April 22 marks the 44th annual Earth Day celebration. Earth Day events, held worldwide, demonstrate support for environmental protection. The first Earth Day saw 20 million Americans who peacefully demonstrated for environmental reform. Today it is coordinated by the Earth Day Network and is celebrated by more than 1 billion people in more than 192 countries.
Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson organized the first “national teach-in on the environment” after witnessing the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif. His goal was to bring environmental protection into focus. Within a year of the first event, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was formed. Before the EPA was formed there were no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect our environment. After its formation it led to the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts.
As the world’s population continues to grow and our natural resources are stretched thin, it’s even more important to keep a watchful eye on the natural environment. Not all acts and participation must be large. Many small changes help to reduce our impact on the earth. Following is a list of small changes you can make this Earth Day to improve environmental health.
1. Buy local. Visit your local farmer’s market. Your food will be fresher and will have traveled fewer miles than the majority of foods found at your local grocer. Use the items you purchase to plan an Earth Day dinner serving locally grown food. Remember to take a reusable bag!
2. Compost your food waste. Food thrown into the trash ends up in a landfill. Food rinsed down the drain goes to a waste water treatment center where it is removed from the water and then sent to a landfill. By composting you save land space, save fuel energy from waste removal vehicles, and have a nutrient rich additive for your plants.
3. Attach a rain barrel to your home’s downspout. When structures are built they change the natural flow of rainwater, producing greater amounts of runoff. A rain barrel holds the water during a rain event and is available for later use.
4. Organize a litter cleanup. Litter is not only unsightly, it’s also detrimental to water quality. Litter left on the ground can be picked up by rainwater and swept into a stream or a storm drain, which discharges into a stream. By removing litter you are improving water quality and improving the appearance of your community.
5. Reduce gasoline consumption. Instead of using your vehicle for short trips, walk or ride a bike. Whenever possible, use public transportation. You will not only reduce the amount of gasoline being used (gas is made from a nonrenewable natural resource), you may also see an increase in your funds.
This is just a sampling of the small changes each individual can make to improve the environment. With a world of over 7 billion, individual actions add up. Small changes can make a big impact.
Pattie Stivender is the education outreach and volunteer coordinator for Bluegrass Greensource.