10 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day is here again. It happens every April 22, so it should come as no surprise this year. We’ve been a bit distracted recently, what with the global economic meltdown and all, but none of that will matter if the entire Earth has a meltdown because we’ll be too busy learning to make boats to worry about our 401K balances (or lack thereof.) You may not believe it, but little things can help. I started with five simple ways to go green earlier in the week, and now here are ten more in honor of Earth Day.

Stop Using Paper Towels Today

I haven’t yet amassed enough dish towels to completely replace my paper towels, but I am trying to significantly cut back. For today, just avoid using paper towels. If it goes well, try again tomorrow. To make sure the effort continues, look for sales on dishtowels and start stockpiling them in different shapes and sizes. You can also use old t-shirts for some jobs.

Replace Air Filters

You should actually change the air filters on your heater/air conditioner every six months or so, but many homeowners forget. These puppies collect a lot of dust and pet dander. If you replace them regularly, they won’t have to work as hard to regulate the temperature in your home, thus saving you money and reducing your energy use.

Eat Dinner without Electric Lights

If it’s warm enough where you live (I write this in the midst of a heat wave), then have dinner outside tonight. If it’s cold/rainy/windy, then turn off the electric lights and eat by candlelight. Bonus points for eating cold food or using a reduced energy cooking method.

Turn off the TV

I know that we’re approaching the season finales, but turn off the TV just for tonight. If you’re feeling really daring, turn off the DVR and don’t download the shows off the internet, either. You probably won’t miss much. Now think about how much energy you saved with that one simple act for one night. (As a side note, this also happens to be TV Turnoff Week.)

Find a Local Farmer’s Market

Yeah, I know, here I go again with the farmer’s markets, but I can’t tell you how much I love them. The season when markets across the country will open is fast upon us. Start by simply searching Google for a local market. If one is open today, then pop by. If it’s not, promise yourself you will check it out when it is open.

Bring Your Lunch and Your Own Utensils to Work

If you can swing it, consider bringing your own plate, too. This should be a homemade lunch, not a packaged meal. Bringing your lunch and reusable utensils reduces the amount of trash you create, and the amount of energy used to create what will eventually become trash.

Eat Vegetarian for One Day

You can also do this for just one day. Try a beans-based dish, or a rice-based dish. (You could cheat and add an egg for fried rice.) How about a big bowl of pasta? No, you can’t eat a big dish of pasta daily, but just one day a week won’t ruin your health. Or, make a nice big salad with a loaf of crusty bread and delicious wine. Add toasted nuts to the salad for protein, or cheese (sort of cheating, but it’s not meat).

Avoid All Packaged Foods

You can do this for Earth Day. By “packaged” I mean frozen foods, pre-packaged meals, convenience meals, fast food, carry-out, etc. Obviously, most raw materials like beans, pasta, and rice will have to come in some sort of container, but the closer you can get to the natural form, the better. If you’re feeling bold, you could even try to make your own fresh pasta with flour, eggs, and water. To dry it, lay it out on kitchen towels or suspend it from clean hangers. Whatever you do, try to eat food you cooked or prepared yourself, from scratch, all day.

Plant Herbs or Buy an Indoor Plant

It can be difficult to grow herbs and other plants from seed unless you’re very attentive, but you can stop by a nursery, or even a grocery store, to buy an herb plant. Put it in a sunny window, on the balcony, or plant it in your garden to have fresh herbs that are nearly free.

Ask Your Landlord to Start a Recycling Program

It took years for our building to get recycling bins, but they immediately filled once we had them. If your building doesn’t recycle, then it’s time to start lobbying the landlord. It probably won’t cost extra, since trash collection is already required and many cities are beginning to require recycling programs for apartment complexes.

Of course, if you like some of these Earth Day ideas, you could make them more regular occurrences, for example a weekly Veggie dinner, or a concerted effort to eat less packaged food. The point is to do something. Doing nothing only makes things worse. Want still more ideas? Check out last year’s Earth Day post or my exhaustive list of 100 frugal ways to go green.

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