Earth Day, which commemorates efforts made towards protecting the planet, is celebrated on 22 April every year.
Such an important initiative needs to be more than just a one-day affair, though. After all, the current issues threatening the planet cannot be resolved that easily. An example is climate change, which has caused erratic weather patterns, leading to droughts and floods across the world.
To combat its causes and effects, brave individuals have taken it upon themselves to prevent environmental degradation and inspire others to join forces with them. A well-known name among them is young environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who has been raising awareness about climate change and opposing actions by governments that harm the planet.
There are many ways for us to observe Earth Day and do our part in saving the planet for the benefit of future generations. Read on to find out more.
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Ways to observe and contribute to Earth Day
While they do not require much time or effort, being aware of the environment and making simple behavioural changes can help you lead a sustainable lifestyle. Many of these can be easily woven into your lifestyle as daily activities.
Do not litter
You must have noticed people casually throwing an ice-cream wrapper or a banana peel or a plastic bottle on the side of the road and walking past it. It is called littering, and shows an utter lack of basic etiquette.
Disposing waste anywhere other than throwing it into designated dustbins placed for public use should be stopped. If waste bins are not available in the area, you can carry the waste with you until you find one.
Deforestation is adversely affecting the environment. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) data reveals that an estimated 420 million hectares of forest have been lost due to conversion to other land uses since 1990. Though the rate of deforestation has come down, Earth has lost over 80 million hectares of primary forest in the last three decades.
A small step in tackling this issue is having a balcony or terrace garden. However, planting trees in open spaces, such as parks, can ensure the long-term health of the earth.
Additionally, participating in large-scale tree plantation drives can bring about a positive change in the environment. In case there are no such groups that you could join in your neighbourhood, you can organise one at the local level, asking residents to come together to plant trees maybe once a week or a month.
For inspiration, look at Jadav “Molai” Payeng. The Indian from the state of Assam planted a tree every day for 35 years and transformed a 562-hectare barren section of the Majuli Island into a forest, which is now teeming with wildlife. If one man can achieve such an incredible feat, the work of hundreds of like-minded people can easily restore the health of the planet in a few years.
Plastic bags and bottles are one of the biggest threats to the environment. Once they end up in landfills, the plastic poses a direct threat to both marine and land animals. This is because it may not decompose in even 1,000 years.
Additionally, Americans alone use 100 billion plastic bags a year, and it is immensely worrying to think about the use of plastic bags across the world.
One of the simplest ways to tackle this is to opt for reusable bags. These are environment friendly and are usually made of natural fibres such as jute. You can also carry one whenever you go shopping or ask for reusable or paper bags.
Not only is riding bicycles a great way to keep yourself fit, but it also helps protect the planet.
Vehicular pollution, caused by emissions from cars and bikes, is one of the biggest contributors to air pollution. Densely populated cities, particularly Delhi and Beijing, face this major problem. The Indian Express reported in November 2021 that a study by India’s Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) revealed vehicular emissions contribute the highest share to Delhi’s PM 2.5 levels.
Simply put, the less the number of vehicles on the road, the better the air will be. This makes a bicycle the best way to zip across the city, reducing the emission of harmful pollutants. If the distance to be covered is too much for a bicycle ride, another alternative is to opt for public transport that uses electric vehicles, such as trams, metro trains and bikes. You can also ‘carpool’ and share a ride.
Stop using plastic bottles or jars
Some of the world’s biggest brands sell bottled drinking water in plastic vessels. That’s not only dangerous for the planet but extremely hazardous for your health.
Citing a study by Frontiers in Chemistry, Time magazine reported in 2019 that 93 percent of samples from 259 bottled water sold in several countries contained “microplastic” synthetic polymer particles. In short, we are drinking plastic along with water.
The solution to this is a reusable bottle. Several manufacturers are making these sustainable products that go a long way in keeping you and the environment healthy. Opting for bamboo bottles is among the most excellent ways to observe Earth Day. The bottles help store water safely, and they come in beautiful designs and shapes.
Buy local farm produce
Some of the best (and freshest) fruits and vegetables come from local farms. Thus, many farm-to-table restaurants and hotels have adopted the policy of sourcing their ingredients locally. This not only ensures the growth of local businesses but also helps in protecting the environment. But how do they do that?
Moreover, the food in mega grocery stores often arrives after travelling thousands of kilometres by air, land or sea. Covering this distance burns lots of fuel and contributes to carbon emissions. Add to it the energy required to preserve the produce till it reaches the market stands, and you have a serious contributor to environmental damage.
Another reason sourcing produce locally is one of the simplest ways for sustainable living is that it is economical. You can save this money and use it to support organisations that work towards protecting the environment. Going sustainable in the choice of food is surely among the most effective ways to observe Earth Day.
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to observe Earth Day is to start saving energy at home. All you need to do is to ensure that you do not consume electricity unless it is necessary.
Coal, followed by gas, is the world’s largest source of electricity production. Coal, a fossil fuel, is also one of the biggest contributors to environmental pollution. Though alternative energy sources such as solar and wind are growing globally, coal’s contribution as a source is much higher. Therefore, the more you consume electricity, the more will be its production.
Another way to reduce the consumption of electricity is by using energy-efficient lamps such as Light-emitting Diodes (LED), Halogen Incandescent Lights and Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL).
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that around two-thirds, or four billion people, of the world’s population face severe water scarcity for at least a month every year. Additionally, it states that intense water scarcity might result in the displacement of around 700 million people by 2030 and a fourth of the world’s children will be living in areas of high water stress by 2040.
How can you help? The first step is to use water judiciously. Simple habits like turning off the tap while brushing or shaving and washing your vehicle with a bucket of water instead of a hosepipe can reduce water wastage.
Rainwater harvesting is another efficient way to replenish groundwater.
Shop from sustainable manufacturers
Recently, many notable fashion brands, including activewear labels, have been opting for sustainable ways of manufacturing their products. These clothes are made using fibres sourced from recycled plastic, bamboo and other sustainable alternatives and are extremely stylish and comfortable. Many even use eco-friendly dyes for their products, too.
By choosing such items, you also support the manufacturers and encourage other brands to use sustainable resources.
Volunteer and donate
One of the best ways to observe Earth Day is to volunteer for activist organisations working towards improving the environment. International groups such as EARTHDAY.ORG, Greenpeace, The Rainforest Alliance and Extinction Rebellion (XR) work towards spreading awareness about climate change and protesting against governmental or corporate bludgeoning of the environment. Donating to these groups is also a way to contribute to the cause of protecting the earth.
Additionally, you can take some time out of your busy schedules and volunteer for a local clean-up drive in your neighbourhood. Picking up trash from the streets and discarding them into waste bins during a morning jog is another way to go about doing your bit for the environment.
(Main image: Dmitrii Vaccinium/@vaccinium/Unsplash; Featured image: Fateme Alaie/Unsplash)
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