We've been celebrating Earth Day for 50 years and while we've made improvements like reducing asbestos and DDT, we've also learned the harsh realities of fossil fuels and climate change.
Saving the planet can seem like an overwhelming problem much too big for any individual to tackle, but you can do one small thing today that can help the planet.
Here are five ideas you can choose from to implement on this 50th anniversary of Earth Day:
1. Reduce food waste.
According to the EPA, food waste has increased 217% since 1970 when Earth Day began (2) and has jumped higher since the COVID-19 pandemic. We all need to do what we can to prevent food from being thrown out.
If you're stocking up on fresh fruits and veggies, but finding they're going bad before you can eat them all, you can:
make a smoothie today with your fruit
use brown bananas to make banana bread
use turning basil to make pesto
use old asparagus or asparagus ends to make Asparagus Cream soup
freeze fruits for smoothies, nice cream, and baked goods for a later date
freeze veggies to use for soup stocks or casseroles this weekend
freeze your food scraps to start a compost when you're ready
#2. Go meatless tonight and once a week for the rest of the year.
The statistics on the methane produced by cattle, water used to produce a burger, and fossil fuels used to transport meat are staggering. (1)
Choosing to forego meat one day a week makes a big difference in the demand for meat, and ultimately reduces the environmental consequences to supply the beef on your plate. You can use the BBC's food calculator to see your diet's carbon footprint.
What to eat instead?
#3. Make a shopping list.
Going grocery shopping? Before you go, plan what you'll cook for the week and check the inventory in your pantry and fridge. These 2 easy steps can prevent buying unnecessary food items and wasting them later. They also save money!
#4. Consider packaging.
Once the pandemic restrictions ease and we can use reusable grocery bags again, make it a point to keep the reusable bags in your car. This eliminates plastic waste- both on the manufacturing side that requires oils and other resources to make and transport the bags- as well as the consumer end by keeping bags out of landfills and oceans.
If you're only buying one or two produce items, don't use a plastic produce bag. Keep them loose in your cart.
Consider items that come in packages that are hard on the environment. For instance, instead of buying eggs that come in Styrofoam, make it a point to buy eggs in cardboard cartons.
If you're not using your appliances, unplug your toaster, blender, TV, and other appliances to save energy. This also can save money on your electric bill each month.
Which of these will you do today?
(1) Stylianou, N., Guibourg, C., & Briggs, H. (Aug. 9, 2019). Climate change food calculator: What's your diet's carbon footprint? BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46459714
(2) Environmental Protection Agency. Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling. https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/food-material-specific-data