The earth is huge. Climate change is dauntingly complex. It's easy to feel overwhelmed, to throw your arms up in despair. To do nothing.
But preserving and protecting this fragile planet starts at home. With each of us, every day. Earth Day on Sunday, April 22 is a reminder that if every one of us does our part, we really can make a difference.
When I lived in Germany, I was stunned to find recycle stations on every other block. Everyone recycled everything all the time without the benefit of exhaust-spewing trucks stopping at every house every week or two. Just gather it up, walk down the block and poof. And that was more than three decades ago.
When I lived in Boulder, Colorado, recycling and composting were the norm. I cannot think of a single person or family who knowingly tossed anything organic or recyclable into the trash. Including me. And I haven't lived there for more than a decade. The commitment to recycling needs to be a social norm, an imperative. Almost assumed.
Yet, the businesses in Stuyvesant Plaza on Elmwood Avenue and Summer Street still have no city-provided way to recycle. Massive amounts of waste cardboard are generated each week by Price Rite and the UPS Store, for example, and there is no green dumpster on site with recycle material pickup, despite repeated calls to City Hall.
Perhaps 34 and More - Buffalo Recycles, Buffalo's public initiative to increase the city's recycling diversion rate can provide the solution. It sells rain barrels and compost bins, hosts the Dare to Repair Cafe, provides recycling teaching resources to educators, and sponsors an Environmental Champions program. Can it place a green dumpster with regular pickup at a commercial plaza in the heart of the city?
Another organization that works to make Buffalo greener is Groundwork Buffalo which works with neighborhoods, schools, the City of Buffalo, community-based organizations and businesses to make positive and meaningful change in our neighborhoods – for the physical environment and for the individuals living there.
Earth Day 2018 is the 48th anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. It is being celebrated today at the Buffalo Science Museum through art made by area students out of thousands of discarded plastic bags. "I am the solution to plastic pollution" makes the connection between plastic litter and our waterways, much of the vast amount of waste cleaned up today by thosands of volunteers during Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper's huge Spring Sweep.
There are lots of easy and fun ways to celebrate Earth Day that can actually make a difference all year long. I’ve listed a few below, and I’d love to hear your ideas in Comments!
1. Don’t Drive
I know, I know. This doesn’t sound like much fun at all. But that’s only because you’ve forgotten how awesome the alternatives can be. Give your car the day off this Earth Day-after all, it's Sunday! Plan to get to where you need to go using another, more eco-friendly mode of transportation instead. Walk, ride your bike, take the bus or train, roller blade or skateboard! Even carpooling is better than chugging gas all the way home and back just so you don’t have to burn any calories.
2. Recycle e-Waste
Electronic waste (aka e-waste) is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Chances are, you’ve got an outdated electronic appliance gathering dust somewhere in your house right now, and your neighbors probably do too. This Earth Day, help make sure those gadgets end up properly recycled instead of taking up space or leaching toxins in a landfill. Locate a responsible e-waste recycler and let your neighbors know that you’ll be happy to take their stuff in with yours.
3. Plant Food
In a world dominated by factory farms and fast food, growing your own food is a revolutionary act. This Earth Day, plant one thing that can be consumed by your family. Maybe it’s just a few basil plants, or maybe it’s an entire garden. Put it on your windowsill, your fire escape, or your kitchen wall. But no matter where, get something growing.
4. Share Something
When we think of doing something nice for the Earth, picking up litter or planting a tree usually come to mind. But an eco-friendly lifestyle comes in all shapes and sizes. Consider just sharing time, money, and resources as a way to increase everyone’s access to things they need. Experts call this “collaborative consumption” or “the sharing economy” but it's really just common sense. This Earth Day, check out sharing services like yerdle, RelayRides, B-Cycle, and Airbnb, all of which can save you money and help you become better connected with your community.
5. Go Solar
Don't skip over this option because you a) don’t own a house or b) don’t have the finances to install solar panels on it. Wait! Rooftop solar is only one way to turn free solar power into free, renewable electricity. Smaller solar harvesting devices are popping up all over, from pocket-sized phone chargers to portable multi-panel kits. Think about how many times you charge your phone or laptop. Switching just one or two devices to solar power can save you some serious money and take some pressure off the grid.
6. Get Outside
The sun is finally out in Buffalo, and just in time for Earth Day! This Sunday, one of the best things you can do for yourself and the Earth is to remember why it’s worth saving in the first place. Despite our best efforts to pollute and destroy it, the Earth is still an amazing, beautiful place to explore. Go for a hike, take a nature walk with your kids, plan a picnic in the park, or a game of kickball with your buddies. Remember how great it feels to have the wind in your hair and the sun on your face! Reconnecting with nature is the best way to remind yourself why we’re fighting so hard to protect it.
These days, every day must be Earth Day. What are you doing to help preseve our planet?