Earth Day Green Tips

Earth Day, a global “green” celebration that highlights caring for the planet and all the various forms of life on it, is celebrated on April 20 this year, at least in most of the United States.

Various events built around that caring-for-earth theme will reflect local and regional environmental initiatives. In Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland, a huge get-together on the National Mall (yes, the same one filmed in Nicholas Cage’s movie National Treasure) will kick off the event, followed by appearances by popular music groups, celebrities and local and regional leaders.

green-landOther activities include a sort of science fair for the environment, courtesy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, which will showcase its National Sustainable Design Expo. This presentation is aimed at familiarizing individuals and families with some cutting-edge technologies and processes that can be used to protect the earth from further degradation.

The D.C. event also features two watershed cleanup events, one on the Potomac River and the other on the Anacostia River, as well as a green-craft event at the National Zoo for children. All this is topped off by an Earth Day Brunch cruise on the Odyssey. For those who have been following the disastrous cruise of Carnival line’s ship, Triumph, a walk around on dry land might be more comforting.

Locally and regionally, Earth Day celebrations have been created to emphasize the importance of each individual’s contributions to the environment. This includes the negative impacts like carbon dioxide, or CO2, the greenhouse gas (GHG) that contributes to global warming, and ways to lower it. In fact, most Earth Day revelry follows the same theme, though not necessarily on the same date.

In New Jersey, the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, or ACUA – a regional utility offering everything from wastewater treatment to renewable energy options – celebrates Earth Day on April 21. This will be ACUA’s 23rd annual festival, and the theme is, again, A Sustainable Future.

Across the continent, on the shores of another ocean, Santa Barbara is also celebrating Earth Day on April 20. As is Santa Cruz, where city fathers and utility representatives will feature an electric vehicle (EV) display, live music, arts and crafts booths, and valet bike parking by People Power to emphasize the importance of pedal power in reducing GHGs that contribute to climate change.

In Greensboro, North Carolina, Earth Day 2013 will take place on April 13 as residents get a jump on the national festivities. Back in California, in Beverly Hills, to be exact, residents will also celebrate on April 13. Internationally, celebrants will gather on April 22 (London, England, Paris, France and Bonn, Germany), which is the officially recognized Earth Day.

Not everyone feels that April 22 is the correct day to celebrate, however. Some notable individuals like anthropologist Margaret Mead felt the March, or spring, equinox (March 21) would be more appropriate, and in fact this date is one of two Buddhist holidays celebrated in Japan as Higan.

No doubt your community has an Earth Day celebration as well, probably sponsored by the local or regional Better Business Bureau, or even city hall. The problem with these smaller local celebrations is that, unless enough people enroll or commit to attending, the event dies on the drawing board for lack of interest.

If this is the case where you live, try organizing a unique celebration on your own, using the neighborhood network to publicize it. Ask your city’s mayor for a block-party permit. Set up card tables, umbrellas and chairs (but only a few of the latter, since you want people walking around and looking for displays instead of sitting).

Have people and families bring whatever they consider relevant to a sustainable lifestyle. This could include compostable cutlery, a kitchen composter, solar night lights or solar pathway lighting, a rain-barrel demonstration or anything aimed at highlighting and/or reducing pollution. It’s up to you to decide if a butterfly collection qualifies, since butterflies had to die to create it, but try to err on the side of generosity.

When all else fails, celebrate as a family. There are hundreds of ways to show (and go) green, but the following list drills deeply for deep green living.

  • Don’t rinse your dishes before loading in the dishwasher; let the machine do that for you
  • Switch to paperless billing and bill payment; the bill is identical to what you would receive in the mail and takes up far less space and trees than the printed version
  • Buy and use cotton swabs wound on a cardboard spindle instead of plastic and save petroleum (up to 150,000 gallons of gasoline if 10 percent of the population followed suit!)
  • Don’t use salt to free the driveway and walkways of ice; instead go for biodegradable sawdust, sand, gravel, coffee grounds, corn meal, or even untreated kitty litter; your lawn and all the bugs that live there will thank you next spring
  • Don’t preheat the oven, just put food in cold and add about 10 minutes to the cooking time
  • Don’t bathe, take a shower and save half the energy cost of hot water. Also take shorter showers, or (most delightfully) shower with your significant other and let your relationship bloom again
  • Use cruise control, which gained popularity during and after the 1973 oil crisis and has since passed into relative obscurity
  • Give up meat at one meal per week or, if you’re especially healthy, make it two or three and think of all the pollution (in terms of industrial meat production and waste) you are preventing
  • Or find your own unique ways to tell the planet “I love you”. But no blushing, and no need to keep the romance a secret. All your friends will know anyway.
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