Earth Day is coming up, and I have to say that it is my favorite minor holiday. It always comes at a time when the weather is finally becoming warm again; the flowers are blooming, birds are singing—it’s the perfect time of year to appreciate how beautiful and precious our planet is.
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The state of our environment is discouraging these days. Carbon dioxide levels are higher than ever, the global average temperature is steadily increasing, and sea levels are rising. We are also experiencing harsher seasons: the winters are colder than ever, and the summers are becoming unbearably hot. The worst part is many people do not believe that our planet is in danger.
In an effort to help the Earth recover from some of the damage that has been done, here are some easy ways to live a more eco-friendly life. Show off how much you love the planet by incorporating all of these practices into your daily life by Earth Day this year! Many points have a bonus Earth Day activity that you should challenge yourself and others to do on April 22nd.
1. Recycle Everything You Can
Hopefully, you already recycle the basics, like paper, plastic, and glass. If you don’t look into your local recycling program and sign up to have your recycling picked up just like your trash is. Encourage yourself to recycle paper by putting a bin in your home office and room.
Did you know that there are tons of other materials and products that you can recycle? For example, many grocery stores offer a plastic bag drop off so that they are recycled instead of dumped in a landfill. (Though of course it’s best to use reusable bags, if you do use a plastic bag, make sure to recycle it!) You can also recycle old batteries, electronics, and even cars.
Earth Day Activity: Clean out your house and see how many things can be recycled. Old papers, dead electronics, and empty water bottles—don’t let these things sit around your house any longer.
2. Compost Waste
In the United States, about 20–30% of what we throw away can actually be composted instead (EPA). So why let all those food scraps, napkins, and extra coffee grounds sit in a landfill? It is so easy to create a compost center at home, and then you can reuse the material as fertilizer to help your yard look beautiful!
Earth Day Activity: Build a compost bin in your backyard. It won’t cost much, and you’ll actually get your money back in the future when you don’t have to buy fertilizer from the store.
3. Start a Community Garden
This task is more involved, but also extra rewarding. There are often empty lots in a town or city that could be turned into a beautiful garden where the community comes together to help the planet. How cool would it be if you were the one to initiate the creation of such a space? You’ll have to work with your local government, which might be a bit of a hassle, but worth it in the end.
4. Plant Trees
This is a classic Earth Day activity. It’s also a crucial one. Trees, through the process of photosynthesis that keeps them alive, recycles Carbon dioxide and turns it into Oxygen, making the air we breathe cleaner. Do some research on different types of trees and find one you really like, and then plant it in your yard. Or, if you don’t have a yard or it doesn’t have space for a new tree, there is probably an event you can attend that will allow you to plant a tree in a public space.
5. Ride Your Bike Instead of Driving
Almost everyone knows that cars create gas that pollutes the air. This pollution can easily be avoided by using alternate forms of transportation. Plus, when you walk or ride your bike instead of driving, you are also helping yourself by exercising!
Earth Day Activity: Try not to use your car at all on this day. If you need to go somewhere, walk or ride your bike instead of driving.
6. Carpool Whenever Possible
If you’re doing something with a group of people, or even just one other person, arrange to carpool. Cars have multiple seats for a reason! Make sure to map out the route with the least mileage to pick up all your friends or family members. Otherwise, you aren’t minimizing your environmental impact as much as possible. Carpooling also makes parking easier, wherever your destination may be.
In a similar vein, if you live in a city that has convenient public transportation, take advantage of it.
7. Use Natural Cleaners
More and more large enterprises are using natural ingredients in their products. This is great because it makes the products more available and economically friendly to eco-conscious shoppers. The benefits of using natural cleaners don’t start and stop with helping the earth—there are also numerous health benefits. Many common conditions such as allergies and asthma are a result of the toxic ingredients the average American is exposed to in their home. Help yourself, your family, and your planet by going natural.
Earth Day Activity: Throw away all cleaning products with artificial chemicals. Then go on a shopping trip to buy natural cleaning supplies, or DIY them at home.
8. Turn Off Lights When You Leave the Room
This one is pretty obvious. If you’re not in a room using the lights (or any other electronics and appliances), they don’t need to be on. It just wastes electricity and makes the bulb burn out quicker.
9. Don’t Buy Extra Food Just Because
Wastefulness is an enormous problem in the United States, especially in regards to food. Do your best not to contribute to this issue by planning out how many groceries and other items you need before you go on a shopping trip. Stick to your list. Then, at home, pay attention to food expiration dates, so you aren’t wasting anything. If you do accidentally buy too much, and some food goes bad, though, compost it instead of throwing it away.
10. Stop Receiving Junk Mail
You don’t want to receive all those catalogs and ads in the mail anyway, so why not opt out? Junk mail wastes so much paper and creates an extra for you to do. That being said, you can also reduce the amount of paper mail you receive in other ways. Many companies will send bills and other mail electronically now. It gives you less mail to sort through, and you’re helping the Earth!
Earth Day Activity: Go through your junk mail and contact companies to opt out of their magazines and catalogs if you no longer want to receive them. Also, contact companies that send you things you do want to receive, or need to receive, and ask if they have an electronic option.
11. Take Advantage of Natural Light
Turn off the lights, pull back the curtains, and enjoy the natural sunlight. In addition to using less energy, you’ll also save money. There’s really no losing with this one.
12. Repurpose Old Items
This is the “Reuse” part of the classic “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra. This can manifest in a multitude of ways. Get crafty and turn old clothes into new fashion. Turn a used mason jar into an elegant candleholder. There are so many DIY projects you can do with objects found around your home.
