Every year when Earth Day rolls around, people are encouraged to do something good for the environment: plant a tree, recycle waste, participate in a riverbed cleanup, or just spend some time outside. Earth Day, which is April 22, is a great time to do something nice for the planet and is a great time reflect on our environmental footprints, too.
When we consider the many environmental problems that are happening right now, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. From climate change to air pollution and water pollution, to dwindling bee populations, the problems are scary, sad, and seem too big for any one person to tackle. However, there are things you can do to start moving towards a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle every day. Take some time this Earth Day to think about how you can change your habits to make your lifestyle more environmentally-friendly all year.
Here are a few ideas to get your wheels turning this Earth Week 🌎:
Idea #1: Educate yourself, and share what you learn with others.
Rather than get discouraged over all of the enormous environmental issues we’re currently dealing with, pick one environmental topic that interests you. Do everything you can to read up on it. Figure out how the topic is affected by citizens, businesses and the government. Share what you learn with others, and brainstorm ways to improve the situation.
Maybe you’re worried about water quality in your city or school district. Read about how water gets polluted, and things that can be done to reduce the pollution. Maybe you will decide to stop using pesticides on your lawn, stop flushing leftover pharmaceutical drugs down the toilet, and buy a water filter. These are great places to start—and then, you can share what you’ve learned with your friends and neighbors.
Idea #2: Commit to a day, week or month of no new plastic.
Maybe in the process of researching water quality, you discover how big the plastic waste issue really is because after all, disposable plastic water bottles are a big problem. For the record: plastic doesn’t disintegrate quickly in landfills, if it breaks down at all. Huge garbage patches in the Earth’s oceans are filled with plastic that doesn’t break down, which harms sea animals and contributes to water pollution. Plus, although it is recyclable, it’s not easy to make plastic into something new.
Despite being a major pollution problem, there are a lot of medical and technological benefits to having plastic. It just doesn’t need to be used and thrown away so mindlessly in our everyday lives. Spend a few days keeping track of where you use plastic, and identify where you can use less. Then, reduce the plastic you use in your household, at work and even on the go. With a little planning and practice, everyone can reduce the amount of plastic they waste. Here are four ways you can start:
– Use a reusable water bottle, and ditch the disposable plastic ones. Refill it with filtered tap water.
– Use a reusable coffee mug, and use it as often as you can remember. Even disposable paper coffee mugs are lined with plastic, which keeps the liquid inside from seeping through. Think of how many disposable coffee cups you use all year, and how much less you would waste if you remembered your reusable mug—even just 50% of the time.
– Use washable food storage containers to store leftovers and transport your food, rather than disposable plastic bags. Glass and stainless steel containers are sturdy options. Even if you do buy new plastic reusable containers, at least they’re not going in the landfill on a daily basis, as plastic storage bags would.
– You know those reusable grocery bags that you always forget? Put some in the back of your car, add “BRING REUSABLE BAGS” to your grocery list, set a timer on your phone—do whatever you have to do to start a new habit. Again, imagine how much waste you would not be producing if you remembered your reusable bags just 50%, or 75%, of the time.
Idea #3: Plant a Garden
Large, industrial farms use a lot of energy, and transport food long distances, releasing greenhouse gases (that cause climate change) to the atmosphere. This year, try growing your own food by planting a garden. If it’s too cold where you are to actually plant the garden outside on Earth Day, start some seeds inside. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. Include some veggies you can eat, and include some bee-friendly flowers. If you don’t have any space to garden outside, our Mushroom Farm and Garden-in-a-Jar are great options for your kitchen counter.
Idea #4: Cook meals with locally-produced food.
You can make your diet more sustainable by eating food that is grown locally, either in your own garden, or by others. Less energy is used to produce food on small farms, and less gasoline is used to transport food locally. Eating lower on the food chain—more fruits, veggies and grains—is also more environmentally friendly than having a meat- and dairy-heavy diet. Meat and dairy require a lot of energy to produce, so you can make your diet more sustainable by incorporating more plants into your meals.
More and more people are interested in where their food comes from, and this has spurred a lot of interest in local foods. In many places, small, local farms are gaining customers again.
– Learn what foods are produced within 100 miles of you. For example, you might find more fruits and veggies during the summer months, and more meat and dairy in the winter when it’s too cold to grow crops outside.
– Learn where you can buy them. Are there farmer’s markets near you? Are there farm stands, local foods stores, or local food in your large chain grocery stores?
– Try planning meals around local food ingredients, when you have the time. Commit to local eating for one meal, or one day, per week. Gather a few friends, and discuss ways you can lower your carbon footprint in the coming year.
Idea #5: Plant bee-friendly flowers in your yard.
As you probably know, bee populations are in a dangerous decline right now. The use of pesticides and crop monocultures are contributing to fewer and less robust bee populations. This is bad for us, because bees pollinate crops that we love to eat. Nevertheless, there are things you can do to boost bee populations where you live:
– Plant-bee friendly flowers. Click here to see flowers that bees like, which you can plant to sustain and increase their populations. You can plant them in your lawn. Plant them in a pot on your doorstep if that’s the only space you have available. If you can, plant them in local parks or fields.
– Also, don’t use pesticides on the flowers, or on your lawn. A class of pesticides called neonicotinoids have been linked to declines in bee populations.
Every year on Earth Day, people are encouraged to do something to celebrate the planet. What if you took it a step further—and committed to one thing to help the environment all year? Or more than one thing?
Although environmental problems can seem incredibly insurmountable, you can incorporate environmentally-friendly habits in your daily or weekly routines—and these are steps in the right direction. And remember that while habits are not always easy to form, they’re much easier to maintain. It’s OK to start small—as long as you start somewhere!