Earth Day is personally one of my favorite days of the year, as this day is a reminder that the Earth is our home and a place we should care for. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson started Earth Day after witnessing the effects of a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California in 1969. So on April 22, 1970, an estimated 20 million folks in the US took to the streets to demand action for a healthy, sustainable environment. In the 49 years since, Earth Day celebrations and demonstrations/protests have grown and people from around the world regularly participate in something on April 22nd.
There are so many ways to celebrate Earth Day, both on April 22nd and year round. Here are some great ways to help the Earth:
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
You might be familiar with this phrase but reduce, reuse, recycle is a great place to start if you’re looking for simple ways to help the environment. Recycling and composting in the parts of the Pacific Northwest can be fairly easy, especially compared to other parts of the US. Portland, OR, for example, requires residents to recycle and compost as much as possible and has resources available online.
Food waste consists of an immense portion of our trash, with Americans throwing away 15,000 tons of food every day. Being more conscious of what food we have and how we use it is important. And composting our food waste, if possible, actually has several benefits! In addition to keeping food waste out of landfills, allowing food waste to decompose will eventually create great fertilizer for gardens. If you want to get started on composting, there are plenty of ways to start and composting bins available to buy. Here are some online resources:
- How To Compost: Your Compost Resource
- Composting At Home from the US Environmental Protection Agency
- Reducing the Impact of Wasted Food by Feeding the Soil and Composting, also from the US Environmental Protection Agency
Reducing and reusing are also important and there are so many ways to do these things! According to Vox Magazine, the average person in the US throws away 70 pounds of clothing each year, which can translate to roughly 190 t-shirts per person. Clothing and textiles are some of the least likely material to be reused or recycled, despite the fact that these things can often be reused in some capacity. And many clothes and textiles that aren’t donated or reused are sent to places like Panipat, India.
For many clothes and other textiles, simple fixes or creative solutions could reshape the entire piece. Places like The Ragfinery in Bellingham, WA are dedicated to recycling and upcycling clothes and textiles. In addition to accepting donations, The Ragfinery also offers classes on crafting, like sewing, braided rugs, and so much more! These creative solutions help to keep textiles out of the landfill and produce amazing creations!
Plus, there are other places that are dedicated to reusing other items that many might just throw away. The ReStore in Bellingham is a great example of this and their mission is to reuse as many building/construction supplies as possible! So instead of throwing away cabinets you don’t like or a perfectly fine door, consider donating it!
Plant Trees and Gardens
If you have the space, time, and resources, planting a garden with vegetables and native plants can be a great way to help your local ecosystem and wildlife. Bee-friendly gardens, for example, are great ways to help bees of all kinds and you also get a wonderful space filled with beautiful plants!
However, there are other ways to support trees, plants, and gardens if you don’t have the resources (like a large yard) or the ability to do upkeep. For example, many Parks and Rec departments have work parties throughout the year, where community members can help clean up or plant things in local parks. Your city’s website might have more information! Some cities also have community gardens, where you can pay a yearly fee, get a plot, and work with folks in your neighborhood/community!
It might take some research online (or calling your local government) but it’s likely that you can find ways to garden and plant native plants and trees! If you’re not able to do physical work (as gardens and park work parties do require some physical labor), there are other ways you can help out.
For example, supporting organizations like The Honeybee Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy can help species and plants like honeybees, trees, and other wildlife. The Nature Conservancy has many branches around the US, including in Washington State. Here in Washington, The Nature Conservancy works to conserve land and preserve important ecosystems. Their work on Yellow Island in the San Juan Islands is a great example of that! Plus, using less plastic and paper products can also help reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the environment and the number of trees cut down. Reusable grocery bags are a big plus in that regard!
There are so many other ways you can make simple changes in your life to help the environment. Here are some quick ideas:
- Carpool and/or walk/bike more
- Use and advocate for public transit
- Buy more local produce and food (and thus, reducing the amount of fossil fuels it takes to get you your food)
- Eat less meat (you don’t have to become a full-fledged vegan but eating less meat can have an immense impact on the environment, as meat production has an incredible impact on the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere)
- Advocate and demonstrate in support of environmental justice
- Call on corporations and businesses to have sustainable practices and/or support local, small businesses with sustainable practices
All of the suggestions here are just some of the things you can do to help the Earth and are by no means the only ones! Are there any things you do to help the environment? Let me know in the comments!