I was going to write all about April being National Frog Month, but now that Earth Day is upon us I changed my plan. I can’t believe it is the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day. Here is a link to a good video overview of how it all started and how far we have (or have not) come since 1971. And tonight April 19th on PBS American Experience there is an excellent documentary entitled “Earth Days” about the history of the environmental movement. I’ll be sure to check that out.
Here below is my list of easy things you can do to help the environment. None of those far-fetched impossible things you know you would never do. I mean are you really going to ride the bus or put a clothes line in your yard, car pool or not eat a barbecued steak ? ! Let’s be practical. These ideas below are quick and easy. Most are self-explanatory, but I’ve given a short explanation for others.
I do most of them. How many do you do? I hope I give you some ideas of ones you never thought of too.
At The Store
Choose items that come in less packaging.
Save energy at home by using Energy Star appliances. Consumers can reduce their utility bill as much as 30%. These products can be pricier, but they cost less in energy.
Just say no to plastic bags at the supermarket and everywhere you shop. Bring your own bags.
Support your local farmer. Fruit, vegetables, meat and milk produced close to home does not have to be transported across the country or the world, and the taste is great. Search www.localharvest.org by ZIP code for farmers’ markets in your area. The website also identifies restaurants that specialize in regional and seasonal ingredients.
Don’t use plastic sandwich bags. But some plastic sandwich containers. And you sandwich dos not get squashed.
Bring your own mug to the coffee shop. I mean, you know about how bad Styrofoam is, right?
Don’t use small water bottles. They aren’t even recyclable for heavens sake. Buy a good Nalgene plastic bottle and refill it from a large gallon water bottle or filter your own water right from the tap.
In Your Home and Office
Open a window instead of running the AC.
Use less paper and use recycled paper. Paper does grow on trees: 900 million of them every year become paper. Buy more recycled paper. It uses 60% less energy than virgin paper. And don’t print out that email.
Wrap your water heater in an insulated blanket. It only costs about $10 to $20 at home centers. Most water heaters more than five years old are constantly losing heat and wasting energy because they lack internal insulation. Who knew?
Turn off electronics and use timers. Turn off computers, monitors, lights, printers, fax machines. This cuts carbon emissions by reducing electricity use, extending equipment life and lowering maintenance costs. Put your AC on a timer.
Adjust the thermostat a couple of degrees higher in the summer and lower in the winter.
Caulk and weather strip all your doors and windows.
Use some of those new compact fluorescent light bulb. They cost more but use one-quarter the electricity and last years longer. They contain mercury, and need to be recycled carefully. The emitted light may look funny, so I use them only in the basement and garage.
Use the dishwasher only when it’s full.
Wash your clothes in warm or cold water.
Turn down the thermostat on the water heater.
Close your window blinds.
Check your tires. Give your engine tune-up can improve gas mileage 4%. Replacing a clogged air filter can boost efficiency 10%. Keeping tires properly inflated can improve gas mileage more than 3%.
Pay your bills and do your banking online. It saves trees. It also helps reduce fuel consumption by the trucks and planes that transport paper checks. ask your employer to directly deposit your paycheck.
In Your Yard
Water with care. Add mulch and compost to your soil will retain water and cut down evaporation. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation only use 50 percent of the water used by sprinklers. Water early in the day to avoid evaporation. Water directly on the roots.
Do something for the animals in your garden. Put out a bird bath. Or bird house or bird feeder, or bat house. You can do one of these even if you just have terrace.
Get a rain barrel. It’s an inexpensive and effortless way to capture water for watering lawns, yards, and gardens, as well as washing cars or rinsing windows. Hook it up to your drain gutter and you’ll notice a decrease in your water costs, and reduction in storm water runoff which helps prevent erosion and flooding.
Plant native species in your gardens and encourage important pollinators such as bees and birds by planting gardens full of their favorite plants. I like sunflowers, and bee balm.
Reduce pesticides, weed killers, and chemical fertilizers that leak chemicals into the ground. Layer on some all-natural compost, instead. Use mulch, or grass clippings.
Reduce your lawn and go native. Replace part of your lawn with native wildflowers and indigenous plants. Some weeds are other people’s beautiful flowers. Native plants are easy to grow and maintain, and require less fertilizer and water.
And finally – do something fun – participate in a local environmental festival or event for Earth Day. Here is a good list from the Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection.
And who says tree huggers don’t have a sense of humor. I found this fun video of the best earth day jokes of the decade. Have FUN on Earth Day !
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Check out my listing of Connecticut nature and environmental web sites to the right on this page.