag you need. Here in Chicago, chain stores have swapped the flimsy plastic bags for more sturdy ones that are meant to be reused since they last longer. It's just MORE plastic. Instead, commit to bringing your bags when you go grocery shopping (you can develop the reflex to bring your bags, I promise. I have!). And I carry this foldable bag in my purse at all times to use for errand shopping. I've had it forever, use is almost daily and I still get comments on it.
- Go paperless: It's a win-win: less clutter in your home and it's easier to find records online anyway… While you're at it, unsubscribe from all those catalogs you don't want to receive. Subscribe online instead for more timely updates on your favorite brands new product and promotions.
- Conserve electricity and water. Here are some more ideas.
- Cook real food and bring lunch to work: It's healthier and cheaper and you know it. By preparing or packaging your own food, you save on truly wasteful disposable containers & packaging. In the U.S. alone, we throw away – not recycle – $11 billion worth of consumer packaging. Gross.
- Eat less meat. Another win-win. There are health and cost benefits to reducing meat consumption. It also really helps the environment. Maybe consider starting with a Meatless Monday routine?
- Plant something. If you have a yard, you know what to do. If not, we wrote about kitchen/countertop gardening and about the really cool tower garden. These ideas can help any city dweller on their way to “urban farming”.
- Become a locavore… when the season permits. We wrote about the locavore movement here. By buying local, you help local farmers and you reduce environmental cost of transportation.
ADVOCATE & SUPPORT
Go beyond planting a tree. Join a group and make a difference. Some ideas:
- The Nature Conservancy where every day is Earth Day. Participate in hands-on projects and educational programs.
- Women's Voices works to reduce families' exposure to toxic chemicals common in household and everyday products.
- Clean Water Action. It happened in Flint. It could happen anywhere.
- Pesticide Action Network. Americans have sooooooo much work to do here. Help build a sustainable and healthy food system. Monsanto is the Goliath here.
If nothing else, go outside and enjoy the day and spend a few moments in gratitude thinking about all the gifts that Mother Earth keeps providing us.
Let's keep it that way.