The first Earth Day began on April 22, 1970, by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. He wanted to raise awareness of environmental issues after a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, the year before. That first Earth Day was a national teach-in on the environment, but 46 years later has turned into a month-long global effort to highlight the issues plaguing our planet.
When talking about sustainability - the idea that everything we humans need to survive depends directly or indirectly on our natural environment - we look for ways to coexist with nature while preserving and enriching our environment. While most of us have heard of the Three R's for green living - reduce, reuse, recycle - there are actually Ten R's of Sustainability.
- Respect: this encompasses all of our interactions with our environment.
- Refuse: don't use products that can harm the environment or your own health.
- Reduce: decrease your consumption of resources, limiting your impact on the environment. Less use means less waste, lessening your impact on landfills.
- Reuse: repurpose items that might otherwise end up in landfills.
- Renew: rather than tossing an item, repair it to extend its useful life.
- Recycle: this can be as simple as separating your garbage so recyclable items don't go to the landfill, to DIY projects that make something new out of something old.
- Responsibility: realize that we need to be accountable for how we treat our environment.
- Rethink: change the way you approach your everyday life when it comes to how you impact the environment.
- Replant: replace any vegetation that's been removed. Consider using native species, and plant them in such a way that they minimize the impact of runoff on our waterways.
- Restore: return damaged areas to their original condition or improve upon them. Rain gardens are an example of restoring proper rainwater runoff.
Think about how the Ten R's can be applied to your daily life. Don't let the idea overwhelm you to the point of inaction; there are many easy changes you can begin to make immediately, many of them at little or no cost. Look at the water use in your home and figure out ways to reduce it. Set your thermostat a few degrees cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer. Reduce electric usage by turning off lights, electronics, and other items when not in use. If you're replacing appliances, look for the ENERGY STAR certification to know you're making an energy efficient choice. Same goes for replacement windows and doors: look for ENERGY STAR certified windows and entry doors.
It's really not difficult to reduce your impact on your surroundings. Use Earth Month as an opportunity to examine the influence you personally have on the environment. Start small and make changes using the Ten R's. It's easy to do once you make the commitment!