Earth Day is Friday, April 22, a day to celebrate and protect our planet’s natural environment.
The first Earth Day occurred on April 22, 1970, when most Americans drove large cars powered by leaded gasoline V-8 engines. Most consumer goods end up in landfills. And many factories still emit black smoke and pollute rivers and streams.
But hope is in the air. Inspired by the anti-war movement, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson founded the first Earth Day as a way to raise awareness of environmental issues. Those of us who were in our 50s years ago may remember seeing newspaper photos of people planting trees to show their support for the cause. The first event eventually led to the passage of Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species actions.
While Earth Day is supposed to be a time to feel good about our green planet, sometimes we should be angry at being driven to take action.
- Talk to farmers and they will tell you about all the rubbish they find along their path in the spring, after littering in the winter. Some motorists don’t think about throwing cans of pop or leftover junk food into a ditch while driving. Yes, this should piss us all off.
- Drive on almost any residential road and you will find grass clippings being fired onto the road by the property owner’s lawnmower. A reason to be angry? Probably not. But it shouldn’t exist. Those nutrient-rich chunks will eventually drain into our city’s storm sewer systems and into the Crow River, where they will promote algae growth, which can suffocate fish and plant life.
- Leaving your workplace for lunch without turning off the lights? Or what about when you’re home at night, and even though you’re just watching TV, the lights in the other three rooms are turned on? Of course, we need to be a little annoyed with ourselves if we are to change old, energy-consuming habits.
But a little bit of annoyance probably won’t be enough to change our ways. We need to channel that negative energy into something positive, as fictional broadcaster Howard Beale demanded in the 1976 film, “Network.” To quote Mr Beale, we need to realize that our planet has value.
Earth Day is about learning the value of our planet, and knowing that there are positive steps we can take to make it better. Here’s a short list of action ideas:
- Start the rain barrel.
- Walk or bike to work, if possible.
- Plant more trees and shrubs in your yard.
- Wash the laundry in cold water, not hot water.
- Fix leaky faucet.
- Dry your clothes on a clothesline instead of using a clothes dryer.
- Study the schedule for the McLeod County Domestic Waste and Waste Facility and the Kandiyohi County Household Waste and Waste Facility and use their services.
- Consider purchasing mercury-free LED bulbs the next time you turn off incandescent or CFL bulbs. Sure, it’s expensive, but experts say it will pay for itself in energy savings.
- Pick up coworkers on the way to work.
- Take a bath (10 to 25 gallons of water) instead of a bath (up to 75 gallons).
- Start a compost pile in your backyard.
- Drive the speed limit. Combine activities into one trip.
- Replace one of your old equipment with Energy Star equipment.
- Plant a vegetable garden. If you already have one, make it bigger, and pass on your extras to friends.
- Use cloths such as T-shirts and used towels instead of paper for cleaning.
- Perform a home energy audit or contact your local utility company for assistance.
- Be a patron of your public library and borrow instead of buying books, ebooks, DVDs, audiobooks, magazines, newspapers, and more.
- Make your own household cleaner using products from your closet such as vinegar, baking soda, liquid soap, and essential oils.
- Opt out of junk email.
- Use cups, beeswax wrappers, and silicone bags for food storage instead of plastic bags, plastic wrap, or plastic storage containers.
- When shopping, try to buy products that are made or developed locally.
- Run your dishwasher only when you have a full load.
- Take your cloth bag to the grocery store the next time you shop.
- Buy food in bulk to minimize packaging.
- Make your next plant-based diet.
- Add reusable utensils to your homemade lunch.
- Leave your grass clippings in your lawn. This is a good fertilizer.
- During hot weather, fill up your gas tank in the morning or evening. During the hottest time of day, you are more likely to create a spill. Even small spills are environmentally damaging and wasteful.
- Conserving natural resources such as animals, plants, water, oil, coal, minerals, wood, soil, light, soil, and energy.
- Take your pet’s litter regularly. Leaving your pet’s feces on the ground can be a public health risk, especially if it rains and runoff runs into drains.
- Make sure your home air is healthy. Check for radon. Learn about indoor air pollutants from indoor energy use and toxins.
- Add greenery to your home and office. With the right indoor plants you can improve your air quality and mental health.
- Upcycle what you have. Take something that is disposable and turn it into something more useful and valuable.
- Add insulation to your attic. This is a cost-effective way to save on heating and cooling bills.
- Seal doors and windows by adding exterior putty and weather stripping to lower heat and cooling costs.
- Adding a reflective window film, can provide additional shielding from the heat of the sun and reduce energy costs.
- Install a ceiling fan. This can provide a breeze and circulate the air in the spaces you use the most.
- be digital. The more you can do online, the less paper you will collect.
- Reduce unnecessary travel. Consider using Zoom or Skype for virtual meetings and visits with friends and relatives from out of town.
- Install a programmable thermostat to save on your energy costs.
- Visit a thrift store. Buying used goods can reduce the amount of product that ends up in landfills.
You can celebrate Earth Day at home by becoming more aware of your ecological footprint and taking steps to minimize it.
Of all the tips listed, conservation of natural resources is the most important. That’s a tough lesson for Americans to learn. We live in a land of abundance, so we tend to waste more resources than anyone else in the world.
Conservation is not just a move, it’s an attitude, according to Earth Day founder, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who fought for the health of the planet until his death in 2005.
“The most important environmental issue is one that is rarely mentioned,” says Nelson, “and that is the lack of a conservation ethic in our culture.”