Here is a list of 50 Ways to Help Our Planet for Earth Day - and everyday!
Eliminate or minimize use of herbicides and pesticides
Pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, are designed to kill weeds, insects, rodents, and mold.
By definition, these toxic chemicals can be poisonous to wildlife, pets, people, and especially children.
So use best practices in your garden to reduce or eliminate the need for these chemicals. https://cfpub.epa.gov/npstbx/files/reducewastepesticides.pdf
Reduce use of fertilizers
Reduce storm water runoff
Stormwater runoff – excess rain draining from properties - is a leading cause of water quality problems. Rainfall or snowmelt from suburban lawns, golf courses, and paved surfaces picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, washing them into our waterways and into ground waters.
Capturing and keeping more rainwater in your garden allows it to soak in or evaporate, thus reducing both pollution and flooding.
Learn about projects you can do to reduce runoff at https://vaswcd.org/vcap.
Reduce size of your lawn
Grow a vegetable garden
Creating a vegetable garden rather than mowing a lawn has many health benefits, provides you with the freshest fruits and vegetables, and let’s you manage what fertilizers and pesticides touch your food.
Such gardens can come in many sizes from balcony container gardens to mini-farms. https://ext.vt.edu/lawn-garden/home-vegetables.html
Protect existing trees
There is nearly an endless list of benefits from trees including providing shade, cutting electric bills for cooling, improving air quality, reducing stormwater runoff, enhancing beauty, providing homes for wildlife, increasing property values, and even improving mental health and happiness.
Read the “owner’s manual” on how to keep your trees strong and healthy. https://www.treesaregood.org/treeowner/treeownersmanual
We need to protect the existing trees and we need to plant more trees.
As the proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
It is also important to pick the right tree for the right place.
Learn more about selecting trees and proper planting techniques at https://www.arborday.org/trees/tips/
Plant native plants/plant pollinator garden
Your choice of plants is a big factor in how much environmental benefit they provide.
Plants are at the base of the food web for wildlife and research clearly shows that plants that are native to an area – plants that co-evolved with local insects – provide dramatically more wildlife benefit than ornamental plants from distant lands.
So go native as much as you can! https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2020/02/07/yard-sustainability-native-plants/
Live in harmony with wildlife
As human populations grow and our cities and towns expand across the landscape, so have our interactions with wildlife.
Many species have adapted to living alongside people in our suburban and even urban areas.
Hundreds of species of birds, countless insects from beetles to bees to butterflies, snakes and lizards, and larger creatures such as foxes and raccoons make their homes and live their lives in our communities.
With proper care and respect, observing these creatures can enrich all our lives. https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/habitat/
Become a River Star or Bay Star Home
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
But Most of All – Reduce.
The average American throws away 4.5 lbs of stuff every single day, 365 days per year.
Only a small fraction of all this stuff ever gets recycled and much of it is not easily recyclable.
We’ve all heard of the 3 R’s of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
But perhaps the most important step is to Reduce first – avoid getting single use products and packages that you’ll toss almost immediately. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/reduce-reuse-recycle-most-all-reduce
Donate old items in good condition to thrift stores
Before you throw away that item, consider whether it has a second life.
Is it in good condition?
Would it be something you would give to a friend?
If so, consider donating it to a local thrift store.
It can then benefit the charity, provide a low cost item to someone else in your community, keep it out of the landfill, and make you feel good! https://www.today.com/style/what-thrift-stores-want-you-know-you-make-donation-t162979
Share tools and equipment with neighbors rather than buying your own
Turn off unused lights and switch to LED light bulbs
Adjust your thermostat
You can save 10% of your heating and cooling bill by adjusting your thermostat for at least 8 hours per day.
And heating and cooling costs can easily be more than half of the average home’s electric bill – usually much more during our hot and humid summers. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/programmable-thermostats
Wash full loads of laundry in colder water
Look for the Energy Star label when buying new appliances
When you're shopping for appliances or electronics, you have to think both short term and long term.
There is the cost of buying the appliance but also the cost of operating it year after year, which is usually much more than the cost to buy it.
Looking at the Energy Star label, you can see how much it will cost to run the product so you can buy the more efficient products.
You’ll save money year after year and save the planet. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/appliances-and-electronics/shopping-appliances
Winterize your home for winter and summer savings
Get a home or workplace energy audit to identify where you can make the most energy-saving gains
You can work with Dominion Energy to have a professional do a Home Energy Assessment of your home and identify more ways to save energy and money. https://domsavings.com/va/rhea/
Say no to single use plastic bottling – bring your own reusable bottle or mug
In a nation where almost all Americans (but sadly not all) have access to clean, safe drinking water, we consume water in single use plastic bottles at the rate of 100,000 PER MINUTE; 50 billion bottles per year.
And 77% of these bottles never ever reach the recycling center.
