By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler
Earth Day is Monday, April 22nd – Go Mother Earth! Indeed there is much to celebrate on this annual occasion which was first held on April 22, 1970 in the United States. It became an international event in 1990 with organized events in 141 nations.
As we clean up some of our past environmental messes and come up with ideas to better care for our Earth in the future, there exist more groups than ever to help us do just that. These organized groups address environmental issues on local, national, and international scales.
According to author Andrew Rowell, the largest and most influential environmental organizations in the United States are the “Group of Ten” comprised of organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society.
Public awareness and environmental sciences have certainly improved in recent years, and environmental issues have broadened to include concepts such as “sustainability” – as well as to address new concerns such as ozone depletion, global warming, acid rain, and land use.
Additionally, environmental movements often collaborate with social movements such as those that work for peace, human rights, and animal rights; or who are opposed to nuclear weapons/power, poverty, and hunger.
Pretty “big picture,” isn’t it? In a couple of my past blogs, I have written about topics that involve a “little things” focus. Here, I intend to do the same because when you think about environmental issues in too big a context you can become overwhelmed and even complacent. Have you ever thought, “What can I do?” or, “Does my small part in all of this really make any difference?”
Well…yes. Doing little things, making small changes, and focusing on doing your part can make a big difference. Even if you are not part of an environmental group, there are many other steps you can take to contribute toward improving our environment and making Earth a cleaner, healthier, better place to live – for us all!
Here are simple and easily implemented ideas to get you started – from the outside in:
The Great Outdoors
+ Take a look at the property you live on. If you have acreage, consider its location. If you live in an area where your land meets certain criteria, you can apply to the National Wildlife Federation to have it certified as a wildlife habitat area. I speak from experience! Receiving such a certification as we have means you have taken steps to provide a viable area where wildlife can thrive.
+ Start a compost pile. Do you have a spot outdoors that would be an ideal location? When you research this environmental tool, you will find there are many ways to create one even without a large plot of land. Cleaner and more convenient than a compost pile is a compost bin which is easy to build and can even be used on a porch or patio. Our compost pile is contained by bricks, and once it has built up through the fall and winter my husband uses it in the spring to jump-start our garden! We bought a stainless steel, compact pail that we keep next to our sink. In it, we collect and store our compost (fruit peels, rotten tomatoes, vegetable skins, etc.) until we have enough to take outside to our pile. The special odor fighting insert helps keep the pail’s contents a secret.
+ Put in a garden. Gardens come in many forms and sizes. My husband designed a small one in our backyard to grow a few of our favorite vegetables using organic methods. After a year of trial and error to get it going, he planted and tended to a row of blueberry bushes bordering the garden – yielding more berries each season. Next step is a few fruit trees! We have also grown vegetables, such as tomatoes in big planters, and strawberries in large flower pots on our deck.
+ Plant trees. Whether you buy saplings or trees with some growth, planting adds oxygen to our environment and creates natural habitats.
+ Add flowers and plants wherever you can. We invested in several flower/plant/herb boxes and lined our deck railing with them. The bees and butterflies seemed appreciative, and this little step which we saw as simply beautifying our favorite outdoor gathering place has contributed toward many life cycles. Plus, you get the benefit of a beautiful outdoor retreat on a warm spring or summer day!
+ Sign up with your energy company for their energy savings program. The ways to save energy vary by company, as does the level of participation. BGE in Maryland offers “Peak Rewards” in which we participate. Even the higher level has proven of little inconvenience to us. We receive big savings on our monthly bill – and save the environment at the same time!
+ Develop an awareness of your electricity usage patterns. Are there lights that are on unnecessarily? Our home has many big windows that let the sunlight in – we have very little use for lights once the sun comes up!
+ Add motion detector lights and switch to more efficient light bulbs. This reduces electricity usage and conserves energy.
+ Use cold water for washing clothes whenever possible. Warm and hot water is usually not needed to effectively clean clothes.
+ Become conscience of your water usage habits. How often to you turn on a water faucet? How long do you leave the water running? Consider cutting back on the length of your showers and turning off the water while you brush your teeth.
+ Recycle. Establish an easily followed process. Throughout the day, we put recyclable materials (what is accepted as such varies by county) in a non-descript box on top of our kitchen counter. When our recyclables pile up, we take the box to our upper deck and distribute into two bins – one for paper and cardboard, and one for plastic and cans/jars. On weekly pickup day we empty the bins into the large containers the county provides (stored outside) and take them to the end of our driveway. When we read on a product what recyclable materials were used in its production or container, we know we had a part in that!
These are just some ideas for conserving energy and resources, reusing materials, and contributing toward a cleaner environment that we can all live in and enjoy! So this Earth Day, take a pledge to look around you – just outside your door or around your home can be far enough to make a real global impact when we all make a little effort or a small change.
What are some little things you do to help improve our environment? We would love to hear from you!