We only have one Earth, and it's important to protect our planet so we can continue inhabiting it since we haven't yet figured out that whole living-on-the-moon thing. There are dozens of ways to reduce your carbon footprint for Earth Day 2017, which is April 22. This year's Earth Day theme is environmental and climate literacy, which is all about educating each other about the very real threats our planet is facing.
"We need to build a global citizenry fluent in the concepts of climate change and aware of its unprecedented threat to our planet," Earth Day Network states on its website. "We need to empower everyone with the knowledge to inspire action in defense of environmental protection."
Climate change and environmental destruction is a huge problem, and sometimes it can feel like there is nothing you as an individual can do to make a difference. But, each person doing their part in small ways can make a big impact. From choosing green travel, to donating to environmental organizations, to opting for green energy options, to recycling, little changes in the way you live your life can help protect the planet.
The good news is that you can now consider yourself empowered by embracing these 10 ways to reduce your carbon footprint this Earth Day.
1Reduce, Re-use, Recycle
This one is environmentalism 101, and the website Carbon Footprint encourages people to reduce, re-use, and recycle. "Throwing things away is a waste of the energy and the resources taken to make the product," the site states. "Reducing the number of things that need to be thrown away, reduces the amount of materials which have to be quarried and mined."
Avoid products with excess packaging; re-use items like glass bottles as long as you can; and recycle everything you are able — this includes giving items away you no longer want that are still in good shape instead of throwing them away. While you might not be ready for a zero-waste lifestyle, we can all be more mindful about recycling.
Composting your food waste instead of throwing it away is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint while also creating great food for your plants. But, you might be asking, how can I compost if I live in a city? Some cities already have compost pick-up programs (the city where I lived in Maine for nine years did), but if your city doesn't, if you have a rooftop or a balcony you can easily start composting.
The website Organic Authority has an easy guide to city composting. If composting is way out of your comfort zone, that's OK.
"Get yourself a kitchen compost container and add all your compostable scraps to that throughout the week," the site suggests. "Don’t worry, they have a charcoal filters to absorb any odors so it won’t stink up your kitchen or apartment. Then at the end of the week, drop them off at a local farm, CSA, or compost drop-off center."
3Choose Green Travel
If you've got a getaway planned, why not make it green? Booking.com recently released released findings from its global Sustainable Travel Report that reveals that eco-tourism could double this year — dubbed the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the United Nations — as more people become aware of their impact on the planet.
If your budget limits you from selecting a green trip, you can do little things like opt to not have your room cleaned every day (many places even reward you for this with food and beverage vouchers), reusing your towels, and turning off lights and air/heat when you're not in the room.
Additionally, some places are even offering Earth Day travel deals so you can get your green on.
4Turn Off The Lights
This one is super easy, and everyone can do it. Do your part to reduce use of electricity by turning off your lights when you're not in the room, or out of the house, and replace your regular light bulbs with LED lightbulbs that connect to an app so you can turn them off or on from your phone if you're not at home.
5Eat Locally Grown Food
Back in the olden, days almost everyone ate locally; farm to table was a fact of life, not a fancy term for eating local. And if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense: Why should your food travel thousands of miles when someone is growing berries down the street?
Carbon Offsets to Alleviate Poverty reports that 13 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the production and transport of food. Transporting food requires petroleum-based fuels, and many fertilizers are also fossil fuel-based.
While you don't have to sleep in your garden like Lorelai Gilmore, eating where you live can go a long way toward reducing your carbon footprint, and it's pretty easy to do. Commit to eating locally by frequenting farmers' markets, joining a community supported agriculture group, or even growing your own fruits and veggies at home, or in a local community garden.
6Lay Off The Gas
Believe it or not, changing the way you drive can help reduce your mileage by up to 33 percent. Carbon Offsets to Alleviate Poverty reports that speeding and unnecessary acceleration wastes gas and money, and increases your carbon footprint. Additionally, properly inflated tires improve your gas mileage by up to three percent.
7Help The Cause
In addition to reducing your own carbon footprint, you can help others reduce theirs by supporting environmental organizations committed to protecting the environment.
You can also think globally and act locally by raising money to help environmental causes within your own community. GoFundMe reports that people around the world have turned to the site to help environmental causes in their own backyards.
"Whether it’s purchasing trees for conservation in rural Mississippi, turning the family farm into a nature preserve in South America, helping the Humane Society save abandoned chimpanzees in Liberia, or a snorkeling trip north of the Arctic circle, more than 12,000 organizers from 29 countries have raised more than $15 million for environmental stewardship over the past two years," a story on GoFundMe states.
If you have a green idea, consider starting a campaign of your own.
8Don't Go To Outer Space
I don't know about you, but I don't have any interest, let alone the money, to travel to outer space. Yes, this is actually a thing. But space tourism is not good for the environment on this planet. If someone offers to send you on one of these trips, politely decline and do your part to make Earth a sustainable option for your future and for those who come after you.
9Use Your Water Sparingly
While Fluffy or Whiskers might enjoy drinking from the faucet, we all have to make sacrifices to conserve water. Maybe for you it's taking short showers instead of long baths. For your cat, it's drinking from a bowl versus a running faucet.
Try to turn off water when you're not using it, like while the toothbrush is in your mouth. If you have a yard, consider embracing the brown (I hear it's the new black!) in favor of the environment. My yard, which grew fresh green grass this winter, is now turning a lovely shade of yellow under the relentless Los Angeles sun, and I'm OK with that.
10Make Mindful Purchases
Make mindful purchases (this can also save you money, which is a bonus). Every item you buy and then discard eventually ends up in the waste stream. Take pause before buying something to make sure it's an item you really want, or need. Whenever possible choose items that are all natural, chemical free, and made of sustainable materials. And, when you're finished with it be sure to recycle it.
While April 22 is the official Earth Day, Earth Day is actually every day, and we can all do our part to ensure our planet sticks around for the foreseeable future.