In case it isn’t totally obvious by now, I’m a big fan of the great outdoors. I love the seclusion and peace that comes with my hiking and national park traveling adventures. On Earth Day, I feel compelled to urge our HSE readers to do your part in preserving and protecting our environment, its inhabitants and fragile ecosystems. It may seem like too great a task for just one person, but if everyone did their part….it would make a HUGE difference! Here are a few easy ways to do your part on Earth Day and every day thereafter.
Buy Local Produce or Plant Your Own.
Did you know that the produce in most supermarkets was harvested and transported hundreds of miles to land on the shelf in your local store? Did you know that this process takes an average of seven days for the produce to be available for sale to consumers? This not only shortens the shelf life of the produce, but also creates considerable waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Buy locally sourced produce from specialty grocers, farmers’ markets or roadside fruit stands. Another alternative is to plant a backyard garden. You can’t beat the freshness of produce that is picked right outside your back door!
Eat Less Meat.
According to Earth Day Network, the meat industry currently generates nearly one-fifth of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Producing one pound of beef requires an estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water! As you can see, it takes a lot of resources for the meat industry to keep up with demand. If you skip meat and cheese one day per week, it would be the equivalent to taking your car off of the road for five weeks. If the entire U.S. did not eat meat or cheese one day per week, it would be the equivalent of not driving 91 billion miles – or taking 7.6 million cars off of the road.
Okay, I’ll admit that this one can be tough for a lot of people. But, I’m not asking you to give up meat entirely. Start with just one meal per week. Meat alternatives do not end at tofu. Nuts, beans and quinoa are great sources of protein and are much healthier options. Try adding a handful of almonds or walnuts on a large salad or make a vegetarian quinoa chili.
Cut Back on Packaged Foods.
Over the last decade, more plastic was produced than in all of the 20th century! This amounts to more than 300 million tons of plastic each year. If that doesn’t shock you, maybe this will – only 10% of that plastic is properly recycled each year. Plastic is a huge environmental problem, leaching chemicals into our soil and groundwater and killing more than 100,000 marine animals and one million birds from ingesting and choking on plastic. Easy ways to cut back on plastic packaging:
- Stop buying bottled water. Buy a water filter for your faucet or a pitcher with a built-in filter.
- Shop in the bulk bins at your grocery store. This will save you money too! Most grocery stores now have bulk bins filled with nuts, oats, rice, dried fruit, etc.
- Stop buying bagged salad mixes, vegetables and fruit. As previously mentioned, it takes up to a week for to make it to the grocery store after it is harvested. Add in the time it takes to wash, sort, chop and package the produce and you are purchasing produce that will spoil within a couple of days. It is also worth mentioning that the price per ounce of the packaged produce is three times or more the cost of buying the entire head of lettuce or handful of loose carrots.
- Bring your own bags. Carry reusable bags with you at all times. I keep a stash in my trunk, so I am always prepared when grocery shopping.
Unplug When Not In Use.
Tens of billions of dollars are wasted each year on powering appliances and electronics that are not actively being used. In the US, these unused devices use more than 100 billion kilowatt hours and cost homeowners more than $100 per year on average. So, when you are not using that toaster or computer, unplug them!
Recycle, Recycle, Recycle!
Okay, I know you’ve heard this lecture before. But, recycling programs have come a long way in recent years! Even if you are not able to pay for recycling service at your home, many grocers now accept plastic, paper and glass for recycling. In addition to plastic bags, Whole Foods accepts other household waste, including batteries, wine bottle corks, Brita water filters, yogurt cups and other #5 plastic containers.
You can make a BIG difference by recycling used or unwanted batteries, electronics, cell phones and charging cables. Did you know that batteries contain lead and mercury? When you throw those items in the trash, they end up in landfills where they break down and leak these harmful chemicals in the soil and water supply! Whole Foods and Best Buy accept used batteries at most of their stores. Best Buy also accepts cell phones, appliances, televisions, cell phones, cameras, audio devices, gaming systems and computers, at no charge. The e-Stewards website has a search feature to help you locate additional recycling centers in your area.
*Photos courtesty of Earth Day Network*
Thank you for doing your part to keep our beautiful mountains, valleys, oceans, lakes and streams in pristine condition!