Earth Day is this Saturday, but there’s no reason to limit our care for the planet to just one day. Since 1990, our country’s greenhouse gas emissions have been on the rise, and the emission of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere has increased substantially over the past 50 years, resulting in rising sea levels and climate change. Saving the planet can seem like a lofty goal, but taking small “green” steps can make a big impact. Here are some tips on how to celebrate Earth Day and to continue living a green life all year long.
So you want to be environmentally conscious but you don’t know where to start. Don’t worry. There are apps for that. The app iRecycle helps you find recycling opportunities in your area using your phone’s location. If you have trouble figuring out what’s recyclable and what’s not, don’t fret. The app also comes with information showcasing more than a million different ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Have you ever had more food than you know what to do with? Whether you’re going out of town and don’t want your groceries to go to waste, or find yourself with an abundance of veggies from your garden, Olio is the solution to that surplus. Post the items that you have too much of on the app and connect with neighbors who can use what you can’t. Then arrange a pickup to reduce food waste and show a little love for the environment.
Our commute is a significant part of our day, and how we get to places affects not only us but the world we live in. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, we consumed more than 3.4 billion barrels of motor gasoline last year alone, and the average American puts down around $2,000 annually just to keep their tanks full. Saving the Earth can also mean saving your budget. Instead of hitting the road on four wheels, try two. The average annual cost of riding a bicycle is $308, significantly lower than the $8,022 annual cost to maintain a car. Added bonus: You get great exercise.
If you happen to live in an area with access to public transportation, don’t be reluctant to take advantage. According to the American Public Transportation Association, people who take public transportation save an average of $9,000 a year. As an affordable alternative to driving, public transportation can be a quick, easy solution to combat high gas prices.
If you insist on getting to your destination via car, be courteous to your bank account and consider carpooling. Carpooling helps save 85 million gallons and $1.1 billion dollars a year, but only 10% of American drivers do this. Having companions on your commute is the best option for the planet.
Be intentional about your spending and buy products that help ensure a greener future. According to the EPA, there is a noticeable link between greenhouse gas emissions and our consumption of everyday hazardous materials. Did you ever stop to think about what’s actually in your bathroom cleaner and the chemicals that you bring into your home? Government regulations don’t require that ingredients be listed on any cleaning products, so it helps to be vigilant about what you’re buying. Check out greenerspots.com, an online directory that assists users in discovering eco-friendly stores and shops. It helps to know that shopping green is not a niche experience. Sites like BuyGreen, The Green Ecostore, and even stores like Whole Foods, Patagonia, and The Body Shop have all committed to a mission of selling eco-friendly products.
The way we eat and purchase food also has a tremendous affect on the environment. From the astronomical amounts of water used to grow certain crops to the fossil fuels necessary for food transport, our eating habits use more resources than we often realize. Eat locally, seasonally, and educate yourself on what’s sustainable.
Consider starting a family compost bin. Annually, Americans throw out a quarter of the food we prepare, and as a result, we spend $1 billion just to get rid of it. Most of it ends up in landfills and incinerators, which produces greenhouse gases. By composting organic waste, we’re naturally recycling it into fertilizer that improves the health of our soil and stops our dependence on using chemicals in agriculture. If you don’t have space for a compost bin, store your food scraps in your freezer and then take them to a place — farm, farmer’s market, garden center — that is already composting.
There are also many ways to volunteer and help the environment. The Nature Conservancy, VolunteerMatch, and EarthDay.org are good places to find outdoor events and organizations in your area that can use your help. Have some fun and make volunteering a social event. Get your friends and family to join in on the activities and bring everyone closer together with the shared mission of saving the planet we call home.
Originally published on April 20, 2018.