Most of us know that Earth Day, coming up this Friday (April 22) is a day set aside to celebrate nature and the environment, and encourage environmental protection. But what you may not know is that Earth Day actually evolved over a period of 7 years from a grassroots political campaign led by a feisty Senator from Wisconsin named Gaylord Nelson.
Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media in 1969 after the oil spill in Santa Barbara, California (which is newly relevant in light of the devastating 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico). Nelson and a few other Congressmen built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land. As a result, on April 22, 1970, an incredible 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies.
On Earth Day in 1970, its supporters finally saw the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Clean Air, Clear Water, and Endangered Species Acts were also passed. Earth Day is now formally celebrated in commemoration of these events.
The theme of Earth Day 2011 is “A Billion Acts of Green”. Basically, the aim this year is to generate a billion acts of environmental service. So, we decided to give you 15 small ways to be a part of the billion.
- Switch your lightbulbs to CFL compact fluorescent lights or energy saving lights.
- Plant an herb garden or keep some potted herbs in your kitchen window.
- Reusable water bottles really lower the amount of plastic we go through. We love these Lifefactory Glass Bottles – they’re free of known harmful chemicals such as BPA, phthalates, PVC, and polycarbonate.
- Snip six-pack rings before throwing them in the trash, or find out if they can be recycled locally.
- Invest in your own coffee cup. You’ll save a lot of paper, and some cafes even give discounts to customers who bring in their own cups.
- Turn off your computer at night instead of leaving it in sleep mode. You can save 40 watt-hours per day.
- Laundry: Use cold or warm water instead of hot water to clean your clothes. You could save energy comparable to 100,000 barrels of oil a day. Hang clothes out to dry instead of using a drying machine every once in a while – if you hang them outside, they’ll smell nice, too.
- Eat vegetarian one meal per week. Did you know that it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef?
- Save water and bathe with your baby!
- Save some gas and get 15% better mileage by using cruise control.
- Recycle your old cell phones instead of throwing them out. Phones have toxic substances that can damage the environment if placed in landfills.
- Get a bunch of junk mail? Call those companies and ask them to take you off their list. The same is true for the phone book. If you don’t ever use the paper version, stop your phone book delivery and use an online directory instead.
- Get a few foldable, reusable bags and put them in your purses. That way no matter which one you have with you when you’re picking up the groceries, you’ll have a reusable bag handy. Plastic bags aren’t biodegradable, and they’re making their way into our oceans.
- Opt to pay your bills online. Some banks will even reward you for stopping your paper bills.
- Go to a car wash. Most professional car washes are more efficient with water consumption.