Earth Day started in 1970 as a series of teach-ins and demonstrations across the country and is widely considered to be the start of the modern environmental movement. It began with 20 million people coming together and has grown exponentially in the decades that have followed.
However, rather than being a day we celebrate and then move on, Earth Day is an opportunity for us to stop and evaluate our actions every year. Each day is a chance to make a different decision, and Earth Day is just one of 365 days a year to think about the choices we make.
I am sure you are familiar with the three R's - reduce, recycle, reuse. But how often have you thought about how you can implement them into your lifestyle? There are all kinds of calculators that will show you your carbon footprint as well as giving you information and ideas on how to lower that number. But sometimes those numbers feel too abstract to help you understand how to live a more sustainable life. So I want to go over some simple questions to ask yourself and ways to learn how to be more conscious of the resources you use every day.
Let's start with the most basic question first - how do you use water? Take a minute and list out the ways you use water every day. Some examples that I can think of for myself are showers, washing dishes or clothes, drinking water, cooking, watering my garden and houseplants. Next, take some time to think about some habits that you might use to lessen the amount of water you use in those situations.
For example, as someone who hates doing the dishes, I did a lot of research to find which dishwasher uses the least amount of water, but also has a good energy efficiency rating. I don't run the dishwasher until it is full - sometimes that means I go a few days between loads. Sometimes when I get in a baking mood that means every night, but regardless, I am being more intentional about my water usage.
The next thing to think about is the three R's - how much do you recycle? How often do you reuse items? And where can you reduce your consumption of goods or resources?
Most cities have some kind of recycling option and hopefully you have curbside recycling in your area, but if not, do you know where the drop-off centers near you are? We have curbside recycling where I live, but they recently stopped taking glass, so now I have a separate bin that I use to store glass that I don't plan on reusing. (Pro tip - glass jars can be reused in an almost infinite number of ways. Drinking glasses, food storage, etc are really just the tip of the iceberg.) I also break down the cardboard boxes I get items delivered in and once a month make a trip to a cardboard drop-off point so that I don't have to spend hours cutting and folding the boxes to fit in my weekly recycling bin. Next month I plan on combining my cardboard and glass recycling trips so I can take care of everything at once.
If you can't recycle an item, do you have the ability to reuse or repurpose it somehow? Plastic tubs with lids can be used for just about anything, old towels that are too dingy or starting to fray at the ends can be repurposed as dish towels, I have a scrap blanket that was made over 60 years ago that used pieces of old clothing and flour bags for the fabric and old pantyhose as stuffing. Even reusing just 10% of the items you bring into your home can make a big difference over time, and it creates a cycle that helps you continue to reduce the amount of things you need to buy.
Finally, think about the ways that you use resources and goods. This one is a bigger category, but it's an important one. Our natural resources are finite, and we need to use them wisely. We talked about water consumption earlier, but what about natural gas or gasoline? Can you reduce the number of trips you take in your car? I used to walk to the grocery store because it was just across the street from me. Now that I've moved, it's a bit far to walk, but maybe in cooler weather I could bike it. I plan it so that I try to take care of multiple errands in one trip, if I can hit up the post office and the grocery store and that one store I only visit every few months in one longer trip then that saves on gas and carbon emissions.
Compact fluorescent bulbs are more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs, but LED bulbs are even more so. Filling in the gaps around windows and doors not only keeps the dust out, but helps your heater/cooler/air conditioning work better. Buying from your local famers market means fewer transportation costs and less energy used to bring the food to you. And don't forget to make sure you keep up on local elections - your vote counts and you can directly impact the environment around you simply by voting responsibly and often.
Every day you have choices that can help you live a more sustainable and eco-friendly life.