Next Wednesday, April 22nd is Earth Day, a global event that celebrates the beauty of our environment and supports its protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day is widely credited with launching the modern environmental protection movement. The inaugural event capitalized on rising awareness of environmental damage from humans and started with the publication in 1962 of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.”
Despite the book’s chilling predictions for nature and wildlife, by 1970 nothing had changed and, indeed, a lot had gotten worse. We drove big heavy cars that guzzled leaded gas, we littered at will, and we allowed industrial smoke and sludge to spill into our air and water.
We've made progress, yes, but today we have even bigger challenges: climate change and global warming. Sometimes the depth and breadth of our impact on the Earth seems so big that individual action seems fruitless. Our roadways and airways run on carbon. Thirty-nine percent of our electricity is powered by coal. Plastic, created from petroleum derivatives, permeates almost every aspect of consumer culture: it’s in cars, phones, furniture, toothbrushes, floss…everything!
Can individual action make a difference to the health of our earth? Believing that it does is the only sane option. Climate activists are routinely asked how they reduce their own carbon footprints, and they respond seriously with real solutions.
So in celebration of Earth Day, here’s our list of the ways we can all try to reduce our carbon footprint and increase the health of our environment. Individual action matters.
Recycle and compost: I am fortunate to live in a county (Marin, California) with municipal recycling and composting. Our garbage is complicated: aluminum, tin, glass and plastic goes into one trash can; clean paper goes into another and everything organic from chicken bones to coffee grinds to lettuce leaves, as well as pizza boxes, goes into the compost can. Thanks to this system, the smallest can in our collection is the landfill can.
Reduce plastic bag use: I use wax and paper bags for my kids lunches because they’re compostable. I do use plastic for storing greens and other vegetables in the fridge, but I try to reuse the ones that come with other purchases, such as sliced bread. (I haven’t bought plastic bags in over a year.) While shopping I try not to use plastic bags at all unless absolutely necessary. Marin has also outlawed plastic bags for at checkout, and paper bags are liberally sprinkled around the produce aisles.
Keep tires filled with air: Studies show that properly inflated tires make cars 3.3 percent more efficient, saving gas. Until I buy my electric car, this is one thing I can do to decrease my carbon footprint while I commute to clients and ferry kids to their activities.
Use compostable bags for garbage: I use a brand called BioBags to bag any garbage that goes into the landfill. They cost 60 percent more (44 cents per bag for compostable versus 16 cents per bag for plastic), which seems crazy. But recycling reduces the number I use so. Also, what is the price of the acres of plastic bags chocking our ocean waters?
Plant a bee friendly garden: There’s still no final word on the cause of bee colony collapse. Providing a pesticide-free garden, with plants that bees need to thrive, is my family’s contribution to the survival of these important pollinators. Bee-friendly plants, including herbs, vegetables and fruits, are also fragrant and edible.
Use a SodaStream: We drink a lot of carbonated water in our house. With the SodaStream, we no longer throw buy bubbly water by the case. While glass and plastic bottles do get recycled, water is heavy, and transporting it to the store to be bought by us takes way more carbon than one SodaStream canister. The canister is also traded in for a full one and goes back to get refilled, so it’s a ‘renewable’ resource too.
Get a rain barrel – or two or three. You may have heard we’re having a little bit of a problem with water in California right now. It’s so serious that Governor Jerry Brown ordered mandatory reductions on water use for the first time in California’s history. So we bought two rain barrels that hold 50 gallons each ($80 a piece) and set them up next to the downspouts in our backyard. A recent (rare) rain storm in the middle night allowed us to fill the barrels and we’re now using that water to water plants in the garden, including the tomato plants we just put in. One thing: if you get rain barrels, invest in a rain water diverter (about $16 on Amazon) that channels the water from your downspout into the barrel and prevents overflows. If you want, you can daisy chain barrels together so that when one is filled, the water is diverted into the next one. We may consider that option in the future if this drought gets even more serious.
How big an effect will a 100 gallons of water have on the drought, you may say? Depends. What if hundreds of thousands of homeowners got rain barrels? -- Emily Brower Auchard
April 17, 2015
If you missed last week's issue, here you go:
Booth Babes, Redressed
If you liked this story, you'll also like:
Eco-confused? Painless Ways to Save the Planet
Joining the Sharing Economy. The Real One
On the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ken Mayer
Chewie, we're home. Star Wars fans rejoiced this week over the release of a new trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," a reboot of the popular Sci-Fi franchise that's being directed by J.J. Abrams (who did the recent and successful reboot of the Star Trek film series.) The 2-minute teaser for the movie, due Dec. 18, features a chase scene with the Millennium Falcon, a crashed Star Destroyer and a voice-over by Luke Skywalker (actor Mark Hamill). So much fun! It ends with a scene of Hans Solo (Harrison Ford) telling Chewbacca, "Chewie, we're home.) You can watch it at the official Star Wars channel on Youtube, here.
Health insurance coverage on the upswing. Nearly 9 out of 10 American adults now have health insurance, according to a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being survey released this week. That's up from slightly more than 8 out of 10 adults with coverage in 2013. The numbers suggest that Obamacare, which requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance, is helping to boost coverage. "On balance, an estimated 14.75 million adults have gained coverage since the fall of 2013, when the law's first open enrollment season was about to begin, according to Gallup," writes Reuters.
Image courtesy of official Star Wars trailers