Earth Day - Tips to Go Green
How to Be Greener
Being green is a way of showing that the future of our planet matters to you. If we want a future with clean air, fresh water and thriving wildlife, it's more important than ever for all of us to to do our part to protect our planet's health. Look for everyday ways to be greener by taking care of the air, water and wildlife in your own community. When you see the world around you being harmed, speak up in favor of greener actions that benefit the earth and all who live here.
Cleaning the Air
Save electricity.Conserving electricity in your home is an easy way to start being greener right away. Electricity-powered lights, appliances and more are require the use of energy that is generated at power plants that pollute the air. Most plants burn fossil fuel or coal and release emissions that make the air less clean. Here are ways you can help today:
- Turn off your lights when they aren't in use.
- Turn off and unplug appliances and electronics when you aren't using them.
- Use energy saving lightbulbs and appliances.
- Lower your thermostat in the winter, and use less air conditioning in the summer. Insulating your home helps you heat and cool it more efficiently, too.
Find alternatives to driving.Cars play a big part in polluting the air. The processes of manufacturing cars, fueling them, and building roads for them to drive on all pollute the air in different ways. The best way you can help is to be less reliant on cars as your main mode of transportation. Here's what you can do:
- Take public transportation. Use your local bus, subway or train instead of driving where you need to go.
- Try biking. Many towns are building bike lanes to make it easier and safer to commute by bike.
- Try walking where you want to go. It takes more time, but it's the greenest option available. Any place you can drive or bike to within five or ten minutes should also be walkable.
- Carpool to work or school.
Eat locally grown food.Food often has to travel a long way to reach the shelves of your grocery store. It may have spent time on ships, planes and trucks, not to mention your car, before it finally lands on your plate. Buying food that was made locally means reducing the amount of energy and emissions required to feed yourself and your family.
- Check out farmer's markets for the greenest options. Most farmers can tell you exactly how far the food traveled to get to you.
- Why not grow your own food? Check out local community gardens and see about starting your own vegetable plot.
Understand the manufacturing process of the products you buy.Every item you bring into your house has a history. Take your new pair of jeans, for example. Do you know what materials went into making the jeans? Do you know how far they were shipped before arriving in a store near you? If you bought them online, how do you think they got to your door? Often the steps required to make an item available require means that pollute the air. Thinking more deeply about what's behind every item can help you make greener choices.
- Check labels to see how far products had to travel to get to you. If an item came from another continent, a lot of gas was burned to get it to your door. Look for a local option instead.
- Buy secondhand. Any time you can do without a brand new item, it's better to get a secondhand version. That way energy isn't required to produce a new item from scratch.
Join a group working to stop air pollution.Many environmental groups are passionate about stopping air pollution by encouraging individuals, companies and governments to make greener decisions. Your personal actions matter, but if you want to make a bigger difference, join up with a group and make your voice heard.
- See if there are local groups working on ways to stop air pollution in your community.
- Or join up with a national group focused on reducing carbon emissions and stopping global warming.
Save water in your home.Water is a major resource that we often take for granted. The water that comes through your faucets has to be pumped from a water source to a treatment plant, filtered and treated with chemicals, then pumped to your neighborhood. That process requires a lot of energy. When you conserve water, you do your part to put less strain on your local water sources. This is especially important if you live in an area that's prone to drought. To save water,
- Don't keep water running while you do the dishes. Use a low-water dishwashing method.
- Take short showers instead of baths, which require much more water.
- Fix leaky pipes so you aren't wasting water.
- Don't water your lawn with fresh water. Either let the rain do the work, or save grey water (like used bathwater) to use.
Don't use toxic chemicals.Cleaning chemicals are often made with toxic ingredients that wash into the water supply and taint it. This harms humans, wildlife and the environment. Use earth-friendly substances around your home. You can also try making your own.
- Instead of using a commercial all-purpose cleaner, try a solution of white vinegar and water. It works just as well and isn't toxic.
- Baking soda does wonders on stains of all kinds.
- Use natural versions of shampoos, conditioners and other body products.
- Use natural methods for getting rid of bugs and rodents in your home, rather than using poison.
Never pour hazardous waste down the drain.Even worse is pouring them onto your lawn, where they'll eventually seep into the groundwater. Paint, motor oil, bleach, ammonia, and other strong solutions should be disposed of properly according to the guidelines of your local sanitation department. Most communities have toxic waste sites for proper disposal.
Find ways to fight local water pollution.Every community is dependent on a natural source of water to survive. Whether it's a river, a lake, groundwater, or another source, it's essential to protect the water that literally brings your community life. Find local groups working to protect your water and join up so you can help. Here are a few ideas:
- Participate in local waterways cleanups to get rid of trash polluting your local streams, rivers and beaches.
