Ten Tips for Earth Day

Image courtesy of jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, Earth Day is upon us once again.  A day when we are encouraged to think more about how we treat (use) the planet and how we could change it for the better.  Of course, there’s a strong argument that every day should be Earth Day in that respect, but one day is better than nothing.  Start small, and build….

So what are you doing for Earth Day?  There are lots of very small changes we can all make, which together have a much bigger impact.  I know a lot of people think they can’t change anything on their own, but I don’t think that’s true.  Apart from anything else, many of the changes we can make have a positive impact on our own lives, so we can see immediate benefits for ourselves.  When others do this too, we start to make an impact.  Don’t let people tell you that because we can’t solve the environmental crises overnight, we shouldn’t bother trying.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  (Margaret Mead)

Here then, are a few things you could do to make a change.  You’re probably doing some of them already.

  1. Set your computer and monitor to sleep mode, rather than leaving it on.  If you’re finished for the day, turn it off altogether.  Setting a desktop to sleep mode reduces electricity usage by 87%.  The surge of energy used by turning it back on again is very small in comparison to that used by leaving it on.
  2. Drink tap water, not bottled.  Apart from the fact that there is evidence to suggest some bottled water sits in the plastic bottle for a year or more, absorbing the chemicals from the plastic (yuck!), the waste involved in bottled water is phenomenal.  On another level, many of the bottled water brands available are owned by Nestle – a fantastic reason not to buy it.  It is just me that thinks it’s a very cynical move on Nestle’s part that they own most of the bottled water companies in many countries where the tap water is not safe to drink?  Anyway, according to the New York Times, Americans will throw away over 30 billion single use plastic bottles from bottled water this year alone!  Buy yourself a refillable water bottle (most supermarkets sell them, along with their packed lunch bags) and use tap water.  You can get a filter if your tap water doesn’t taste great.
  3. Set yourself a target to reduce you family’s or business’ carbon footprint.  You can assess your current emissions  and get ideas for ways of cutting down by visiting ClimateCare.
  4. Recycle your waste.  Most local councils now operate a recycling programme, but the quality of these varies enormously.  You can recycle all sorts of things these days.  Of course, you can recycle tins, cans, plastic bottles, paper, newspaper, cardboard and glass, although not all councils recycle all of these things.  Some will allow you to recycle tetra-packs and plastic tubs and yoghurt pots, but not all.  Some allow textile recycling too.  If yours doesn’t allow all of this, you can usually find quite decent recycling at one of the local supermarkets, often including textiles and shoes.  Clarks shoe shops offer a recycling scheme for kids’ shoes – they collect them and send them to developing countries for children to wear.
  5. Even better than recycling is reducing the amount of stuff we use in the first place.  This is harder to do, because the amount of packaging manufacturers get away with using is outrageous.  However, there are still things we can do.  Buy your fruit and veg loose.  You usually get a choice between plastic wrapped and loose, so choose the loose ones.  Rather than sticking them in a plastic bag, put them straight into your trolley or basket, or into a cotton bag you take with you (even then, you still get cashiers at the checkout trying to put stuff into plastic bags – grrr!).  When you have no choice but to have packaging, try to choose products with packaging that can be recycled.
  6. Ignore sell-by dates – sell by dates have lulled us into this false sense of danger – most food is still edible after the sell by dates, so ignore the dates and use your common sense.  Cutting down on food waste makes a big difference to the  amount we throw out.
  7. Compost!  If you grow your own veg, you cut down on a lot of packaging!  It also gives you a good reason to compost more waste.  Lots of food waste can be recycled (but not meat or dairy, though egg shells are fine).  Teabags, veggies, bread – they can all go in.  We have a small lidded bin with a removable bucket, which we collect the waste in.  We then take the inner to the compost bin, wash it out and start again.  You can get a compost bin from your council, usually at a huge discount, or you can make your own.  Don’t forget that grass cuttings, other garden waste, shredded paper etc can all go in too.  If you keep chickens, their poo makes excellent compost too!
  8. Save water.  If you’re not on a water meter, it can be very easy to use water with no real idea of how much you use.  There are lots of devices which fit inside the cistern of the loo to reduce the amount of water used in a flush.  Modern loos often have water saving flushes built in, but older ones can be encouraged to use less.  Some of the devices can be got free from the water company.
  9. Collect water.  We have plenty of falling from the skies, so it makes sense that we should make the most of it.  A water butt is easy to connect to your drain pipe to collect the rain water from your gutters.  You can then use this water to water your garden, saving water and bypassing hosepipe bans at the same time!  Again, water butts are available from councils at a discount.
  10. Buy local.  This can prove to be quite a task, but it is possible to do – at least for some of the shop.  You can take this to mean buying from local shops, local producers, local produce from a supermarket, or just thinking about the food miles involved in what you buy.  If you can buy something grown or reared in the UK, does it make sense to buy the alternative brand sitting next to it that has been flown half way around the world?  Doing this in full means giving up some things we love that can’t grow here, but again … small steps.  Buy stuff in season, and it doesn’t need to be flown around the world.  Cut down and change where there is a UK alternative, and then buying something which doesn’t grow here isn’t such a big thing.

OK. there are my ten tips for Earth Day.  I don’t claim to do all of them perfectly, but I do try to do them all to some extent.  I’d love to hear your suggestions of other ways to reduce our negative impact on the world.

As a special incentive to go eco (especially with your kids), I’d like to make an offer.  Barefoot Books have a lot of titles aimed at helping and encouraging children to think ecologically.  I’ve talked about some of them on here before.  Today, I’d like to give a special mention to “Whole World Fun Eco Activities”, “Kids’ Garden” and “The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales”.  Between now and midnight on Sunday, I will pay for one tree to planted for every book sold through this link, whether they come from our eco range or not.  Barefoot Books are printed on ancient forest-friendly, acid free paper already.  Now you can have a tree planted on your behalf for every book bought, through Eco-Libris.

So remember, for every book you buy from me on one of these links, I will pay for one tree to be planted.

Happy Earth Day!

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