Earth Day All Year Long

Every year on April 22, Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. However, we like to think of Earth Day as a daily practice of stepping up for our planet all year round. We can all make a difference by starting small by shifting from Earth Day to Earth Week and so on till it's our daily habit. Before we get into some Earth Day tips let's get into the deets with the beginnings of this epic movement.

Earth Day History

By the early 1960s, Americans were becoming aware of the effects of pollution on the environment. Rachel Carson’s 1962 bestseller Silent Spring raised the specter of the dangerous effects of pesticides on the American countryside. Later in the decade, a 1969 fire on Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River shed light on the problem of chemical waste disposal. Until that time, protecting the planet’s natural resources was not part of the national political agenda, and the number of activists devoted to large-scale issues such as industrial pollution was minimal. Factories pumped pollutants into the air, lakes and rivers with few legal consequences. Big, gas-guzzling cars were considered a sign of prosperity. Only a small portion of the American population was familiar with–let alone practiced–recycling.

On the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, rallies were held in Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and most other American cities, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In New York City, Mayor John Lindsay closed off a portion of Fifth Avenue to traffic for several hours and spoke at a rally in Union Square with actors Paul Newman and Ali McGraw. In Washington, D.C., thousands of people listened to speeches and performances by singer Pete Seeger and others, and Congress went into recess so its members could speak to their constituents at Earth Day events.

The first Earth Day was effective at raising awareness about environmental issues and transforming public attitudes.

Earth Day Tips for Going Green

1. Plant a simple backyard garden. It’s good to remember where our food originates, and it doesn’t have to be huge or complicated.

2. Switch your lightbulbs to energy efficient types.

3. Create a homemade compost bin for $15.

4. When it’s time, replace appliances to energy efficient models (look for the “energy star” label).

5. Stop using disposable bags. Get some reusable bags—my favorites are Flip & Tumble. Or, make your own—they’re insanely easy.

6. Buy an inexpensive reusable water bottle, and stop buying plastic disposable bottles. My favorite is the Kleen Kanteen with the sport cap for everyday use and the foldable Vapur for travel.

7. Wash laundry in cold water instead of hot.

8. Turn off lights when you leave the room.

9. Don’t turn on lights at all for as long as you can — open your curtains and use natural light.

10. Drive the speed limit, and combine as many errands as you can in one trip.

11. Even better, walk or ride a bike for errands two miles or closer.

12. Support your local economy and shop at your farmer’s market.

13. Find or start a Food Swap in your area (listen to my chat on the pod with the creator of the Portland Food Swap).

14. Research whether you can sign up for local renewable energy from your utility company.

15. Pay your bills online. Not only is it greener, it’s a sanity saver.

16. Put a stop to unsolicited mail—sign up to opt out of pre-screened credit card offers. While you’re at it, if you’re in the U.S., go ahead and make sure you’re on the “do not call” list, just to make life better.

17. Reuse scrap paper. Print on two sides, or let your kids color on the back side of used paper.

18. Conduct your own home energy audit.

19. Read good natural living blogs—I like You Grow Girl, Zero Waste Home, The Good Trade, and The Sustainable Edit.

20. Before buying anything new, first check your local Craigslist, Freecycle, or Buy Nothing groups.

21. Support local restaurants that use food derived less than 100 miles away, and learn more about the benefits of eating locally.

22. Fix leaky faucets.

23. Make your own household cleaners.

24. Line dry your laundry.

25. Watch short movies from The Story of Stuff.

26. Regularly learn about other countries or cultures, expanding your knowledge and worldview. (Fun fact: We do this with The WRLD at Home.)

28. Lower the temperature on your hot water heater.

29. Unplug unused chargers and appliances.

30. Repurpose your kids’ artwork.

31. Collect rainwater, and use it to water your houseplants and garden.

Not enough tips? Check out this awesome site for 52 more!

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