20 Earth Day Tips to Live a Greener More Sustainable Life
What Is Earth Day?
According to the Earth Day Network (earthday.org), Earth Day was founded by Gaylord Nelson, who was a United States Senator in Wisconsin at that time. The first Earth Day, which took place on April 22 in 1970 included rallies across the country that drew 20 million participants demonstrating in support of a greater focus on environmental awareness and sustainability.
This day marked the coming together of groups fighting for different environmental causes to join forces in a larger movement. That year, and credited largely to this first Earth Day demonstration, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was established and the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act were passed (earthday.org).
Earth Day is now celebrated annually on April 22 across the nation and around the globe.
20 Earth Day Tips to Live a Greener More Sustainable Life
Greener living and sustainability should be a focus throughout the year, but Earth Day provides the perfect opportunity to make new resolutions and lifestyle changes that focus on reducing our environmental impact.
To help you get inspired to make eco-friendly changes in your life, here are 20 ways to help the environment on Earth Day and every day.
1. Commit to using reusable shopping bags.
Most of us are pretty good about bringing our reusable shopping bags with us to the grocery store, but far fewer remember to grab our bags when shopping at other establishments. Commit to bringing your reusable shopping bags with you everywhere you shop, such as drug stores, clothing stores, and gift shops.
To make your shopping even greener, purchase reusable produce bags that will help you cut down on plastic waste even more.
2. Plant a tree.
Trees store carbon, produce oxygen, provide shelter for wildlife, improve your outdoor living spaces, and – if strategically placed – can help lower your energy bill by reducing the load on your air conditioner. If you choose to plant an avocado tree or one of the many fruit trees that thrive in Southern California, you can also grow some of your own food.
3. Go solar (just a little).
You could apply for a HERO loan to invest in a whole-home solar system, but if you are not quite ready to take that step, you can also start much smaller. With a small, affordable, portable solar panel, you can reduce your energy usage by charging mobile phones, tablets, and other small electronics. This is a great way to begin to go solar and to see how effective and convenient solar panels can be.
4. Start a backyard compost pile.
Everyone has kitchen scraps, so make this Earth Day the day that you start putting those kitchen scraps to work. Rather than sending them to the landfill or adding them to your yard waste bin, toss your banana peels and coffee grounds in a backyard compost pile or bin. Before you know it, you will have nutrient-rich, free compost to use in your vegetable garden or flower beds.
If you are new to composting, here are some helpful resources:
- What Can I Compost? 20 Things You Can Put in Your Backyard Compost Pile
- 15 Things You Should NOT Compost
- Backyard Composting Tips: 16 Accessories to Take Your Compost Pile to the Next Level
5. Attend a local Earth Day celebration.
No matter where you live in the country, there is likely an Earth Day celebration near you. They are not always held on April 22, so check community calendars and websites to find out when your local Earth Day event is taking place. Meet other environmentally-aware folks, learn eco-friendly living tips, and find out about local organizations and companies that can help you reduce your environmental impact.
6. Buy reusable water bottles for everyone in the family.
As part of your Earth Day celebration, include a family outing to purchase reusable water bottles. Making it a fun experience where everyone gets to choose their own bottle will increase the likelihood that they will use them consistently in the future.
7. Get reusable coffee mugs for coffee and tea drinkers.
If you have coffee or tea drinkers in your family who love to stop at the local coffee house before work, give them a reusable coffee cup as an Earth Day gift. Some coffee places even give a discount for bringing in your own cup, so this is an eco-friendly gift that keeps on giving.
8. Visit a community garden.
If you do not have room for a backyard vegetable garden or simply need some inspiration for your own garden beds, visit a community garden in your area. You might also want to consider signing up to volunteer, since this is a great family activity that gets your kids outside and helps them learn how to grow food.
9. Start a backyard or balcony vegetable garden.
You do not need an expansive backyard to have a vegetable garden; even a small space on a patio or balcony provides enough room for you to grow some of your own food. Backyard vegetable gardens allow you to eat local, organic produce while teaching your kids about growing food and encouraging them to eat more fruits and vegetables. A recent study showed that young adults who gardened as children were more likely to eat a healthier diet with more produce, so now is the perfect time to start instilling this healthy habit.
To make this part of your Earth Day celebration, head to the local nursery with your family to pick out seeds or seedlings with which to start your garden.
