As we continue to struggle with COVID19, we also celebrated 50 years of officially honoring the earth and trying to take care of her on Wednesday, April 22. Here is a picture in NYC of one the first Earth Day celebrations:
The New York Times lists 10 positive environmental changes in the last 50 years as well as 10 of the biggest negative outcomes. The biggest positives in the US are cleaner air and rivers, as well as a much bigger focus on renewable energy. Some of the bigger negatives are how much, and how fast, the oceans are warming (and how dirty they are becoming); still far too much reliance on fossil fuels; and too many chemicals in, and on, our food, soil, and consumer goods.
A Post Quarantine World
While the challenges to Mother Earth can seem insurmountable, we have seen positives for the earth from the pandemic that can hopefully be extended. In the northeastern USA, NASA satellites show a 30% reduction in air pollutants, especially nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Both of these pollutants contribute to asthma and other chronic health issues. And in some cities around the world, dwellers have been able to see the horizon for the first time in decades:
What Can We Change to Maintain Some of the Postive Changes
In the past, when we have had small positive environmental blips due to economic or other factors, the world has quickly returned to its old ways. Changes in legislation offer the best chance for success in mitigating climate change. However, even if we can’t change laws right away, there are some things we can do to help. Here are a few of them:
Make fewer trips to the store, and consolidate trips. It’s been hard for me to only go the store once a week for groceries, but it’s also made me plan more which has made life easier. And, when possible, bike, use public transportation, or carpool.
Shop for produce locally at farmer’s markets when possible. Better yet, grow some of your own veggies. Becca and I are planning a garden and hope to be sharing our experience here on our blog. If you are worried about a black thumb, perhaps consider a Farmstand from LettuceGrow.
Compost your scraps. If you aren’t up for the entire project yourself, see if your town has a company like CompostQueen, that does the hard work for you. I use them and it is cool to see how much I am able to reduce CO2 and methane emissions each month:
Consider adding solar panels if you own a home and can afford it, or see if your energy company allows you to partake in a local solar/wind farm. The local and federal tax credits and rebates remain a big advantage, and by opting for renewable energy, you can make a difference regardless of what legislators do.
Eat less meat. Even my meat loving sons enjoyed our spaghetti with lentil meatballs last week. If you or someone in your house likes animal protein everyday, try for 1 or 2 nights a week without it. If and when you do eat meat, opt for more sustainable or organic varieties to reduce your carbon footprint. Limiting animal products results is one of the bigger impacts individuals can have on our environment.
Right now, practically no one is flying, but that will change soon. Consider purchasing carbon credits when you fly to help offset the air pollution you are helping to create. Some airlines allow you to purchase through them, or you can purchase from an independent company like Sustainable Travel International.
Don’t forget the everyday things like turning off the lights when you leave a room, switching to LED lightbulbs, using a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic disposable ones, and using cold water to wash your clothes. 90% of the energy requirement for washing machines comes from heating the water.
I truly hope we can use the tragedy of the pandemic to help take care of the earth for ourselves and future generations. Pick at least one thing that you aren’t currently doing, and try adding it in today!