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How to Celebrate Earth Day

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Though we like to celebrate Earth Day everyday of the year, April 22nd gives us all an extra moment to be mindful. The first Earth Day was started in 1970 to raise awareness about environmental issues. By the end of that first year the Environmental Protection Agency was created! Now more then 193 countries celebrate Earth Day. There are so many ways to show love to the planet and here is a list of our top 12 activities.

1) Join or Organize a Clean Up

Get involved by picking up trash.  This allows you to get active and be in nature while also making a big impact.   Picking up litter ensures that those pieces of trash are not leading to the harm or death of an animal.  A clean up can be at a park, beach, road side, or even on the water.  You can find organizations near you hosting events or host your own.  Keep Florida Beautiful has many volunteer opportunities to get involved and meet other like-minded people. 

Person cleaning up trash at the beach

 

2) Go Low Energy

Take some time to look around your home and find ways you can reduce your energy consumption.  Nature Conversancy has a free carbon footprint calculator so you can see what areas you could improve on.

  Some places to start include: 

solar panels being installed on a roof

  • Hang clothes instead of drying.
  • Make sure your lightbulbs are energy efficient.
  • Set your air conditioner to 78° during the day when possible.
  • Seal any gaps around doors or windows where air may be escaping.
  • Block direct sunlight with window tinting, blinds, and/or curtains.
  • Unplug energy vampires such as coffee makers, televisions, game consoles, and chargers when they are not in use.
  • Limit time opening your refrigerator and freezer.
  • Make use of renewable energy sources when possible such as solar energy. 
  • Reduce driving time and carpool when possible.  
  • Opt for an energy efficient vehicle when it is time to purchase a new one. 
 
3) Reduce Water Use

Though 71% of the Earth is water, drinking water is a precious resource.  Less than 1% is usable and readily available for us.  Plus our water goes through an extensive process to ensure it is clean and safe for us to consume which requires a significant amount of energy.  We are lucky to have such easy access to clean water and we all need to all do our part to conserve it.  Here are some ways you can start reducing your water use:

rain collecting in a barrell

  • Collect rainwater to water your garden and indoor plants.
  • Do not use your toilet as a trash can.  Reduce flushing when possible. 
  • Sweep your driveway and sidewalk instead of using a hose.
  • Use a bucket of water when washing your car versus continual hose usage.
  • Turn the water off when brushing your teeth and while shaving.
  • Only run your dishwasher and laundry machine when you have a full load. 
  • Fix leaks.
  • Install rain sensors on irrigation and be sure to make sure they are maintaining efficiency.
  • Plant drought resistant trees and plants.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Use WaterSense labeled fixtures and ENERGY STAR® qualified appliances.
 
4) Start a Garden

What better way to connect yourself with the Earth than by growing your own garden?  Not only is it a relaxing activity, but you literally get to enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor! Get your hands dirty and get started.  Once you start, you may even find yourself learning more about soils, different ways of growing,  and even about fruits and vegetable you can’t find in the store.  Gardening really gets you connected to you local seasons; you can see what plants bloom and fruit at what time of the year.  If you don’t have your own area to grow a garden in, you can find a local community garden near you.  If you live in Plant City you can find our local community garden here.  You can even check out seeds from the Bruton Memorial Library and HCC! There are endless opportunities to get involved and find community in gardening.  

collecting vegetables in a garden
 
5) Start Composting

Next time you’re chopping up vegetables and find yourself about to throw your scraps in the trash, consider composting instead.  This is a great way to minimize the trash sent to the landfill and it will even help decrease the methane emissions.  Food waste contributes to 58% of the methane emissions in landfills! When food is sent to a landfill it is deprived of oxygen and begins to rot which leads to the increase in emissions unlike the results of composting.  By composing, the plant matter has the ability to break down and return nutrients into the soil. Compost is great to use as a healthier alternative to fertilizer.  The organic matter in compost can also improve soil water retention which will help your plants grow strong and healthy. 

Not sure where to start? Check  these videos out:

 

 

 
6) Reduce Plastic Use / Purchases

Over 12 million tons of plastic is entering the ocean every year.  Around half of the plastic created is designed to be single use and 90% isn’t even recyclable. More and more plastic is getting shipped to landfills and ending up in the streets and waterways.  There is even an island called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch that has formed in the ocean.  It is 7.7 million square miles and is completely made up of trash, much of it being plastic.  Overtime plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, but never fully disintegrates.  These tiny pieces of plastic called microplastics and nanoplastics are a huge cause for concern.  They are so prevalent they have even made it into our rain clouds, our drinking water, and in breast milk.  Plastic harms the environment, the animals, and us.  I highly encourage you to reduce your plastic use.  I know it can be difficult because so many things we buy are made of plastic or are packaged in it, but try your best to avoid these products and reach out to companies to let them know that we expect better from their products.  We know that plastic is wreaking havoc on our planet and yet it is still being heavily produced and used everyday.  Be the change by choosing more sustainable materials.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
A photo from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