- Speak out against local water polluters. Loose governmental regulations mean that many water sources are polluted with industrial waste. See if there's a local group working to make things right and keep the water clean where you live.
Protecting the Land and Wildlife
Make less waste.Excess waste leads to overflowing landfills. They pollute land, the water and the air, making life worse for everyone who lives nearby. When it comes to waste, there are plenty of ways to make your habits greener. Here are a few ideas:
- Buy goods without a lot of packaging. For example, buy your food in bulk, rather than getting individually-wrapped packets with one serving size each.
- Recycle and reuse as often as possible. You'll quickly see how much packaging comes into your home when you make the goal of recycling or reusing all of it.
- Compost your food scraps. Food scraps are biodegradable, so there's no reason for them to end up in a landfill.
Make your yard plant and animal friendly.This is an easy, extremely helpful way to be green. Many wild places have been destroyed by humans, so native plants and animals need all the help they can get to survive. Make your yard a safe haven for any wild creatures that need a home. You'll find that it won't take long for your yard to be alive with wildlife.
- Don't treat your yard with pesticides or herbicides.
- Set aside a section of your yard to leave unmowed. Let the natural grasses and weeds grow as tall as they'd like. This encourages wildlife to move in.
- Plant butterfly bush and other plants that attract butterflies and bees.
- Set up a birdfeeder and a birdbath. You can also set up a squirrel feeder and a bat box.
- Make a small pond to serve as a water source for animals.
- Don't kill, trap or scare away snakes, frogs, lizards, moles, raccoons, opossums, or other creatures who want to live in your yard.
Plant trees.In most climates, the land is healthier when it has plenty of trees. Trees keep soil from eroding, clean the air, and provide shelter for wildlife. Trees also help to combat global warming by shading the ground and keeping temperatures down. Planting tree is one of the best ways to literally go green.
- Find out what trees are native to your area. Plant them in areas where there are too few trees.
- Join with a local group working to stop forests from being clear cut in your area to make way for developments.
Stand up for animals.More animals go extinct every day, and it's up to each one of us to save those who are left. One way to do this is to start thinking of animals as valuable creatures with a right to live and thrive on earth, just like us. Whether or not you consider yourself an animal lover, take these steps to be greener:
- Take care of wild places, like beaches and forests, that provide habitats for animals.
- Make sustainable eating choices when it comes to the way you consume fish and meat.
- Speak up on behalf of animals. For example, if a developer in your area wants to put up a cell phone tower directly in an endangered bird species' flight path, find ways to speak up against the development.
Join a local environmental group to protect your land.Depending on where you live, your community might be dealing with threats such as mountaintop removal, fracking, clearcutting, strip mining, and more. Educate yourself on the environmental threats in your area so you know how you can best help. Remember that the best way to be greener is to go beyond personal actions and make your voice heard.
Making Personal Changes
Consider becoming a vegetarian or vegan.Since commercially-manufactured meat is produced under conditions that harm the environment, becoming a vegetarian or vegan is a green choice. Industrial-scale meat production is cruel to animals and causes both air and water pollution. In addition, mass-produced meat is often pumped full of hormones that are unhealthy for animals and humans alike.
- A vegetarian diet is meat and fish free, while the stricter vegan diet contains no animal products at all. Decide which lifestyle makes the most sense for you.
- Ethically produced meat is a good alternative to commercially-produced meat if you don't want to give it up completely. Try eating only meat that you bought from a farm that you have visited.
Try growing your own food.Planting a vegetable, fruit and herb garden is a fulfilling experience. Completely eliminating the processing that happens to get commercially-grown produce to your door is a very green choice. If you've never gardened before, start small. You don't need much space to grow enough vegetables and herbs to last the summer. Try these easy plants to start:
Make your own cleaning supplies and other products.Most cleaning products can be made at home, and they often work just as well as the store-bought kind. In addition to making your own household cleaners, you can make your own body care products, too. You won't have to throw away plastic bottles or wonder what chemicals you're putting on your body. Try these recipes:
Donate or sell items instead of throwing them out.If you've accumulated a lot of stuff in your household, don't just throw it in the trash. Make a habit of donating or selling items that still have some life left in them. You could also trade things you don't need anymore for something you want.
- Consider holding a clothing swap with your friends. You can all get new treasures without having to pay a dime.
- Or donate items to product exchange communities like Freecycle. Vow not to let any useful item end up in a landfill.
- Is there a light that everyone forgets to turn off, like the one in the bathroom? Make a sticker or sign that says "Turn me off--please!" and hang it next to the switch.
Sources and Citations
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