Earth Day is an important opportunity to celebrate our planet and all of its natural wonders, from our wildlife to beautiful mountain ranges and vast oceans. As these natural wonders face increasingly severe threats climate change, pollution and the sixth mass extinction, it is also important to focus on how we can protect our planet before it is too late. Although this may seem like a daunting, if not impossible task for a person to take on, there are small steps you can take to make a tangible difference.
Single-use plastic is everywhere and it is easy to become dependent on it without even knowing it. We are now addicted to single-use plastic at an unsustainable rate. In fact, one garbage truck worth of plastic packaging flows into the ocean every minute! There are common alternatives to single-use plastic products such as tote bags, metal straws and reusable plastic bottles. While you stock up on these products, consider also buying some lesser known single-use plastic alternatives such as reusable sandwich bags and mesh produce bags for your fruits and vegetables at the grocery store.
Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to get your hands dirty and pick up some garbage. Clean-ups can have a wide-reaching impact on the planet. In 2017, The Ocean Conservancy’s annual beach clean-up event resulted in 20 million pieces of trash being removed from the environment worldwide. Even if you are just one person, picking up garbage in your neighborhood can protect wildlife from becoming ensnared in or choking on plastic and prevent dangerous pollutants from entering waterways. Additionally, clean-ups can discourage people from littering. Studies show that people are more likely to litter in areas that are already littered.
It can be overwhelming to think about how many of your everyday habitats are destroying the planet. This Earth Day, give yourself the manageable goal of changing one bad behavior, whether that is biking to work instead of driving, taking a shorter shower or making sure to turn off the lights when you leave.
With new computers and phones coming out constantly, many people probably have old technology sitting around the house. It might be tempting just to throw them in the garbage. In fact, worldwide we create 40 million tons of electronic waste every year- the equivalent of throwing out 800 laptops every second. These technologies can leak toxins such as arsenic, lead and cadmium into the environment when they are discarded. Electronic waste makes up only 2% of the garbage in landfills but accounts for almost 70% of toxic heavy metals at these sites. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, up to 90% of electronic waste is illegally traded or dumped every year. This waste is often exported to developing countries where the toxins cause negatively impact the environment and human health. Instead, you can donate your old technology to the non-profit Defenders of Wildlife.
By Brianna Lynne, Earth.com Contributing Writer