IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY. IT’S ON EARTH DAY.
Today is Earth Day, meaning we’re supposed to do our part to raise awareness about the problems facing our planet. Let’s not make this political; whether you believe global warning is an imminent threat or a giant hoax, I think we can all agree that preserving the wildlife, beauty, resources and health of this planet is a good thing. While it’s true that “Earth Day” should really be everyday, at least we’ve got a day like this that gives a reason to bring these issues to the forefront. So with that in mind I’d like to offer a few easy tips you can take with you in your every day lives that, if we all work together, will make a big difference in the health of our planet.
- Drink tap water instead of bottled water: For every bottle of water you drink, imagine that bottle 3/4 of the way full with gasoline. That’s how much gas it takes to ship that bottle to you from the source to the distributor to the store, which both uses up finite resources and pollutes. The bottle is only used one time and creates waste. Tap water is perfectly fine in most of the United States… don’t buy the myth that it isn’t. If you live in a place where the tap water really is crummy, buy a purifier (Brita, etc). For portable water needs, buy an aluminum water bottle and bring it with you every where you go (leave it in the car, put it in your backpack/purse/briefcase/etc.
- Don’t use plastic bags at the supermarket (or anywhere): Plastic bags are absolutely awful for the environment — they don’t biodegrade, meaning they’ll still be around sitting in our dumps hundreds or thousands of years after we’re gone. Don’t use paper bags, either — recycling uses energy. Bring canvas bags to the supermarket and reuse them (or reuse old plastic bags). It’s amazing how clerks at convenience stores just want you to have a bag — even if all you’re buying is a candy bar they go to bag that shit up. Ridiculous. Refuse a bag unless it’s really necessary.
- Eat local: this a really complex issue because it involves raising awareness and changing learned behavior. So much of the meat and produce we eat is shipped in from far away, using a ton of gas and causing pollution in the process. So when I say “eat local” I don’t mean “Go to the taco bell on your street instead of the one across town.” I mean to be aware of what you’re eating and where it’s coming from. Example: if you see tomatoes or corn at the supermarket in January, they’ve been shipped in from some far away place like Chile or Argentina which causes all sorts of pollution/consumption issues, not to mention we have no idea what agricultural standards in those countries are like. Most supermarkets have signs above all their produce or small stickers on the actual produce that say where it comes from. Don’t buy shit that’s been shipped from far outside the U.S. Be aware of what produce is in season so you can adjust your shopping accordingly. Be aware of where your meat comes from, too: meat that’s grown locally will not only help you avoid the environmental issues above, but “local” small farms also tend to feed their animals a more healthy diet (which, in turn, is more healthy for you and tastes better). Shop at the greenmarket if there’s one near you.
- Use a dishtowel in the kitchen to dry your hands instead of paper towels: This one’s obvious… paper towels are completely unnecessary most of the time they’re used. Use a dishtowel to dry your hands after washing, then just throw it in the laundry when it gets narsty.
- Don’t let the water run when you’re washing the dishes. Wet and soap your sponge, turn off the water, then scrub all of your dishes. Then turn on the water and rinse them. No reason the water needs to be running all that time. If you’ve got a dishwasher that’s a whole other ballgame… they use up energy and a lot of water, so make sure your dishwasher is completely full when you run it to maximize efficiency. By extension, ditto for the laundry; make sure you’re running full loads (huh huh, he said “load”).
- Turn off the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth.
- Take shorter showers.
- Try to avoid using the air conditioner unless absolutely necessary. Make sure your A/C filters are cleaned regularly (once a year) so your A/C units don’t have to work as hard. If you’ve got a window unit, this is actually really, really easy to do; the filter usually just slides out and you can remove the dirt from it like you would lint from the lint-trap in a dryer. Turn of the A/C when you leave the house.
- Use CFL lightbulbs instead of incandescent; they’re way more energy efficient. Yes, CFL’s have mercury in them… make sure you dispose of them properly while we wait for the new generation LED bulbs to proliferate.
- Compost if at all possible.
- Use public transportation.
- Recycle: It’s not like you have to go down to the factory and operate some giant machine; it’s as simple as putting your bottles, cans, paper, etc in a different garbage bag. Be aware of what you’re using… recycle old magazines, newspapers, junk mail, cereal boxes, egg cartons, scraps of paper, aluminum takeout containers, etc. Don’t be lazy: recycle things even if they don’t offer a bottle deposit.
- Re-use: Recycling is a start, but ultimately it uses a lot of energy (and hence uses up resources and pollutes). Re-use whenever possible… disposable items like (for example) paper plates, plastic cups, razors, etc should be avoided.
- Listen to Devin Townsend.