Let's Get Down to Earth
Written By Adam Swarth
For more than 50 years, April has been celebrated around the world as Earth Month. During these thirty days, an emphasis is placed on nurturing our planet and its environment by raising awareness and creating consciousness around the urgent issues it’s facing. This annual month-long celebration allows us to connect with Mother Nature and care for her as she cares for us.
How Did Earth Day Come About?
In 1969, a massive oil spill took place in Santa Barbara, California: around 100,000 barrels of oil spilled into the Santa Barbara coast, polluting the ocean and killing thousands of sea animals. Wisconsin environmentalist and senator Gaylord Nelson created the event as a way to push his pro-environment objectives. Back then, there was EPA. So on April 22, 1970, Nelson and other environmentalists celebrated the first national Earth Day. Over time, it became acknowledged that one day out of three hundred sixty-five was not long enough to celebrate the Earth, and with the addition of more environmentalist concerns, the month of April started to be recognized as Earth Month around the world.
Why Should We Care About Earth Month?
Earth is the place we call home. As human beings, we have all been blessed to have been designated to this beautiful planet. Just like we (hopefully) take care of our houses, we’re all responsible for taking care of our homes, and this celebration gives us an opportunity to do just that. Here are some ways you can learn about and take care of our planet, not only in April but throughout the year.
Crack Open a Book
There are countless pro-environment books out there to help inform you about what’s happening around you in real-time: the damage that has been done or is being done to our planet, and what we can do to stop it. Some (like the suggestions below) may even encourage you to take your own steps in helping prevent further damage and even reverse it.
"No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference" by environmentalist Greta Thunberg is a great book to read during Earth Month. The short book is composed of a number of Thunberg’s speeches during her fight against climate change. Her eye-opening speeches on the issue of climate change in addition to her bold call-to-actions against various European governments are inspiring and empower us to feel that we, too, are more than capable of healing our planet.
"Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming" is an in-depth read on the issue of global warming. Written by environmental activist Paul Hawken, the book provides a variety of approaches that are being done or can be done in order to tackle global warming. This book gives readers offers up solutions to how global warming can be stopped and how one can play a part in this effort.
There Is No Planet B: A Handbook For The Make or Break Years highlights the importance of taking care of our planet. Written by environmental writer and researcher Mike Berners-Lee, the book lists a variety of problems in the world, ranging from politics to fires to climate change. This novel provides different perspectives on several issues and how we can work to alleviate each one.
Watch a Documentary
Not so much of a reader? Catching a documentary or two can hold the same effect, and may even be more effective; the additional visual component can open viewers’ eyes to the environmental issues in the world and may give clearer solutions, as well.
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret follows the negative impact animal agriculture has on the environment. The facts presented about the destruction of the environment in this movie are extremely shocking and will change your perspective on animal agriculture and the environment.
Polar Bear follows a polar bear and her struggle to raise her cubs in the current environment produced by climate change and global warming. You will immediately sympathize with the polar bear and her adorable family and want to make a change in the world for those who can’t make one themselves.
A Plastic Ocean reveals the magnitude of the effect of plastic waste in the Earth’s oceans. The movie displays how plastic waste is detrimental to the health of marine life and provides viable options to prevent further waste-dumping in the ocean.
Tune Into a Podcast
Podcasts are easily accessible and convenient. Whether you’re driving or working out, it helps to put on a podcast to help the time pass. They’re also a great way to receive information about the environment and how you can make a change. With easy-to-digest facts presented throughout casual conversations, listening to pro-environment podcasts will educate you on environmental issues at your convenience.
Sustainable(ish) is hosted by Jen Gale, who presents information about the environment and its issues in an informal manner, making it a very welcoming listen. Many of her episodes feature different guests who help her effort in providing solutions to healing the environment.
Think: Sustainability focuses on the Earth’s issues and how to provide a stable future. Its episodes are short and concentrated on specific topics so you learn more while listening for less time.
Climate One is a weekly podcast that discusses the climate crisis. Each episode differs from the other and takes on a different perspective on the climate crisis in each.
Listen to the News
Throughout our lives, we work to keep up with the news to stay informed on current issues in the world. Yet, with so many social and political issues taking the media’s spotlight, many environmental issues seem to go unmentioned. It’s vital to stay in touch with environmental-focused news, as those sources inform us on pressing issues in nature all over the world.
EcoWatch and Environmental News Network are great sources for current environmental issues. With frequent publications covering a broad range of environmental concerns, you will be constantly updated and just might learn about issues that you didn’t even know were issues.
Grist is especially effective as a source for learning about environmental issues. In addition to straightforward reports on environmental issues, “Grist” also explains how environmental issues play a role in politics and how they impact the individual.
Treehugger gives information on different types of environmental information, ranging from environmental influence in business to the impact that environmental changes have on animal lives. The site also gives great suggestions on how you can make changes in the environment.
Volunteer in your Community
Earth Month invites us to take extra care of our environment. There’s no better way to take care of the environment than volunteering locally; helping your community and the environment at the same time has both broad and direct benefits. Here are some ways you can take the initiative and make your community and the world a better place.
