Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970 in the U.S. when 20 million people gathered in the streets all over America as a protest of the industrial revolution. That event jump-started the environmental movement and Earth Day gained worldwide recognition by 1990.
Enjoying Earth Day can be as simple as spending the afternoon outside to explore a natural trail in the woods, walk the beach, or even run around a park full of trees, to name a few. The warmer weather begs us to get outside in the fresh air and medicinal sunshine we’ve been craving since winter began. If you suffer from depression, anxiety, mental health issues, ADHD, PTSD or grief, among other issues, it’s even more important that you spend more time outdoors. Your mental outlook depends on it.
Another way to spend Earth Day is by learning a thing or two about the environment and how to help heal the widespread damage that plagues our troubled planet. According to a list of awe-inspiring facts recently published by The Huffington Post, some of the recycled water we drink will have passed through a dinosaur. And speaking of water, did you know 40 percent of all bottled water is actually bottled tap water?
But water purity and conservation are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to environmental issues. Eco-Cycle reports that an average of 41 pounds of junk mail goes into every mailbox in the U.S. each year. That’s the bad news. The good news is you can curb the magnitude of such waste by putting a stop to any junk mail that may wind up in your mailbox.
EarthEcho International says, “The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years.” They also claim that each day, American businesses generate enough paper to circle the earth 20 times. That’s an amazing claim considering how much paper modern technology already saves. As Americans, we also toss 25 trillion Styrofoam cups into the trash every year. We’re also still using 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour, many of which are considered garbage after one use. Even though many people (like me!) use refillable water containers, many of us are still not hip to recycle, renew, reuse motto.
Regardless of how many people use reusable shopping bags, apparently it’s not enough of us. Just one U.S. supermarket goes through 60,500,000 paper bags every year. They all end up in landfills, which contain about one-third packaging material.
Many people are aware of these facts and do what they can. Yet, the U.S. is the number one trash-producing country in the world. If you ever wondered how much trash you generate, figure it’s about 1,609 pounds every year. This means that 5% of the world's people generate 40% of the world's waste. Think of the two billion plastic razors, the million and a half tons of paper towels, and the 12 billion disposable diapers we throw away every year.
So, what does this mean for each individual who wants to make a difference? For one thing, it means not looking at the crisis and choosing to remain powerless. In spite of the fact that the larger portion of the problem weighs heavily on both the government and corporations, we can all be part of the solution. In maintaining the mindset that every little bit counts, here are some eco-friendly ways to help the planet and save money at the same time.
- Drive less. The idea is to conserve energy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. So what can you do? Walk more. Ride your bike or take public transportation. Carpool whenever possible. Run errands with a friend or two, or someone who travels the same errand circuit as you. Shop online. If you commute to work, talk to your boss about telecommuting.
- Invest in a reusable coffee cup. If your caffeine addiction contributes to the two thirds of U.S. packaging waste, don’t feel bad about it another minute. Get a reusable cup and bring it to your favorite coffee shop to fill up. You might even receive a discount.
- Use reusable shopping bags. Food store shopping bags are weak. Bags made of canvas or other sturdier materials are stronger and more attractive. You’re less likely to have to deal with driveway grocery spillage when the plastic or paper bag tears from being overstuffed. Again, the goal is to decrease the amount of packaging waste in landfills.
- Teach your children. Conserve water by teaching your children to turn the water off while they’re brushing their teeth. If you don’t already do it yourself, you can all save as much as 25 gallons of water per month. Think about how much water goes down the drain for no good reason. Also teach them to turn off lights when they leave the room. Make sure everyone in the house as his or her own water bottle for refilling. If children learn these good habits early on, they will likely continue them for the rest of their lives.
- Sell or donate. Instead of tossing your unwanted electronics, dishes, clothing and everything else unwanted in the garbage, consider selling them at your local consignment shop or donating them to charity. You’ll be helping someone in need and the environment at the same time.