Though it’s an important event annual event, Earth Day should carry a heavy sense of urgency this year.
If drastic changes are not made to the way we behave, it is expected that global resource extraction will more than double by 2060 and that greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 43 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Between 1970 and 2019, our natural resource consumption more than tripled, accounting for a 9 billion ton increase in fossil fuel usage, a 130 percent increase in metal ore use, and a five-fold increase in the extraction of minerals, according to the United Nations Global Resources Outlook.
On top of this, a recent, widely publicized climate report indicates we only have until 2030 to prevent climate change catastrophe on a global scale.
Bottom line, we owe Mother Nature our lives, but we don’t act like it. Our kids are the future, and — if we want them to have a future — we’re going to have to deal with the problems previous generations left behind, whether we like it or not.
We should make it our priority to preserve the world. Here are seven easy, free(ish) Earth Day ideas to help the planet this April 22.
1. Check Your Community Resources
Consider checking out local events surrounding the holiday, as many communities have annual Earth Day fairs.
These events usually offer free samples of locally grown and environmentally conscious food.
They also have environmentally friendly products for sale, so you can make small lifestyle adjustments to lessen your carbon footprint.
Admission to these events is usually free, and they’re an excellent way to get siblings and parents involved. You can search for Earth Day events in your area on the Earth Day Network website. This year, most participation is expected to be virtual, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, so be sure to keep an eye out for streamable events and calls.
Plus, you can use the day as an opportunity to look into other local environmental resources, such as composting facilities and agricultural co-ops in your area. The former is a free way to reuse food waste, and the latter is an affordable way to get farm fresh produce.
2. Join an Environmental Group
The best way to make a small, but meaningful, impact is to join a group. Not only does group participation produce results, but it can also help with personal development and networking. Most environmental groups have no admission fees — just opportunities for donating, which can also mean a tax deduction.
There are many different groups that you can join, and each has its own particular interests and goals. For instance, if you are interested in helping preserve national parks, the National Park Foundation might be a particularly good choice.
If you are interested in fighting climate change head-on, the Sierra Club has chapters all across the country. For those who love wildlife, the National Audubon Society is dedicated to helping preserve the world’s birds by protecting their natural environments.
3. Drip, Drip, Drip
That leaky faucet repair that you’ve been putting off? Better head to the store ASAP. Not only are you paying more on your water bill, but those little drops of water can really add up.
“Household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water annually nationwide,” according to the EPA. Less than 1 percent of Earth’s freshwater is accessible for us to drink, and our supply is increasingly finite.
By helping stop some of these leaks, you can defend our freshwater, while also decreasing your expenses.
4. Plant a Few Trees
It’s simple and nostalgic. After saving the world from environmental degradation, you can show your kids the tree that started it all. That’s love. You can plant trees for free by going to the park and finding a seed, or else you can get little seed packets that cost a few cents.
If you’re interested in planting trees where they’re needed most, the National Wildlife Federation is dedicated to restoring ecosystems that have been torn apart and defending what remains of the world’s wildlife.
By tying back to the “Join an Environmental Group” step, you can meet like-minded people, who can join you as you work to restore some of the plant life we’ve cut down over the years.
If you live in an urban area, you probably already participate in ride-sharing in the form of Uber, but there are a bunch of other ways to save on your commute. Through carpooling, you can minimize the number of cars on the road and save money on gas, insurance, and car payments.
Some municipalities even provide federally funded carpool programs for those living in their district. If not, you can establish one through resources provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
You’ll make new friends and save money. What’s not to like?
If you would rather not carpool, public transit could be a great option. Whether you choose to commute by bus, train, or trolley, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
6. Buy a Refillable Water Bottle
Bottled water wastes huge amounts of natural resources in the form of fossil fuel extraction (used in the production of plastic bottles), not to mention the compounded effect of carbon emissions from the transportation of the bottles.
By buying a refillable water bottle, you can save your money and the planet.
7. Shop Eco-Consciously
Looking to practice other environmentally friendly tasks this Earth Day? Here are some more cheap ways to help protect the planet.
Buy a Metal Straw
Metal straws have become more popular in recent years as a way to reduce your carbon footprint and consume less plastic.
Snag a Tote Bag
It’s the staple of food co-ops and NPR listeners everywhere. Using a tote bag for grocery shopping, or carrying around your stuff, is a fashion-forward way to use less pesky plastic bags.
In many parts of the nation, like New York City, reusable tote bags can save you money, now that stores are charging for plastic bags in an effort to discourage their use.
Rather than buying a new bag every time you go to the store, pick a few permanent bags and just remember to bring them with you whenever you need to shop.
Your Very Own Coffee Cup
Though this suggestion is geared more toward the caffeine-dependent among us, an inexpensive, reusable cup will set you back anywhere from $10 to $15 on Amazon.
Pair that with how often you drink coffee or tea (daily, and sometimes twice daily), and you’ll save a lot of paper and Styrofoam (if it’s still legal where you live).
The next time you need some new duds, consider going thrifting rather than to a big-box store. Fast-fashion textiles contributed to over 11.3 million tons in landfill waste in recent years, according to the EPA. Plus, buying vintage clothes will give you a classic, never-going-out-of-style look. Win-win.
Additional reporting by Connor Beckett McInerney.