There are literally 100 of things you can do to celebrate Earth Day. This list is the top 15 things you can do today that will last all year that will make a huge difference for your personal health and the health of the planet. Some things suggested here are big and some are small. Some of the small ones you may already do on occasion, make today the day you decide to follow through on those plans.
Get a reusable coffee mug and throw out your Keurig or other single use coffee machine. The average coffee drinker throws away 250 cups per year, therefore 58 billion cups per year are throw away per year. It takes 20 million trees and 12 billion gallons of water to produce the paper for the cups. Americans also throw about 25 billion Styrofoam cups in the trash each year. Help reduce the stress on the planet by getting your coffee in a reusable ceramic cup. It is especially important for you to do this if you drinks are coming in Styrofoam/polystyrene cups (see why here). Recently a study released stated that the annual number k-cups used in Kuerig machines could circle the planet at the equator more than 7 times! So ditch the machine, brew a cup of coffee and put it in a reusable container.
Reusable glass or stainless steel water bottle. Plastic water bottles and their use is a modern convenience. Our parent’s generation had easy access to water fountains everywhere they went. Now we expect water everywhere but we get it in bottle. Very few places offer you water in glass but rather hand you a bottle of water, even when you go to someone’s office for a meeting. Bring your water bottle with you everywhere and fill it up when you can in case you are at a place where water is only available in a disposable bottle.
Solar cell phone charger. Getting a solar cell phone charger helps you stay charged when you are on the go and lets you charge your phone off the grid. It is an easy small step that will help reduce the pressure on the grid. While you are at it remember to unplug your chargers when you are not using them because they are using power too. There is research that states that it only costs $0.41 per year to charge a cell phone but that only takes into account the amount of time it takes to charge. Most people charge their cell phones overnight leaving it plugged in longer than the 1.5 to 2 hours it takes to charge. Also let’s face it; most of us cannot make it all day on one charge.
Stainless steel containers. Bring your lunch to school and work in a reusable container. The take out containers you get at restaurants and deli’s are made out of paper, plastic and Styrofoam and are used one time before they end up in the landfill. Often they are not recycled because of local recycling laws and lack of access to recycling bins. I personally prefer LunchBots but there are tons of stainless steel containers out there. If you know you need to grab take out bring your empty containers with you and put your take out food in there!
Reusable lunch, grocery, and produce bags. The average American uses more those 1,200 plastic bags per year! This consumption equals about 380 billion plastic bags per year (for information about why plastic is bad). Plastic bags are used when getting your produce at the grocery store and when you check out but it does not stop there clothing, shoe, and other stores use plastic bags even restaurants. Get reusable bags for everything you need to carry, keep one in your purse or work bag, keep several in your car and remember to bring them with you when you go to out even if you do not think you will need it.
Make the switch to organic clothing, sheets, and towels. 25 percent of all pesticides used in all of farming in the world is used on cotton. The cotton continues to carry that residue in the manufacturing process and is still present in the products we purchase. Pesticides have been linked to several diseases and conditions, including asthma, autism, learning disabilities, birth defects, reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and several types of cancer.While organic cotton is not that easy to get in all clothing you are looking for do your best to purchase organic cotton products as often as you can. Even if it means washing your sheets and putting them back on your bed that night because you can only afford one set, your health will thank you!
Stop buying clothes made with spandex, polyester and other synthetic materials. This change is incredibly hard jeans today are made with spandex in them to give a good skinny fit. There is no natural ingredients in spandex and polyester. Spandex is a synthetic fiber made of at least 85% of the polymer polyurethane. Spandex is made from several chemicals that are known sensitizers including TDI and MDI (Toluene-2,4-diisocyanate; Methylene bisphenyl-4,4-diiisocyanate) are precursors of the polyurethane used to make spandex. TDI and MDI are proven carcinogenic and can cause severe dermatitis. Read the labels of your
Eliminate chemicals in your bath and beauty products. Read the labels and look for the dirty dozen. We have all heard of the dirty dozen when we are talking about fruits and vegetables but there is a great resource defining what each chemical is and why it is bad for you. Here are some of the ones I look for first in my products parabens, phthalates, sodium laureth sulfate, and tricolsan. I also avoid formaldehyde chemicals that are commonly listed as: DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine and quarternium-15, they are commonly found in nail polish among other things (I have not painted my nails in 5 years since I got pregnant with my first child).
Get a water filter for you house. It is important for you to make sure that you are drinking clean water. There are many kinds of filters out there that will help remove the chemicals and more importantly the pharmaceuticals in you water. Now is a good time to point out that you should NEVER flush your unused medicine down the toilet or drain, bring back to your pharmacy for them to properly dispose of the medicine. I wrote more about this here.
Walk more places better yet do not drive your car one day a week. There are hundreds if not thousands of reasons why you should reduce (or eliminate if you can) driving. The chemicals that are emitted from a vehicle for each mile it drives has a lasting effect on the environment and our health. Vehicles emit harmful ozone, air toxics and particulates and are the 2nd largest emitters of oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). These chemicals cause asthma and many other health aliments, if we are all able to reduce our use of cars even if it is just a reduction it will help everyone’s health.
Put Solar Panels on your house. The technology involved in solar energy and creating solar panels continues to change there are new innovations where you can put solar panels on your house that look like your current roof tiles. Many states offer tax breaks for installing them you can find out if you state offers incentives here. I even have a Pinterest board of renewable energy options, many of them are very new and look so much better than the bulky large panels most people think of when they say solar energy.
Have a wind turbine installed on your house. I saw ed Begley Jr. have this installed on his house on one of the episodes of his old show, I never knew that you could install a small turbine to provide energy to your home. When I think of wind energy I think of the old school windmills from Europe and the modern-day huge turbines. They have home turbines that you can attach to the side of your house or garage. These turbine packages can start as low as $500 to several thousand dollars.
Have your house LEED certified. Building a new house or do you want to make a green overhaul to your current home you can get your home LEED certified. There are tons of experts out there to help you and it is best to speak to one before you start the project to make sure you are going down the right path. These professionals will help you figure out what you need do. Getting your home LEED certified involves accumulating a certain number of points in certain categories. All LEED for Homes projects are third-party verified by a Green Rater. To find a Green Rater in your area go to this website.
Become a vegetarian. This is a tough one for many people to do including myself. I have recently become a flexitarian meaning I only eat meat on occasion at dinner time, it was big step for me mentally but it turned out to be very easy. Humans eat 230 million tons of animals per year which is double what we ate just 30 years ago. The animals create greenhouse gases which are warming up the planet, the UN estimates that 18% of all green house gases come from animals bred for food! These animals also take up a huge portion of the land 30% of all the ice-free land on the planet is used for animals we eat and the land used to grow their food. There are tons of other reasons that eating meat is affecting the planet but becoming a vegetarian can have a profound impact on the planet.
Make a commitment to stop eating GMO’s. First approved for use in food in 1996, GMO crops were first created to be herbicide tolerant, meaning they would not die when huge amounts of herbicide were placed on plant to keep weeds away. Other plants, like corn, were created to produce their own insecticide. The specific insecticide is called Bt-toxin which literally breaks open the stomach of insects and kills them. Bt-toxin from corn has been found in the blood stream of 93% of women and 80% of their unborn children. Genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH or rbST) is also commonly injected into cows to make them produce more milk. Aspartame (AKA: Nutrisweet and Equal) is created from genetically engineered organisms. Avoid these five foods unless they are organic or non-gmo certified.
What big things do you think we should start today in honor of Earth Day?