On Friday, millions of people of all races, backgrounds, and color will come together in the name of the one thing that joins us all-Mama Earth. This April 22 marks the 46th annual celebration of “Earth Day,” a worldwide event launched four decades ago in 1970 to make all Earthlings conscious of their impact on this big green planet we call home.
Some of us will do our part by volunteering, and others will commemorate Earth Day by being more conscious of their planet-harming habits, whether it’s turning off the lights before leaving a room, recycling more, or carpooling to work.
While any effort to protect the planet is honorable, what about the less obvious actions we take on a daily basis that have a negative impact on the environment?
Here are just a few simple changes we can make in our lives to be gentler on the planet-on Earth Day, and every day.
1. Eat less meat.
Believe it or not, the vehicle that gets you to-and-fro is not the number one polluter of the planet-the meat on your plate is. Livestock production for meat and dairy consumption is responsible for more climate pollutants than all modes of transportation combined. For this reason, adopting a more conscious, plant-based diet, or simply eating less meat, is the single most effective thing you can do to lower your carbon footprint. Meatless Mondays, anyone?
2. Skip the supermarket … and head to the farmers’ market. The long hike that food requires to get from factory to big-box grocer is yet another large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. When you make a conscious effort to buy from local growers at your neighborhood farmers’ market, you limit your food’s travel from production to plate and support small-scale farms that put less stress on the planet. Local food producers also tend to embrace organic, green farming methods to make it a better option for your health, as well. Visit Localharvest.org to find a farmers’ market near you, or join a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and get fresh, seasonal produce delivered to your door.
3. Use your dollars to support worthy companies. Corporations are quick to capitalize on Earth Day by sticking shiny, green stickers on their products and promising to donate a percentage of each sale to an Earth-friendly cause. This practice of “greenwashing,” when manufacturers use deceptive forms of marketing to promote their products as green or healthy, has become far too common on store shelves. Therefore, one of the best things you can do to honor Earth Day is to not buy into the “green” hype. Do some research, talk to friends you trust, and invest in consumer products made by conscious companies that consider the planet and human health every day of the year.
4. Limit your paper trail. Save yourself the headache and the Earth a slew of trees by taking all your banking and billing online. If we all viewed and paid our bills strictly online, we’d save an upward of 16.5 million trees a year. (That’s not even adjusting for all the paper saved not using up checks and stamps.) Take 30 minutes out of your weekend and make a list of all the bills and credit card statements you receive on a monthly basis via mail. Then go online and sign up to receive and pay them electronically. (Most billing statements will instruct you how to sign up for online billing.) While you’re on your green kick, cancel all the magazine subscriptions and charity donor pleas that cram up your mailbox, too. Almost everything can be done online these days.
Read more: Challenge Your Family to Live Green
5. Skip the bath. There is nothing better than coming home from a long day at the office and relaxing in a nice, warm bath. But just one bath uses up to 70 gallons (264 liters) of water. If you take a shower every morning and enjoy a bath at night, you are really doing a number on the planet. Be more conscious of your environmental impact by limiting yourself to the luxury of one bath a week (or none), or setting a 3-minute timer when you’re in the shower.
6. Do less laundry. Given the amount of energy it requires to heat up the wash water and run the dryer, our dirty laundry has a far greater impact on the environment than we would think. While energy-efficient washers and dryers do limit the damage, make a conscious effort to wear your clothes more than once if they are not dirty. Also, hang clothes out to dry instead of running the clothes dryer-each dryer can emit upwards of one ton of carbon dioxide each year, not to mention the damage it can do to your energy bill.
7. Skip the cup of Joe. The cup of coffee that gets you all jazzed up for the day is actually a problem for the planet. In fact, a cup of coffee takes 55 gallons of water to make, with most of that water used to grow the coffee beans. If giving up coffee is too much to ask-you would not be alone-try cutting down to a cup every other day or swapping out for tea. A standard cup of tea requires about 7 gallons of water, so it's a much greener option.
If all else fails, get out in nature. There are few better ways to honor the Earth than to baste in it’s glory and remember why it’s so important. Plan a hike with your friends (carpool, of course), go for a jog in the hills behind your home, or plan a family picnic at your local park. Teach your kids and loved ones to appreciate nature and everything it offers.
After all, it’s the only home we have.