Be healthier, save money, save the planet - bring your own water from home! https://gogreentravelgreen.com/bring-water-bottle/
Avoid single use plastic packaging
Our society is drowning in single use plastic items – from plastic bags to impossible to open “blister” packs, from plastic water bottles to fruit clamshells.
These items will last nearly forever but are trash after the initial use.
Most are not readily recyclable.
Plastic production from new petroleum resources is projected to increase by 40% over the next 10 years, and the oil and gas industry is expecting this to be a major revenue source.
Take action to reverse this trend. https://myplasticfreelife.com/plasticfreeguide/
Combine online deliveries into a single delivery
Online shopping is convenient.
But having a steady stream of delivery vehicles cruising city streets to drop off more and more cardboard boxes and bags at your door is certainly not ideal for reducing waste or pollution.
Reduce your impact by combining your orders and deliveries into as few shipments as possible, such as by setting an “Amazon Day” https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/online-shopping-carbon-footprint-1.4914942
Go Meatless at least once a week
Buy organic and local whenever possible
The USDA Organic certification gives you confidence that it was grown pesticide-free.
Locally grown food helps local farmers and reduces transportation costs.
Locally grown organic is the best of both worlds.
Learn about your food choices and make the best choices! https://www.food.ee/blog/is-it-better-to-buy-local-or-organic/
Bring your own reusable container for leftovers at restaurant
Buy second hand from thrift stores or friends
Bike instead of driving for some of your trips
Walk instead of driving for short errands
Combine trips to reduce driving
When you do drive, combine several errands in one trip.
And plan your route in advance to line up destinations efficiently and avoid having to backtrack.
And a tip from UPS – when planning your trip, minimize making left turns because they result in more wasted time and fuel. https://afdc.energy.gov/conserve/behavior_techniques.html
Improve your gas mileage by taking care of your car
Make sure your next car has better gas mileage - or go electric
A lot of businesses have been required to practice telecommuting for the first time this year.
If they decide to retain this option for employees long term, at least some of the time, they can provide significant environmental benefits to the world.
Thousands of cars could be removed from the road and traffic congestion relieved.
Employers could also save costs on heating and cooling buildings.
And employees could save hundreds of hours of time commuting each year. https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/telecommuting-sustainability-how-telecommuting-is-a-green-job/
Reduce energy consumption
Switch to renewal energy providers
Establish a workplace recycling program
Businesses often generate large amounts of recyclable materials.
To be a good corporate citizen, the first step for a successful program is a waste audit, including reviewing how to reduce waste before it happens.
For items you can’t reduce/eliminate or reuse, the next step is setting up a recycling program.
Learn how at https://www.inc.com/guides/2010/04/start-office-recycling-program.html
Reduce waste and improve your company’s environmental footprint
Reducing waste saves money while conserving both natural resources and energy – “waste not, want not”.
Reducing your waste is also a practice that provides positive customer public relations for businesses.
More than just recycling, waste reduction looks for various ways to reduce a company’s environmental footprint. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/how-your-business-can-cut-costs-by-reducing-wastes
Reduce business travel
Traveling long distances for business meetings has a major environmental impact, not to mention being expensive and time consuming.
Sometimes there is nothing that can replace the impact of a face to face meeting, but with today’s technology a tele- or video conference will often be sufficient. https://www.trondent.com/sustainable-business-travel/
Never litter – and lend a hand by picking up litter when you are out and about
Litter happens … whether from carelessness, neglect, irresponsibility, or mistakes.
Make a pledge to never litter.
And when you see litter, pick it up if you can.
Research shows that people are less likely to litter if an area is already litter free.
And discourage the use of single use, disposable packaging when possible. https://kab.org/goals/end-littering/
Join community cleanups
Follow the Friends of Indian River on Facebook
Volunteer with the Friends of Indian River and other local environmental organizations
Participate in the activities of city boards and commissions
There are several city boards and commissions, in addition to the CEIC, that deal with environmentally related issues.
These include the Chesapeake Agricultural Advisory Commission, Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area (CPBA) Board , Chesapeake Bicycles/Trails Advisory Committee (BTAC) , and the Stormwater Committee. https://www.cityofchesapeake.net/1204/Boards-Commissions
Make your voice heard at the Planning Commission and City Council
Become an environmental and conservation advocate
As a citizen and a constituent, you have the power to contact your elected officials at the city, state, and federal level about issues that are important to you.
Tools include e-mails, letters, in person meetings, comments at public hearings, and even letters to the editor of local newspapers. https://maineaudubon.org/advocacy/tips-for-effective-citizen-advocacy/
Share the Knowledge/Be a Good Example
Research the candidates running for office and support candidates who best support your goals.
And make sure you register and vote.
If you can’t get to the polls, make sure you apply for an absentee ballot. https://vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation
Go outside, enjoy nature, and bring a friend – building a love of nature will encourage everyone to protect our Earth
Originally published for Earth Day 2020 - the 50th Anniversary. Now with updated links.