Earth Day is Monday, April 22, 2024. The first Earth Day was observed on April 22, 1970, when 20 million people across America celebrated by filling their local streets, parks and auditoriums to demand a healthy, sustainable environment. They were concerned about their cities laden with smog, polluted rivers, rampant pollution, and other environmental hazards.
Since then, Earth Day has been celebrated around the world, by people from all walks of life who are concerned about making a sustainable future for their children. In the past, events, festivals and overall awareness campaigns mark the day, with the hope of preserving the environment.
You might think protecting the Earth is a monumental task, one that can only be performed by superheroes. But believe it or not, there are many things we can all do to make a difference. Even small changes can have a big impact.
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15 Things You Can Do to Protect the Earth
In honor of Earth Day, here are 15 practical steps you can take toward living a more sustainable life and help protect the Earth:
Smart Heating and Cooling
1. Weather seal your home. This is a big one. So much of the energy most of us use to heat our homes just slips out through the cracks. Have an energy audit performed on your home—some communities and organizations even offer them for free—and insulate, insulate, insulate!
2. Put on a sweater. Why heat up your whole home when you’re just using one room? Dress for the season. Don’t expect to be comfortable in shorts and a tank top when it’s snowing outside. Put on layers, even indoors, and bundle up under blankets when you’re not moving around.
3. Use your curtains and blinds. Curtains are good for more than just privacy, they can also help you regulate the temperature inside your home. In the winter, open your curtains or blinds during the day to let in the sunlight and close them at night to keep in the heat. In the summer time, do the opposite.
4. Cool cooking. During those Dog Days of Summer, try grilling outside or using the microwave more. It will help keep the heat out the house so you don’t have to crank the A/C.
5. Reduce. Try to fix old things before buying new things. Buy used items whenever possible. Say “no” to drinking straws at the restaurant and plastic cutlery at takeout.
6. Reuse. Whenever possible, opt for reusable versions of popular disposable items, including water bottles, coffee cups, diapers, razors. Reuse plastic food containers for storage. Don’t just throw away unwanted items. Donate them. Repurpose them. Turn them into craft projects. Be creative.
7. Recycle. We all know to do it by now, but a reminder never hurts. It can be so easy to just toss that one tin can into the trash, just this one time. By being conscientious about everything you throw in the trash, recycling will become second-nature.
8. Compost. When you say “recycle,” most people think of bottles, cans, and paper. Composting is nature’s original way of recycling — turning “trash” into healthy new soil. You don’t need a complicated bin, just set aside a corner of your yard to dump out food scraps and yard debris, and turn it over every so often. Don’t have a yard? Many cities, towns, and community gardens have a public compost pile. Or try worm composting!
9. Eat locally. By eating foods that are in season, and grown in your local area, you not only support your local ecosystems, but your food will also be fresher and require less fuel (and carbon output) to get to you. If possible grow your own vegetables.
10. Eat less meat. Environmental advocates and health experts agree that Americans eat too much meat. Cutting out meat for even one day a week can help to reduce the environmental impacts of meat production, and it’s good for your health.
Change Behind the Wheel
11. Drive less. Find ways to combine errands to make fewer trips. Most of us are working from home so this is helpful.
12. Keep your car well maintained. A poorly running car is a gas-guzzling car, no matter what the owner’s manual says. Keep your tires properly inflated, and your engine tuned up, and follow your recommended maintenance schedule.
Remember Mom’s Advice
13. Turn it off. If you leave a room, turn off the lights. Same with the television, the stereo, or any other appliance. Switch to LED lights.
14. Be water wise. Take shorter showers. Wait until you have a full load of laundry. Shut off the water when brushing your teeth or hand washing dishes.
15. Hang it up. Instead of using the clothes dryer, hang clothes up to dry, whether inside or outside. You only need to toss clothes into the dryer for about 10 minutes if you miss that soft out-of-the-dryer feeling.
And a Bonus…
Beware of phantoms — Those little red or green lights you see when you turn off your computer, DVD player, TV, etc., require power to light up. Unplug these things when they’re not in use, or put them on a power strip you can switch on an off.
Activities You Can Do This Earth Day
- Go On A Hike
- Plant a Tree
- Ditch the Lawn, Grow A Garden Instead!
- Go Plogging – pick up trash while out for a jog (remember to wear gloves)!
Help Reduce Plastic Waste
Earth Day Anniversary: Milestones
While there is a lot to do, there has been some notable progress (as well as recognition of problems) over the past 20-30 years. Here are a few highlights (courtesy of the U.S. EPA):
Congress enacts laws for safe disposal of nuclear waste.
Cleanup actions begin to rid the Chesapeake Bay of pollution stemming from sewage treatment plants, urban runoff, and farm waste.
Scientists report that a giant hole in the earth’s ozone layer opens each spring over Antarctica.
Congress passes the Clean Air Act Amendments, requiring states to demonstrate progress in improving air quality.
Federal agencies begin using recycled content products.
EPA launches the Energy Star® Program to help consumers identify energy-efficient products.
EPA requires that home buyers and renters be informed about lead-based paint hazards.
President Bill Clinton announces the Clean Water Action Plan to continue making America’s waterways safe for fishing and swimming.
President Bill Clinton announces new emissions standards for cars, sport utility vehicles, minivans, and trucks, requiring them to be 77 percent to 95 percent cleaner than in 1999.
More than 4,000 school buses were retrofitted through the Clean School Bus USA program, removing 200,000 pounds of particulate matter from the air over the next 10 years.
Clear Skies legislation and alternative regulations are proposed to create a cap and trade system to reduce SO2 emissions by 70 percent and NOx emissions by 65 percent below current levels.
An Earth Day Poem
Here’s an Earth Day poem that according to legend, many Portuguese people would attach to trees in their forests:
Ye who passes by and would raise your hand against me, harken ‘ere you harm me.
I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from summer sun, and my fruits are refreshing, quenching your thirst as you journey on.
I am the beam that holds your house, the board of your table, the bed on which you lie, the timber that builds your boat.
I am the handle of your hoe, the door of your homestead, the wood of your cradle, and the shell of your coffin.
I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty.
Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer, harm me not.