On April 22, 1970, Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson and his Republican co-chair, Pete McCloskey, inspired 20 million Americans to demonstrate against the deterioration of the environment. Gaylord’s vision was that the rallies would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda, and it worked: that day led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. This April 22 marks the forty-fifth anniversary of that day, and over 190 countries now celebrate Earth Day to raise awareness about ecological issues.
Sadly, despite the massive success of this undertaking, Earth is still in a state of crisis. Water shortages, pollution, plastics, deforestation, toxic waste and greenhouse gases continue to threaten our planet. And while it’s awesome that public figures like Rob Machado lead Earth Day initiatives on behalf of the planet, individuals on their own have so little power that it’s impossible to make a difference.
Wait, What?!? We are the difference! If each of us did our part, the world would undoubtedly become a sustainable planet. With this in mind, The Earth Day Network challenged individuals to come together and collectively perform a billion acts of green. Amazingly, they’ve already reached that goal – but there’s still a lot more to be done.
Let’s help The Earth Day Network reach their new goal of two billion acts of green. Read on to learn more, then visit their website and make a pledge, sign a petition, or make a donation for as little as a dollar, and feel good knowing that you’ve contributed to the collective cause.
EAT LESS MEAT: According to Earth Day Network, it take 20 times more energy to produce a calorie of meat than it does to produce a plant calorie, and the meat industry is responsible for approximately 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Raising beef and other livestock also consumes excessive amounts of water: while it takes 1,799 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, it takes only 216 gallons to produce soybeans and 108 gallons to produce corn. The industry also indirectly contributes to deforestation, since land is required for raising the animals and growing grain for feed.
Join the Meatless Monday movement and make a difference. Take the pledge and make a conscious effort to eat less meat.
CONSUME LOCAL PRODUCE: As soon as produce is harvested, it begins to lose nutritional value. Because of the time it takes for produce to travel from farm to store, most grocery store produce has lost approximately 45% of its nutritional value by the time you buy it. To make matters worse, the vehicles used for transportation emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Take the pledge, and whenever possible buy local produce. When you do, you will gain nutritional value while reducing your carbon footprint.
COMPOST: Composting breaks down organic materials such as leaves, grass clippings and certain kitchen scraps into a soil-like product chock full of nutrients that can be used for gardening. Even if you don’t garden, composting keeps unnecessary waste out of landfills.
What’s that? You say you live in an apartment so you can’t compost? Not true! Read this Forbes Magazine article to learn exactly how to do it. And if you don’t garden, donate your compost to a friend who does.
USE LESS ENERGY: According to Earth Day Network, nearly half of all US greenhouse gas emissions are created as a by-product of powering our homes and cars. The only way for this statistic to be improved is for each of us to take action.
Earth Day Network has teamed with WattzOn to encourage people to find ways to reduce their energy usage. Click here to check out the site and see how you can save energy. And just in case you need a little extra encouragement to do so, remember that when you reduce your energy usage, you also save money. It’s a double win!
One quick and easy way to save energy is to reduce the temperature on your water heater. While the average person will experience burns with water over 120⁰F, most home water heaters are set to 140⁰F. What a waste! Find instructions to turn down the temperature on you water heater at energy.gov.
You can also save energy by identifying “vampire” appliances; that is, appliances that use energy even when they’re turned off. Every year, billions of kilowatt hours of energy are wasted this way. This also has a negative impact on the environment since the fossil fuels used to generate that energy produce carbon emissions. A simple way to identify a vampire appliance is to touch the adapter: if it remains warm while the appliance is turned off, the appliance is a vampire. Unplug the appliance when it is not in use.
REDUCE USE OF PLASTICS: According to Earth Day Network, from 2002-2012 more plastic was produced than in the entire 20th century, and the environmental impact of plastic is staggering. The plastic manufacturing process releases greenhouse gases, discarded plastics leach harmful chemicals into soil and groundwater, and improperly discarded plastics kill marine mammals and birds.
The easiest way to reduce our use of plastic is to stop using unnecessary plastic products such as bags and bottles. Take the pledge and switch to reusable bags, bottles, silverware, dishes, cleaning tools, and other alternatives to plastic.
RECYCLE ELECTRONIC WASTE: Many electronic devices contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. When these electronics end up in landfills, many of these chemicals leach into the soil or are released into the atmosphere when burned.
Help keep our world clean by recycling your electronics properly. Earth Day Network has partnered with E-Stewards to make this easy. Log on to their website and enter your zip-code to find an e-waste facility near you.
REDUCE JUNK MAIL: Think junk mail isn’t a big deal because you recycle it? Think again. For starters, over 100 million trees are used each year to create junk mail. The processes of creating pulp, paper, and junk mail, as well as the process of shipping all that junk mail, produce greenhouse gas emissions; in addition, billions of gallons of water are used to create and recycle that mail.
Earth Day Network lists several ways you can easily reduce your junk mail. Click here to learn more.
Petition to Make a Difference
THE SHAHEEN-PORTMAN BILL: According to Earth Day Network, studies show that America has the capacity to reduce the amount of non-transportation energy it uses by 23% by 2020. If this goal is met, we would save $1.2 trillion in wasted energy costs and reduce annual greenhouse-gas emissions by 1.1 gigatons. This is roughly equivalent to taking all of the passenger vehicles and light trucks in the United States off the road!
If passed, the Shaheen-Portman bill will help accelerate the U.S.’s transition to a more energy efficient economy. With a few simple clicks, you can write to your Senators and tell them you want them to support this bill. Click here to get started.
By phasing out carbon pollution, we can help prevent the rise of global temperatures. Click here to Sign Earth Day Network’s climate petition in support of clean energy and help promote this goal.
Give to Make a Difference
There are very few things of value in this world that you can buy with a dollar, but thanks to The Canopy Project, a dollar has enough value to help change the world.
Earth Day Network developed The Canopy Project in efforts to preserve the environment and help impoverished communities. We all know that trees are needed to filter the air and to offset climate changes, but the trees planted by The Canopy Project’s trees also “reverse the impacts of land degradation and provide food, energy and income, helping communities to achieve long-term economic and environmental sustainability.”
Over the past three years, The Canopy Project has planted over 1.5 million trees in 18 countries. Within the US, projects to restore urban canopies have been completed in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Flint, and Chicago.
For every dollar donated to The Canopy Project, one tree will be planted. In support of this project, our editorial manager will be donating 50% of her earnings from this article for the purchase of trees. Please click here and join her in supporting this cause.