7 Ways to Create a Brighter Future for the Earth's Children (on Earth Day and Every Day)

April 07, 2015 | By Jocelyn Mercado

grassy forest ground with white flowers Image courtesy of Larisa-K.

With Earth Day approaching, we invite you to think about ways to give back to the Earth. When we embrace environmentally sustainable actions as our personal responsibility, on Earth Day and every day, we can each make a true difference in helping the Earth to return to a healthy state.

1. Reduce your waste.

With a conscious effort toward composting and recycling, the average household can reduce their waste that goes to landfills. Many communities now offer curbside and co-mingled recycling pickup, making recycling easier than ever before. Begin composting by placing a small compost collection bin in your kitchen and preparing an outdoor compost container using supplies from your local lawn and garden store. Bring reusable shopping bags to the grocery store; pack your lunch with reusable containers instead of plastic zip-top bags; and use regular plates and silverware instead of paper and plastic tableware. Say no to extra packaging at restaurants and stores. Explore options for reducing food waste.

When possible, prevent waste from entering your life in the first place!

2. Reduce your consumption.

Excessive consumption is recognized as a major contributor to global warming. An astounding volume of natural resources is required to manufacture, package, and transport goods for purchase. This creates pollutants and waste that harm the Earth.

Before you buy, consider this question: Is this purchase a “want” or a “need?” If you realize it is a want, consider leaving it on the shelf (or not clicking “purchase” online). Certainly, it is challenging to turn away from the consumer society that surrounds us. We are taught from an early age that buying and possessing goods will make us feel happy. But in reality, happiness comes from meaningful experiences such as making memories with loved ones or spending time in nature; not from buying things.

The more we become aware of our choices and the benefits to slowing down our consumption, the more we can take pride in making a positive difference for the Earth and encourage others to do the same. Besides, it can be fun—and more fulfilling—to make your own, swap, borrow, share, or use what you already have!

But when there are items that you do need to purchase, be sure to keep the following suggestions in mind:

3. Shop locally.

When you buy local goods, the products are more likely to have a lower carbon footprint. They have probably traveled less, using fewer fossil fuels, and contain less unnecessary packaging than products shipped from hundreds or thousands of miles away. Additionally, if you seek out local growers at farmer’s markets or your local butcher or baker, you can speak with them personally about whether they use all-natural or organic ingredients and how their produce is grown.

When you invest in your local community, it strengthens the economy and encourages more small business owners to come in, further reducing the amount of fuel spent on planes, trains, and boats to bring goods into your town.

4. Embrace second hand goods.

Buy used clothing, which can often be found with the tags still on, never worn. Save money by shopping at yard sales, second hand stores, or local sellers on CraigsList or eBay. Borrow from friends and share your possessions in turn. Arrange swap meets with other parents where your kids can exchange toys every few months—they’ll have something new to play with, and it won’t cost you a dime. Save interesting trash (empty tape spools, foil candy wrappers, scraps of colorful paper, fabric scraps, etc.) to be remade in craft projects. Participate in the Buy Nothing New movement, even if only for a month-long trial.

5. Buy organic.

Every time you buy organic, you are sending a strong message by allocating your funds toward environmentally sustainable farming and food production, and away from practices that harm the planet. It is critical that we continue to increase the global demand for organic products. This will cause the price of organic products to decrease, and large companies will find it less profitable to use chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, and GMO’s. More and more people are rejecting the status quo of chemical-laden food, clothing, and other products, and choosing to purchase healthy, pure foods and clothing for themselves and their families.

Many agricultural and ecological scientists and experts agree that organic farming is the best way to eliminate world hunger. Why?

  1. By eliminating pesticides and chemicals from our farming practices, we increase the health of the Earth and enable our planet to provide more of the food crops we need to survive.
  2. Natural fertilization methods utilize organic waste, such as animal manure, composted materials, and lawn waste. These materials re-enter the food cycle instead of being discarded into landfills, so total production is increased at the same time as waste is minimized.

6. Reduce your meat consumption.

A great way to give back to the Earth is to go vegetarian, vegan, or to conscientiously reduce the amount of meat in your diet. This is because growing livestock requires huge amounts of fertilizer, fuel, pesticides, water, and land. Cattle and other livestock produce methane, a greenhouse gas that is contributing to global warming. Some estimates show that livestock produce 20 percent of overall U.S. methane emissions. There are other complications such as the clearing of trees—including rainforests—for cattle ranching, water pollution from factory farms, and widespread use of antibiotics in livestock which creates antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, threatening human health.

Here are ten good reasons to become vegetarian (or at least reduce the amount of meat in your diet).

7. Donate to organizations that are doing work to save the planet.

You may not be able to preserve the rainforest or reduce carbon emissions single-handedly, but when many people commit to the steps above, we can make a significant impact. Another way to increase your positive contribution is to donate directly to organizations that are devoted to changing the world. Many of these organizations are non-profits and depend on the generosity of the public so they can continue their important work. 

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