10. Set aside time to switch to paperless billing.
While some of your junk mail and old bills can go in your backyard compost bin, it is better to skip the paper bills completely to save trees, water and energy. This Earth Day, set aside some computer time to sign up for paperless billing from your utilities, credit cards and mortgage. You can start saving trees as early as next month when your bills begin to be delivered digitally to your email inbox.
11. Check out the Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) loan program and make your home improvement dreams a reality.
HERO loans do not require credit checks, are paid back through your property taxes, and offer a financing option for home improvements that help you save energy, save water, or make home and property more sustainable. Just a handful of examples of the types of projects covered include installing solar panels, replacing your water heater, replacing your natural grass lawn with artificial turf, upgrading your HVAC system, and installing energy-efficient windows.
If you have been dreaming of increasing your curb appeal, reducing the amount of time you spend on yard maintenance, or saving money on your water and energy bills, spending some time perusing potential projects online might be the ideal way to celebrate Earth Day.
12. Host a zero-waste party.
Use this complete guide to hosting zero-waste parties to see how easy, convenient and inexpensive it can be to host an eco-friendly backyard gathering with compostable party supplies, digital invitations, biodynamic wines, and mason jars. Earth Day is the perfect day for a zero-waste soiree – plus, you just might encourage your guests to become sustainable, eco-friendly party hosts as well.
13. Enjoy a backyard barbecue with greener grilling practices.
If you are still using a charcoal grill for your backyard barbecuing, it might be time to adopt some greener grilling practices. By purchasing a new grill that burns eco-friendlier fuel or choosing greener fuel options for your current grill, you can host a backyard feast that is better for you, your guests, and the environment.
Skip the chemical-laden lighter fluid, ward off flying pests with citronella candles, and a grill a meat-free meal for your family and friends. By skipping the meat – even if it is only on Earth Day – you avoid the chemicals released into the air from grilling meat, while also reducing your water and energy use, and combating climate change.
14. Set up a convenient recycling system.
Most people are getting much better about recycling cans, bottles, cardboard and paper, but your family members and friends will be even more likely to participate if you make it easy and convenient for them. Label your recycling bins, place them in a convenient location, and make sure everyone knows where they are and what type of recyclable goes in each one. If you already have a recycling system in place, set aside a little time this Earth Day to simplify it and make it easier to make recycling part of your everyday life.
15. Take your e-reader to the park.
The more time you spend in nature, the more likely you are to feel a stronger connection to the environment and a greater responsibility for caring for it. This Earth Day, head to the park with your e-reader to spend some quality time outdoors while filling your digital shelves with ebooks to save trees and conserve water.
16. Take your family to the library.
If you want to reduce the demand for paper but are not ready to give up the feel of a real book in your hands, take your family to the library on Earth Day. If you do not already have them, get everyone their own library cards to encourage your kids to read more and to save trees by borrowing books instead of buying them.
17. Schedule a consultation for LED outdoor lighting.
Save energy and lower your electricity bill by switching out your old landscape lighting system for new fixtures with LED light bulbs. Switching to LED outdoor lights can help you realize as much as an 80% reduction in energy use and significantly reduce the number of times you will need to change your bulbs. While halogen bulbs last a maximum of about 5,000 hours, LED bulbs can last up to 40,000 hours, which reduces waste and makes your landscape lighting lower maintenance. If you are ready to make the change, make scheduling an outdoor lighting consultation one of your Earth Day resolutions.
18. Install an automatic irrigation system.
Installing an automatic sprinkler system or drip system makes your life easier and is one of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of water you use to irrigate your landscaping. Make sure you set your system to water in the morning or evening to avoid mid-day evaporation and be sure to adhere to any mandatory water use restrictions in your area by scheduling your system to irrigate your landscaping on the appropriate days.
19. Go camping in your backyard.
Depending on the year, Earth Day might fall in the middle of the week, which might make an overnight camping trip out of the question. But you can still get back to nature with your partner or family by planning an evening of backyard camping. Include age-appropriate ghost stories around the fire pit, eco-friendly craft projects, an outdoor movie night, and cooking dinner over the fire pit are on the barbecue grill to make it a night to remember.
20. Take the Ecological Footprint Quiz.
Even if you feel like you live a pretty sustainable existence, you might be surprised at your results when you take the Ecological Footprint Quiz offered through the Earth Day Network. This calculator takes basic information from how you live (the size of your home, how often you use public transportation, the energy efficiency of your home, etc.) to determine how many planets would be required to sustain the population if everyone used the amount of resources you use. Taking the Ecological Footprint Quiz this Earth Day might inspire you to increase your green-living efforts to score even better next year.