Did you know that Earth Day is April 22? The first Earth Day was observed in 1970 as activists organized a national campaign to get people to focus on ending damaging environmental pollution. The result was a bipartisan effort to clean the air and waterways, and by the turn of the millennium, the focus of Earth Day changed to address the threat of global warming.
As climate change has an ever-growing impact on our planet, Earth Day remains an important reminder that we should always be on the lookout for ways we can help reduce our impact on the planet. So in honor of Earth Day, we’re sharing with you a list of seven incredibly easy changes you can make in your daily routine to help keep the earth clean, healthy and flourishing.
How to Save the Planet in 7 Simple Steps
1. Replace liquid soaps with bar soap
The Problem: Liquid soaps are way more energy-intensive to produce than traditional bar soaps: They use up to five times as much energy to make the soap itself and up to 20 times as much energy to package. You’re also likely to use much more of your favorite body wash at a time than you would bar soap, so you end up buying more than you really need — the very definition of waste.
The Solution: Use bar soap in the shower instead. You can find ones that smell just as nice as your favorite body wash, and they’ll last longer.
Pro Tip: You can also use unscented bar soap and a sponge with an abrasive side to wash your dishes in the sink.
2. Replace chemical fertilizers with compost
The Problem: Excess chemical fertilizers run off your lawn with the rain and end up in local waterways, eventually making their way to the ocean. Along the way, they poison fish and cause dead zones — oxygen-free areas of the ocean where nothing can survive.
The Solution: Skip the chemical fertilizers and use organic compost instead. You can make your own by starting a pile of lawn clippings, dead leaves and vegetable-based kitchen scraps. It all breaks down into rich humus that’s great for your soil and totally natural.
Pro Tip: You can make natural compost indoors with the help of worms — vermicomposting is easy and on-trend with environmentalists.
3. Organize a community recycling program
The Problem: About 20 percent of the most environmentally hazardous sites in the nation are landfills. They create huge amounts of methane gas, which contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming.
The Solution: Work with your neighbors to make sure that members of your community are recycling everything they can. Gather volunteers to design your own recycling system and use your community newsletter to spread the word.
Pro Tip: Start with a survey to see what kind of waste your neighbors have the most of to make the biggest impact.
4. Stop electrical vampires in their tracks
The Problem: Almost all of the things that you plug in to the wall continue sucking up a little bit of electricity, even when you’re not using them. Cell phone chargers, “sleeping” computers and your cable box are the biggest culprits, driving up your electric bills and increasing your overall carbon footprint.
The Solution: Unplug any appliances and chargers when you’re not using them — this simple habit is easy once you get used to it. You should also consider replacing older appliances with new, Energy Star-rated ones for greater efficiency.
Pro Tip: For computer and TV systems that are too difficult to unplug, use a smart power strip that will turn on auxiliary items (your printer and DVR, for example) only when your main screen is in use.
5. Add faucet aerators to cut water use
The Problem: Older faucets on bathroom and kitchen sinks allow water to flow at about 2.2 gallons per minute (gpm), so a lot of this precious resource is going down the drain while you wash your hands. Saving water is absolutely crucial, as over one-third of the United States is currently experiencing some level of drought as of April 1, 2016.
The Solution: Replace standard faucet aerators with low-flow ones, which will cut your water flow to between 1.0 and 1.5 gpm. You’ll slash your water use by at least 30 percent. Unscrew your old aerator and take it with you to the hardware store to get the right size for the new one — they cost just a few dollars but could save you much more.
Pro Tip: Give your faucet aerators a soak in a 50-50 solution of water and vinegar once a year to keep them clean.
6. Switch to LED light bulbs
The Problem: Outdated incandescent bulbs use way too much electricity, and fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) contain mercury that makes them difficult to dispose of — you can’t just throw toxic waste out with the regular trash. CFLs often don’t recreate the warm quality of light that people have come to expect, making them a tough sell to many homeowners despite their efficiency.
The Solution: As your bulbs burn out, replace them with LEDs instead. These bulbs use less energy than CFLs, contain no mercury, and can last for decades, making them a more affordable investment than they seem at first glance. The price of LEDs has also dropped in recent years as competition among manufacturers increases.
Pro Tip: LED bulbs use so little energy that you can’t compare watts as you once could with incandescent bulbs. Focus on the lumens to figure out how bright your bulb is instead. You’ll need about 800 lumens to replace a 60-watt bulb.
7. Give “Meatless Mondays” a try
The Problem: Americans eat a lot of meat, and raising large livestock like cattle and pigs uses a lot of water: 1,850 gallons of water are required for just one pound of beef. Meat production also contributes to greenhouse gases from both the animals and the transportation of meat across the country.
The Solution: Even just one day per week devoted to vegetables and grains in your diet can reduce your carbon footprint and improve your health. Pasta dishes and salads are an easy way to start, but you can explore countless delicious vegetarian recipes online as well.
Pro Tip: Shop at your local farmers market to make your menu even more environmentally friendly. Local, organic produce uses eco-friendly growing methods and requires less petroleum to transport.
You don’t have to make every one of these changes right now to have an impact. Start with just one or two easy switches, and as you develop better habits, you can add another to your repertoire. You don’t have to feel deprived or make radical changes to help the planet this Earth Day: Incremental but lasting change will do more in the long run. You have the power to make a real difference, so we hope you’ll get started by choosing just a couple of these smart changes today to create a more eco-friendly tomorrow.