Though Earth Day is officially only one day a year (April 22), there’s no reason you shouldn’t care about the environment 365. Here are ways for you to show Mother Earth some love, whether you’re an environmental newbie or a pro defender of the planet.
More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, but fresh, useable H2O is a precious, finite resource. Save it. Don’t waste it.
Get started: Something as simple as turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth can save hundreds of gallons of water per month. Increase those savings further by filling the sink instead of running the tap when washing dishes, and run the dishwasher only when it’s fully loaded.
Up the ante: If your showerheads predate 1992, they are probably water hogs (those older showerheads used about 5.5 gallons of water per minute). By switching to newer, low-flow showerheads (which use just 2.5 gallons per minute), a family of four can save as much as 27,000 gallons of water each year.
Become a pro: Replace thirsty shrubs and grasses in your yard with native plants that require less water. “Turf removal” is a real thing in California, where a years-long drought has prompted some cities to offer rebates to residents who ditch the grass in favor of gravel, stone, cacti, and other, less water-dependent plants.
Poor air quality affects not only the planet, it can also affect your health and the health of others. You probably can’t stop a big factory from belching out toxic smoke, but there are steps you can take to reduce air pollution.
Get started: A well-maintained car burns less gas, which means less air pollution (not to mention savings at the pump). Regular car check-ups include inspecting spark plugs, fuel and air filters, ignition and emissions systems, and computers. You can further reduce vehicle emissions by obeying the speed limit (most cars lose fuel efficiency at speeds over 60 mph) and keeping your tires properly inflated.
Up the ante: The production of meat for food requires significantly more resources than the production of grains or vegetables (up to four times as much). When you incorporate Meatless Monday into your weekly menu plan, you help conserve water, reduce greenhouse gases, and lower fuel dependency.
Become a pro: Although Americans account for just 5 percent of the world’s population, we contribute to almost half the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from cars. Carpooling can help offset these stats. By adding just one person to the average commuting vehicle, it is estimated the United States could save 33 million gallons of gas every day. Earn extra environmental points by taking public transportation.
Deepening your connection to the planet — in this case, literally getting your hands in the dirt — goes a long way toward creating an appreciation for the Earth and its gifts. And the more you value something, the nicer you will treat it.
Get started: Begin a family tradition by planting trees to celebrate birthdays, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, and graduations. As they mature, trees help reduce greenhouse gases (just 1 acre of trees can remove up to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year), while serving as lasting reminders of life’s milestones.
Up the ante: One out of every three bites of food depends on pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds; sadly, these populations are in serious global decline. Planting a pollinator-attracting garden is a fun way for families to help provide a habitat for creatures vital to the natural environment.
Become a pro: Composting involves saving food and yard scraps from landfills in order to use them as natural fertilizers after they have decomposed. There are a lot of considerations — and a small learning curve — involved in starting a home composting project, but there are equally as many resources to get you started.
Saving energy matters. Most of the energy sources we depend on, like coal and natural gas, can’t be replaced. Once they are used, they’re gone forever. On top of that, most forms of energy cause some form of pollution.
Get started: Using your washer’s’s cold-water setting for all but the dirtiest loads of laundry is an easy way to save energy and decrease carbon pollution. Hot-water heating accounts for about 90 percent of the energy used by washing machines; only 10 percent is used to run the motor. Line-dry your clothes when the weather is nice and save 100 percent of the energy used to run the dryer.
Up the ante: Beware of phantom power users — those gadgets that pull current even when not in use. It’s estimated that the average household has 40 appliances, from coffee makers and alarm clocks to phone chargers and computers, that are always using power. By unplugging these energy-sucking ninjas, an average household can conserve up to 10 percent of typical energy use.
Become a pro: Sure, weatherizing your home can save you money and make you more comfortable, but it also conserves energy. Begin by locating obvious air leaks inside (like gaps along baseboards) and outside (where two building materials meet). Sealing drafty spots with caulk and weather stripping can mean an energy savings of 5 to 30 percent per year. You should also find out whether your home’s insulation is adequate to minimize heat loss through walls and ceilings.