 

7) Join Education Workshops and Seminars

The health of the planet directly affects our health as well.  When greenhouse gases, pollution, and environmental destruction increases it affects everyone on Earth.  By educating ourselves we are able to make more informed decisions about how we choose to live. By learning about different environmental topics we can begin to make conscious shifts in what resources we use, where we buy things from, who we vote for, and how we spend our time.  It is worth it, for the future, to begin learning how we each can make changes for a better tomorrow.  You can find workshops and seminars at local colleges, local non-profit organizations such as The Nature Conservancy , Fish and Wildlife Services, and many others online.  There are also plenty of opportunities to get kids informed and involved. Bonnet Springs in Lakeland and Natures Classroom in Thonotosassa have plenty of fun, hands on ways to learn about the environment. Take time this Earth Day to learn about how you make an impact.

kid in a canoe scooping organisms out of the river

 

8) Write Letters to Public Officials

Help influence policy decisions, legislation, and resource allocation by writing letters to representatives that could directly impact environmental conservation efforts.  Letters, emails, and petitions can help raise awareness about pressing environmental issues and urge officials to prioritize sustainability initiatives. This proactive approach fosters a dialogue between citizens and policy makers to drive forward collective efforts in addressing environmental challenges to help the health of the planet for current and future generations.  

9) Go Zero Waste

Take up the challenge to go zero waste.  It can be for just Earth Day or maybe you can push yourself to the challenge for a full week or more.  Zero waste, defined by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) states:

“Zero Waste: The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”

While living in a society that pushes for consumption without responsibility, zero-waste can be quite a challenge. By choosing to go zero waste, even for just a day, it can encourage mindful consumption. Being more mindful about the items we purchase, the packaging that they come in, the way we use the item, and our choice of disposal is crucial if we are going to confront our environmental impact.  By each of us minimizing our waste by conserving resources and decreasing pollution, we can help create a more sustainable future. By becoming more aware of the products we purchase we can encourage the corporations to change their approach to selling us items that are more sustainable.  At ZeroWaste.com you can find more information about how to go zero waste and why it is so important. 

The most important concept is that we live in on a finite planet. We cannot keep consuming new materials and think that this is a sustainable, healthy choice.  To keep our planet healthy we need to push for a circular economy of reusing and reshaping with little to no environmental impact. Get creative and rethink your approaches to living a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.

 

10) Find Sustainable Food Sources

The global food system is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions when you combine the emissions from food waste, livestock, deforestation, and transportation.  What can you do to help?  First of all, you could decrease your meat intake, especially beef.  The Meatless Monday campaign began in 2003 to help people make positive changes to their diets by consuming more fruits and vegetables.  This is not only healthy for you, but for the planet as well. 

Secondly, where your food comes from matters too.  By purchasing from local farmers, you can help boost the local economy, decrease the emissions from transportation, and have an overall closer connection with your food. We are so lucky to be in Florida where we have access to quite a few local farmers markets!  Here is a list of local farmers markets in Tampa. Plant City has small markets everywhere including our beloved Parksdale Market as well as Plant City Farm and Flea Market, A Land of Delight: Natural Farm and Nursery, and Southwestern Produce. Lakeland has a Downtown Farmers Curb Market every Saturday. There are plenty of opportunities to buy local!

Lastly, you want to purchase from organic and regenerative farms as much as possible.  These farming practices give back to the Earth by creating richer, more sustainable soils. Avoiding pesticides and other chemicals used in typical farming practices is also healthier for us to consume.  Kiss the Ground, a book by Josh Tickell and Netflix documentary explains how healthier farming practices can provide better long term results for the land. Some places you could go include the above mentioned A Land of Delight in Plant City as well as Sweetwater Community Farm in Tampa. Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) creates a list of the Dirty Dozen, which are the fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides as well as the Clean Fifteen, which is produce with the least pesticide residuals to help consumers make the best decisions when buying produce.  Let us know about other local organic and regenerative farms that you enjoy visiting! 

EWG's 2024 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

 

11) Enjoy Nature

The best things to do on Earth Day is to get outside and enjoy your time out in nature!  We have so many wonderful incredible places to visit including plenty of beautiful beaches, springs, rivers, and parks. Some of our nearby favorites include:

  • Alderman Ford Conservation Park
  • Edward Medard Park
  • Alafia River Reserve
  • Hillsborough River State Park
  • Fort De Soto Beach
  • Weeki Wachee Springs
  • Bok Tower Gardens
  • Circle B Reserve 
Dog at various outdoor spots in Florida
 
12) Raise awareness

Advocate and spread awareness for a sustainable and healthy planet for all.   The more people involved in making better choices, the better the future will look like.  Share this article with your friends and family, or inform them about ways they can get involved and learn about how they too can make a positive impact. We are all in this together! 

kids holding artwork for Earth Day

 

What are your Earth Day plans? Do you have any additional ideas not mentioned? We’d love to hear them.  

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