ORLANDO, Fla. – The argument could be made that every day should be Earth Day, but if you’re new to the environmentally conscious scene, a national day of observation is a great place to start.
Mother Nature continually offers us natural resources, so it’s fitting to do our part and give back to our home planet when we can.
Below you’ll find five of the easiest ways you can be a little more ecologically responsible on Earth Day and beyond.
Reduce your water and energy use
This might be one of the easiest ways on this entire list to help the environment. Keeping our planet healthy can truly be as easy as switching off the lights when they’re not needed, taking shorter showers and unplugging electronics when not in use.
Yep. It’s truly as simple as that.
According to the Earth Institute at Columbia University, changing incandescent light bulbs to LED light bulbs, replacing your current shower head with a low-flow shower head and turning your water heater down are some of the easiest and most effective ways to help curb your water and energy usage on a daily basis.
When choosing appliances for your home, look for Energy Star rated machines. Appliances that carry the seal have been rated to be more energy efficient and environmentally responsible.
Reduce your plastic waste
Plastic is one of the few substances that many use one a daily basis that never goes away. Ever.
Plastic is a material that helps us as consumers in many ways, but after it fulfills its purpose, it ends up in places like landfills, lakes and oceans where it will remain forever since plastic is manufactured to last.
According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, 33% of all plastic, including water bottles, bags and straws, are used just once before being thrown away. Plastic cannot biodegrade. Instead, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, becoming harmful microplastics.
The Coalition also found that Americans discard more than 30 million tons of plastic a year, with only about 8% being recycled. The remainder ends up in landfills, is burned or becomes litter.
According to a study by the Arizona State University Biodesign Institute, certain plastics can contain harmful chemicals that affect both humans and wildlife when they leech from the material. This is why it’s so important to keep our waterways free of plastic pollution.
So what’s the best way to fight this issue? Buy less plastic and recycle or upcycle the material when it can’t be avoided.
Opt for reusable containers or containers made from recycled materials. Forego plastic straws and lids when getting drinks to go. Bring your own reusable bags when shopping.
Learn how to recycle plastic properly here.
Make some meatless meals
According to the Earth Institute at Columbia University, eating low on the food chain is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment, but what does that mean?
Well, picture a food pyramid. On your lowest and largest tier, you will find fruits, veggies, grains and legumes. These foods cause the least impact on the environment to produce.
Studies by the Earth Institute found that meat and dairy production is responsible for 14.5 percent of man-made global greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from feed production and processing and the methane that beef and sheep belch out.
According to researchers, every day that you forgo meat and dairy, you can reduce your carbon footprint by 8 pounds, equating to 2,920 pounds if you do it every day for a year.
This doesn’t mean you need to go vegan overnight. Even small, simple changes to your diet can make a big difference.
Not quite sure where to start when it comes to making a meat-free change, no matter how small?
You can start by joining the Meatless Mondays campaign where you will find meal recipes and support as you work toward a more environmentally friendly menu.
Opt for environmentally responsible products
When buying anything from cleaning supplies to makeup, there are usually product options that were manufactured with fewer impacts on the environment than others.
The Environmental Protection Agency has even created a site called the Sustainable Marketplace, which can be used as a resource for anyone who is trying to buy products that cause less of an ecological impact.
This online marketplace has lists of the most environmentally responsible products in a wide range of categories, from dishwasher detergents to wall insulation products that will cause the least harm to our Earth.
Non-profit Green America has also compiled a list of all the most environmentally responsible products and companies in the United States and has organized them by category on its website. You can find the National Green Pages list here.
Participate in nature cleanups
Head outside, bring a knapsack and pick up some litter.
You may have to try out your first clean up on your own as social distancing is incredibly important right now, but once society returns to its normal hustle and bustle, grab some friends and make picking up litter a social activity.
When we aren’t dealing with a pandemic, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection regularly organizes group clean ups across the state’s beaches and parks.
You can even find volunteer opportunities to do your part in keeping Florida litter-free and beautiful.