Earth Day: 3 Practical Ways to Show Your Love for the Planet

By Vernon Trollinger, April 22, 2014, Green

According to the US Census World Population Clock, there are over 7.16 billion people on the Earth right now. That’s a lot of people who all need the basic necessities for living: breathable air, food, shelter, and clean water. It’s a bit overwhelming to think  about – which makes it very easy to shrug off being a responsible steward for your tiny tidbit of the planet. But seeing as you’re not going to be using it forever, there’s no sense in ruining it for everyone in the future —especially if they happen to be your children.

Earth Day: 3 Practical Ways to Show Your Love for the Planet

So, here’s the three practical ways to for you to show your love for the planet and for all those folks who come after you.

1: Protect the Land. Recycle and compost as much as you can.

The volume of garbage that gets landfilled is astounding. In 2012, Americans generated 251 million tons of trash. That’s 4.38 pounds per person per day. Recycling and composting have made substantial reductions in the amounts of materials that go to the landfill (about 35%). But there’s room for improvement. Why?
 We’re running out of space and the costs are increasing. In 1988, there were 7,924 landfills in the US (not counting historic, undocumented, or illegal dumping areas). As of 2005, there were 1,654. While many current landfills are larger than previous ones, they are costly to operate safely, have a limited lifespan, and must be monitored for toxic leakage and maintained for years after they close.

How to do it: Many municipalities have recycling programs for all kinds of paper products, metal, and most of the recyclable plastics. For Styrofoam (also known as “poloystyrene” or “expanded Polystyrene” or EPS) marked with as plastic #6, recycling is possible but not always locally convenient. If it’s not convenient for you, then avoid buying things that come with Styrofoam packaging. Many towns also have composting programs for yard waste.

But what about kitchen waste composting? Obviously, having a yard or some garden space helps because, as the saying goes, “Compost Happens”. But if you live in an urban apartment, then city composting gets more complicated. You can still do it. It just takes a little more planning and effort.

2: Protect the Air. Walk, Bike, or Use Public Transport As Often As You Can.

Reducing carbon emissions could slow the pace of climate change. However, in 2010, the number of motor vehicles in the world surpassed 1 billion. In 2013, an estimated 247.9 million cars and light trucks were on the road in the US alone and 51% of all CO2 emissions came from vehicles. That amounts to roughly 5 – 9 tons of carbon per vehicle per year coming out of your vehicle’s tailpipe.

How to do it: City dwellers may find it easier to do their part by walking, biking, and relying on public transit as opposed to driving. Of course, that depends on the city because some are more pedestrian/bike friendly than others. Suburbanites, however, tend to be out of luck in many metro areas as fewer public transit systems are funded adequately to provide service that covers an entire metropolitan area. In that case, the best way to help is to drive a low-emissions vehicle. It could be an electric, hybrid, or just get great mileage. If you can’t afford a new car right now, then try to keep your current vehicle running at top performance and practice driving more efficiently.

3: Protect the Water. Do more with less.

Only 2.787% of the water on this planet is fresh water —most of it is frozen.Very little of the water on this planet can be used for drinking. In the US as of April 15, 2014, 26 of the lower 48 states are experiencing abnormal to severe drought conditions with California, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas having the most widespread extreme to exceptional areas. Yet, even as water quality becomes more and more of an issue, more and more water is being diverted for farming and industrial use. Once cheap, clean water is beginning to turn into a precious commodity.

How to do it: Start off by installing low-flow aerators and shower heads in your faucets and showers. These are inexpensive and can help reduce your water bill. Take a look at how much water your dishwasher, washing machine, and toilets use. The EPA Water Sense website lists tested and certified low water-use products that give great performance even though they use very little water. You can also set up a rain water harvesting system that collects rain water from your roof. Though non-potable, you can still use rain water for watering plants and flushing the toilet.

One more route you can go is to install a gray water system. “Gray water” is untreated wastewater from bathtubs, showers, bathroom sinks and washing machines. Though it contains soap and organic waste it can still be used for other things like watering plants or flushing toilets. State laws vary about its use. For example, Colorado law does not permit most residential properties to reuse gray water, but its practical use is still being considered because of the thorny (and costly) issue of water rights.

One person might not be able to save the entire planet, but if you work on just keeping your piece a little greener, the longer we’ll all have a place to live.

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About 

A native of Wyomissing Hills, PA, Vernon Trollinger studied writing and film at the University of Iowa, later earning his MA in writing there as well. Following a decade of digging in CRM archaeology, he now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, DIY projects, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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