Earth Day is coming up soon—Saturday, April 22, to be exact—and there’s a lot going on, all over the world. From the March for Science to tree planting ceremonies, it seems like everybody’s working on big ways to save the planet. But what if you can’t march? What if you can’t plant a tree? Don’t worry—there’s a lot you can do to make Earth Day every day. Here are four ways to do your part to make the Earth a better place.
Stop using paper towels
Did you know that 40 percent of trash in U.S. landfills consists of paper products? Not only that, but the paper industry is the third largest contributor to global warming, and paper towels are typically manufactured using chlorine, which releases carcinogenic dioxins and furans. If every household in the U.S. used one less 70-sheet roll of paper towels, that would save 544,000 trees each year.
Instead of using paper towels, use cloth towels. By doing so, you’ll save energy and create fewer greenhouse gases. They also last a lot longer and instead of getting sent to the landfill, you can just toss them in the laundry to clean them. If you must use paper towels, try using brands containing recycled fibers and compost them after use. As long as paper towels are unbleached and chlorine-free, they’re safe to compost.
Refuse plastic bags
The average plastic bag is used for five minutes but takes more than 1,000 years to break down in the environment. Every piece of plastic ever made still exists, and according to some studies, there are more than 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in each square mile of the world’s oceans. More than 100,000 animals die every year after being entangled in plastic bags.
Instead of using plastic bags, celebrate Earth Day every day by bringing your own reusable bags when you go shopping. If you only have one or two items, carry them out in your hands. If you forget your reusable bags—and we all do, sometimes more often than not—ask for paper bags, which can be recycled.
Go meat- and/or dairy-free one day a week
Raising beef cattle requires 160 times more land and causes 11 times more greenhouse gas emissions when compared to crops like wheat, rice, or potatoes. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a vegetarian or vegan to do your part to save the earth. Instead, try eating meat- and/or dairy-free meals for one day a week. If you already do that, try upping the ante to going meat-free for one more day a week than you already do. Not only will you be helping the environment, you’ll also be helping your health by decreasing your calorie and saturated fat intake. For an Earth Day dinner, try some of these vegetarian and vegan meals that even meat-eaters will love.
Use reusable water bottles and utensils
It requires seven liters of water to make a single one-liter plastic bottle. Add to that the extraction of the petrochemicals required to make plastic water bottles, and the manufacturing and transportation costs, and bottled water is an environmentally expensive habit. Instead of using bottled water, use a filter pitcher or a water filter you can attach to your faucet if you’re concerned about chlorine and other minerals in your water. Invest in a reusable water bottle—whether it’s made of steel, plastic, or glass—and fill it with your filtered tap water.
Rather than using disposable “plastic-ware,” bring your own silverware or chopsticks to use when eating a take-out lunch at the office.
These four simple changes will help you feel better, save money, and do your part to save the environment. So, what are you waiting for? It’s never too late to get started!
What other tips do you have for people who want to be more eco-friendly on Earth Day and every day? Please share them in the comments.