Another way to repurpose an old item is to donate them to a local used store, such as Goodwill, and give someone else the opportunity to make something of it. As people say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Give your trash the chance to make someone else’s day and avoid it negatively impacting Earth.
Earth Day Activity: Look through items you’re considering getting rid of, and instead think of how they can be repurposed. If you have children, get them involved in the arts and crafts session.
13. Take Shorter Showers
Shorter showers equal less water usage. Not only does this decrease your water bill, but it also conserves one of the earth’s precious resources and gives you more time to do important things in your day!
Earth Day Activity: Challenge yourself to take the shortest shower ever. Time yourself and see how quick you can make it. If you have roommates or live with family, turn it into a competition!
14. Print Double-Sided
This is all about reducing as well. Whenever you print documents, select the double-sided option. It can conserve a ton of paper, especially over time. Do this at home and where you work to actually maximize your positive impact.
Earth Day Activity: Change the settings of all the printers at your workplace and in your home to automatically print double-sided. That way, next time you (or someone else) prints, you won’t have to think about it.
15. Bring Reusable Bags When Shopping
Over 1 Trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide. This is a huge problem because plastic bags will sit in landfills for at least 500 years before breaking down. You can recycle them, which is great, but reducing the number produced in the first place is even better. That’s why it’s important to bring your own reusable bag when shopping at the grocery store, mall, or any other store! Reduce the materials—paper and plastic—wasted every year. By reducing the number of plastic bags you use, you’re also reducing the amount of oil used, since that is used to make plastic.
As an added bonus, many grocery stores offer a discount or will donate money to charity for every reusable bag you bring with you.
Earth Day Activity: Make sure you own reusable canvas bags and put them near your entrance, maybe where you hang your coats, keep your shoes, and drop your keys when you walk in. That way, when you’re leaving to go on a shopping trip, you won’t forget them.
16. Fix That Leaky Faucet
This point is in the same vein as #13. Fixing leaky faucets can conserve a lot of water over time. Similarly, after you’re finished using a faucet, make sure that the water is completely turned off, so it doesn’t drip for hours. This is something to do whether you’re at home or out in public.
17. Use Sustainable Paper
In addition to printing double-sided (#14), print on paper made from recycled materials! It’s not too much more expensive than regular paper, so the amount of good you’re doing by helping the environment far outweighs the minor extra cost.
Earth Day Activity: Stock up on sustainable paper at home and your work.
18. Participate in Meatless Monday
…Or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday…
Eating lower on the food chain can help the environment. This means eating more fruits, vegetables, and greens than meat, dairy, and eggs. Animal-related products require more land space, water, and energy to produce than other food. By going meatless one day of the week, you’re making an enormous environmental impact!
Earth Day Activity: Go vegan or vegetarian for a day! It’s easier than you might think.
19. Fill Up Your Laundry Loads
Conserving water is so important that this is the third item on this list that focuses on doing just that. Maximizing your laundry loads will save a huge amount of water over time since an average load of laundry uses about 40 gallons of water (Home Guides). If this seems absurd to you, consider investing in a high-efficiency laundry machine, which will waste much less water.
Similarly, completely filling up your dishwasher before running it will conserve water over time.
20. Unplug Unused Items
Did you know that electricity is wasted if something is plugged in, even if it’s turned off? Televisions, lamps, desktop computers, charging cables—these things suck up small amounts of electricity whenever they are plugged in. Yes, the amount of energy is small. It certainly adds up over time, though, and the more things you have plugged in, the quicker the waste accumulates! One easy way to take care of this is to put electronics and small appliances that are in the same area on a power strip together, then unplug the power strip when those items aren’t in use. Do this before you go to bed at night, before you leave for work or school in the morning, and before you go on vacations. Over time, you’ll save a lot of electricity, and you’ll find that it’s not much of a hassle.
Earth Day Activity: Unplug everything in your home, and see how long you can go without plugging anything back in. You’ll probably last longer than you think you will.
21. Ditch Plastic Bottles for Reusable Ones
Each year, the amount of oil used to produce plastic bottles to keep up with Americans’ demands could be used to power 1.3 million cars for an entire year (Ban the Bottle). What’s worse, but after people use plastic bottles, if they aren’t recycled, they take forever to break down in a landfill. Reduce this excessive waste by investing in a stainless steel or glass reusable water bottle. Even using a reusable plastic water bottle is better than buying disposable plastic ones every week. Not only does refusing to buy plastic bottles help the earth go green, but it also keeps extra green in your wallet. You will save a ton of money over time! And if you do happen to use a plastic bottle, always make sure to recycle.
22. Support Locally-Owned Businesses
In addition to supporting the local economy, you’ll also be helping companies that are more eco-friendly than large chain corporations. Since they are local, they use fewer resources when shipping in items. They also help reduce habitat loss, urban sprawl, and pollution, which negatively affect the ecosystem.
Earth Day Activity: Walk around your city or town and discover your new favorite local business.
These are only 22 of the hundreds of small changes you can make to your daily routine to show how much you love the planet. After you incorporate these things into your life, the next step is to educate others about what they can do. Change starts with you, but big change comes when many people step up and become responsible. As you can see, it’s not too difficult to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Tell your friends about these little habits you’ve picked up, and kindly encourage them to do the same. Start an Earth Day Challenge together, where you compete to see who can recycle and compost the most, or who can use the least amount of gas. Another important thing to do is contact your government representatives about the importance of implementing sustainable programs and laws. Take charge and make the world a better place!
Celebrate Earth Day this year by celebrating our beautiful planet Earth. We only have one, so we need to do all we can to protect it.