Make Earth Day Count

Many of us remember the first Earth Day in 1970. Did you attend an Earth Day event at your school or in your community?

Pollution was the main concern then. Following that first Earth Day, governments, businesses and individuals took concrete actions resulting in cleaner air and water, and less waste.

Today, 45 years later, we face an overriding concern that wasn't on anyone's radar then: Climate change, or global warming.

Can our actions now make a difference in reducing the negative effects of climate change for future generations? We need to assume they can.

Check out these 10 ideas for positive environmental actions we can start now, to really make this year's Earth Day (April 22) mean something.

  1. Step up. We'll start with the easiest: Simply walk. Walking to get places will unequivocally improve your health and reduce your environmental impact. Invest in great shoes and breathable rain gear, as well as reflectors or blinkers if you walk in the dark.
  2. March and organize. Supporting the mammoth People's Climate March in New York City last September, marches and rallies took place in Seattle and all across the country. There will be more. If climate change resonates with you as an issue, participating in rallies and events and even volunteering to make those activities happen is an obvious choice.
  3. Have an opinion. We don't need to all think the same way, but since we all vote, on the ballot and with our wallet, we should become educated about climate change and its implications. For example, as climate change impacts increase, we'll hear more talk about geoengineering as a solution. This means artificially changing the climate to reduce the most negative effects of climate change. It could have massive implications, so we need to understand geoengineering and take a stand on it if necessary.
  4. Use your tools. Tool lending libraries reduce consumption, help you save money and build community. Just in the past few years, six new local tool libraries have sprung up, in Seattle and Fall City and on Vashon Island. Community organizers in Federal Way and Skyway are also working on tool library projects. Donate tools, or volunteer to help staff a tool library.
  5. Celebrate. Learn more about what you can do to help the environment, and just plain have fun, at area Earth Day events in April, from Seattle to Newcastle to Burien.
  6. Grow your own and pollinate. Even if you already garden, plant more edibles this year. Donate the veggies and fruits you can't use to food banks. For your ornamental plantings, slowly convert them to native species if you can, since they will attract pollinators and birds more readily than the standard imported ornamentals gracing most of our yards.
  7. Energize. There's never been a better time to power our homes without fossil fuels. Take advantage of Solarize Washington projects in Seattle-area neighborhoods, which reduce your cost of installing rooftop solar panels through group purchasing.
  8. Ditch the stuff. Do you know anyone who has let go of a lot of their material possessions who isn't happy about it? Start paring down and pruning your stuff now, while you're still healthy and have the energy. Donate your unwanted items to your favorite charity, including even your torn and stained clothing.  
  9. Green your road. Many of us travel more as we get older, and we need to consider the environmental impacts of all that tourism. You don't have to feel guilty or stop going places; you can be a conscious traveler and enjoy your trips just as much. Take public transportation and alternatives to energy-hog jet airplanes when you can. Consider a vacation where you also might learn about the environmental effects of climate change, such as a cruise to Alaska (some cruise lines are greener than others, but cruise vacations often have less of an eco-impact than other vacations).
  10. Show your age. As we grow into our 50s, 60s and beyond, we become more valuable than we realize to future generations. Mentoring younger people isn't just a concept, it's something we really need to be doing, especially when it comes to environmental protection. We may have job-related skills we can pass along, or maybe it's just what we've learned in the garden or running our home. Just be sure you listen more than you talk when helping young people.  

Thanks for making Earth Day special! Questions? Contact King County EcoConsumer Tom Watson (tom.watson@kingcounty.gov or 206-477-4481).

Contributor Tom Watson is a project manager for King County's Recycling and Environmental Services (www.KCecoconsumer.com). Read more of Tom's AgeWise King County articles at Dig In for the Earth, Deck the Halls Green, and 10 Creative Ideas for Greener Giving