Junior Alex Nates-Perez, an English major and environmental science minor, shares five easy steps you can take to help keep our planet healthy in the years to come.
Today is Earth Day! Also known as Respect Mama Earth Day, Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself Day, Go Plant a Tree Day and Thank Your Local Farmer Day. Whatever you want to call it, this day of awareness is a chance for everyone to evaluate their lifestyle and make small, crucial changes to keep our planet a hospitable place for all. Below are five easy ways to become a greener citizen of Earth.
1. Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water
Washing clothes is something many Americans take for granted, but it may be impacting the Earth more than you realize. According to the U.S Geological Survey, the average washing machine uses 25 gallons of water per load. Older models use around 40 gallons. This process alone is resource consuming. However, when the 25 gallons of water used to wash clothing are not heated up before use, the energy costs and environmental impact are much lower. Next time, try washing your clothes in cold water only!
2. Buy Foods in Season
When you go to the grocery store, you probably notice that most fruits and vegetables are available year-round. This is because many of these foods are grown in warmer climates far from where you live. In order to reach your local grocery store, those fruits and vegetables were most likely flown overseas and then distributed by truck. Shipping fruits and vegetables is costly—both for the farmers and for the atmosphere, thanks to carbon emissions from airplanes and motor vehicles. Buying in-season fruits and vegetables usually means they came from somewhere in the U.S., which cuts back significantly on greenhouse gas emissions.
The best option is always to buy local, which is a great way to support regional farmers and keep carbon emissions to a minimum. However, buying local is usually more expensive, and for those who can’t afford it, buying in-season fruits and vegetables is definitely a step in the right direction.
3. Support Earth-Friendly Style Trends
Love clothes? Sure you do. Love how producing new styles every year exhausts our resources? Probably not. Textiles, cloth and dyes are all commodities that use large quantities of land and nonrenewable resources. Luckily, clothing trends tend to repeat themselves. To be environmentally responsible with your shopping sprees, try your local thrift store for affordable prices on recycled clothes. Similarly, make sure you donate the clothing you don’t wear anymore. This way, other people can take advantage of your closet while you raid theirs!
Another option is upcycling—fashion something new and amazing out of clothes you no longer want. Pinterest has lots of great ideas!
4. Hop on a Bike
Speaking of cycling, let’s talk bikes. Cycling is one of the most efficient (and fun!) ways to move around quickly. In fact, biking is more efficient than walking. If you’re trying to go somewhere affordably and in a hurry, cycling is your best option. Plus, when you’re not taking cars and buses, you’re helping to limit the use of fossil fuels in a big way. And there are added benefits in terms of getting in shape and enjoying the great outdoors.
5. Pack Your Lunch in Reusable Containers
A huge problem in our oceans is a massive build-up of plastic. There are plastic vortexes in every major ocean on the planet. If Columbus sailed across the Atlantic from Europe this year, he would run into an island of plastic before reaching the Americas. These plastic vortexes harm hungry wildlife who mistake floating plastic pieces for jellyfish.These plastic pieces also take up space other organisms would otherwise occupy, as well as prevent sunlight from penetrating deeper into the ocean, where organisms who use photosynthesis for survival reside.
Phytoplankton, the organisms most affected by these plastic pieces, are the base of the food chain and essential for oxygen production in the ocean. Believe it or not, phytoplankton are responsible for feeding most marine life and provide 50 percent of the Earth’s oxygen. By reducing plastic use, you reduce the habitat destruction of these essential creatures.
How do you plan to celebrate Earth Day? Let us know in the comments section below!