- Participate in a beach clean-up: Many beaches have trash littered around them which harms the beaches and the animals who live on the beach, as well as those in the ocean. Cleaning up the trash not only saves the lives and ecosystems of animals but also makes sure that our beaches are presentable and beautiful. You can join a local beach clean-up organization to secure the safety of the beach and its inhabitants. If there isn’t a clean-up group to join, host your own.
- Plant more trees: Planting more trees around your community won’t just beautify it. It will also bolster the environment. Not only will more trees provide more homes for wildlife, but having more trees means there’s less carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere and warming the Earth. Gather a few friends, find some open land in a park or farm, and plant a few trees!
- Work to protect local wildlife: It’s important to remember that the animals in our communities have been there longer than we have. We are simply living on their land, so protecting them is the least that we can do. Join or organize a group that works to aid the lives of wildlife within our communities and protect the creatures that maintain our ecosystem!
Develop Eco-Friendly Habits
Developing positive habits can be difficult to start and even more difficult to maintain. Yet, Earth Month grants us an opportunity to work on ourselves in an effort to help the environment. Earth Month is the perfect time to start working on developing pro-environment habits.
- 5-Minute Showers: Some of us like taking long showers in the morning or filling the bathtub at night as a way to relax before or after a big day. Unfortunately, water isn’t unlimited. Luckily, there’s a fix! Taking five-minute showers significantly reduces the amount of water and energy usage, preserving water and energy for other purposes.
- Shut off appliances when not in use: Sometimes, we can be very cavalier about leaving the lights on when we’re not in the room or keeping appliances plugged in when they’re not in use. Not only is it bad for your energy bill, but it’s terrible for the environment. Turning off your lights and unplugging your appliances can save large amounts of energy which can then be utilized for other purposes and decrease the release of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
- Walk or ride your bike: We don’t need to ride our car for two minutes to go down the block and back. Walking or taking a bike ride is much better than driving for the environment. Yes, there are some circumstances where you have to take a car. In the instances you don’t, take a walk or bike ride! You eliminate air pollutants when not taking a vehicle to your destination and increase your amount of exercise. It may take longer to get to where you need, but it’s worth it.
Many of us shop regularly, whether it’s for groceries or clothes or whatever we may need in our lives. What we may not realize is that some of the products we casually purchase can harm the environment. The cup of coffee in a disposable cup that you buy every morning, the polyester shirts you bought a few weeks ago, or even the makeup set you bought just a couple of months ago can all be harmful to the environment. Shopping eco-consciously is just as important as anything else you could do to help our planet. Now, how can your shopping help the environment?
Shopping for Food
Review ingredients carefully: Make sure that what you’re buying has sustainable ingredients.
Purchase less meat: The meat industry is responsible for large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions throughout the food industry. Purchasing less meat and finding alternatives will help reduce greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere.
Shop local: Not only are you supporting locally-owned businesses and helping your community grow, but you’re also saving the environment. Local businesses don’t require the long distances of transportation as larger corporations do, preventing pollution. Shopping locally can also help decrease the amount of food waste.
Reusable bags: it may be convenient to pay a minimal fee for a plastic bag, but they’re beyond terrible for the environment. Reusable bags help cut down the amount of plastic bags being used, slowly helping the environment.
Shopping for Clothes
Avoid synthetic materials: polyester and spandex might be comfortable and easy to find, but they destroy the environment. The production rates of synthetic materials require large amounts of greenhouse gasses to be released into the atmosphere and large amounts of “microplastics” in the material that pollutes our planet.
Purchase clothes for multi-wears: We’ve all gotten a clothing item that we’ve worn maybe once or twice- or we haven’t worn it at all. Although it’s normal, it is a waste of material as well as the energy that it takes to produce the clothing. When shopping for clothes, make sure that you pick out clothing that you know you’ll wear multiple times. An awesome way to make sure you’ll re-wear clothes is the 30 Wear Pledge, it’ll help you decide on whether or not you’ll reuse the article of clothing you’re considering buying.
Buy secondhand clothing: Not only can you find some unique and affordable clothes, you also help the environment. It promotes the re-usage of old clothes and doesn’t require the additional pollution that comes with manufacturing new clothing.
Shopping for Personal Care Products
Do your research: In order to distinguish whether or not a company produces environment-friendly products, you have to do your research. Usually, it’s easy to find out which companies and products are and are not good for the environment, but sometimes it requires in-depth research to find out which products come from harmful materials.
Buy only what you need: When finding a product you really want, it can be tempting to purchase it. Fighting those urges can not only help your bank account but also helps the environment. Purchasing less and limiting what you buy to necessities reduces the amount you are consuming and decreases the amount of waste that pollutes the Earth.
Prioritize quality over quantity: Although buying in bulk can be good for the environment, it only helps so much if the cheap product in bulk lasts as long as the individual product. Find a product that you love and that lasts a long time, and stick with it.
Even though every single one of us is significant and different in varying ways, we all share one commonality: we all live on Earth. The celebration of Earth Month subtly encourages us to take care of each other by taking care of our planet. Take the time to care for Earth during April and look to extend these practices year-round!