Earth Day 2011 Reflections

earth day 2011

Earth Day: the good & the bad.

I think most of us green bloggers get quite frustrated with Earth Day. It can be a struggle for us to stay positive at this time. Why? Because we write about critical environmental issues and solutions to them all year long, and we are confronted with how little others are aware of or interested in such issues when Earth Day comes around. All of a sudden, a large number of people ‘care’ about the environment,… but don’t expect that to stay ’till tomorrow. We get numerous pitches from non-green companies who want us to feature them in our Earth Day posts (as well as pitches from truly green companies, of course). For one day, it is more “fashionable” to be green. But just for one day.

The environment that we have been tearing apart and making infertile for years is not going to sustain us into the future if we only care about it 1 out of 365.25 days a year.

But while it may be something difficult for us to face, I think Earth Day does serve a great purpose and it is viewed as something completely different for many others. This day really is an opportunity for more people to learn about environmental issues they wouldn’t otherwise learn about. It is an opportunity to jump-start a green life. And it can really leave an impression on people, especially children.

I remember a certain Earth Day when I was probably 7 or 8, the first one I remember, that I think had a strong effect on my concern for the environment and my desire to take care of it. Unless I have formed this impression in my head since then and just don’t realize it, that Earth Day instilled a greater understanding that we are all related, all connected. That we can’t just take & take & take, but must also give and take good care of what we’re using.

Now, the situation today is not the situation we were facing or aware of then. At that time, we didn’t have nearly the awareness we have today of climate change, ocean acidification, and species loss.

As I write nearly everyday, the good news is that we have solutions to these problems already.

There is a bit of debate on the order of the following 3 issues, but they are widely recognized as the major 3 issues we need to tackle, and there are clear options for doing so that benefit much more than the environment we rely on.

  1. Transportation: This Earth Day, look into your options for transportation. 40% of trips in the U.S. are 2 miles or less, and 25% are one mile or less. These are great distances for walking and bicycling. Help the planet, improve your health, save a ton of money, and have fun by using these methods of transportation more this year.Riding transit is also a good option for a lot of people, but isn’t even tried by many of them. You can save ~$10,000/year using transit instead of driving (if you are an average American). Consider giving it a shot. I also have always enjoyed the opportunity to relax while riding transit (more than is possible driving) and to people-watch (with sociology at my academic routes and a sociological leaning in my heart, I’ve always enjoyed that).
  2. Food: Vegetarian and vegan food uses much less energy and water. Switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet is a huge lifestyle choice, but at least leaning towards it more can make a huge difference.

    If you’re worried about health issues, I will note that both the American Medical Association and the American Diabetes Association now recommend a vegetarian diet for its health benefits. Of course, you have to eat real food, not just chips and pizza, but it is not nearly as challenging as one might think — we have a ton of food out there to choose from these days. (Heck, if Mike Tyson and top MMA fighters have switched to veganism, I think anyone can.)

  3. Electricity: What you get your electricity from is, of course, a huge topic. Coal-burning power plants are just about the worst thing on the planet for the environment and our health, not to mention that they are destroying whole mountain ranges and the communities around them these days to get that coal. Wind and solar power are growing in leaps and bounds. You may not have the opportunity to benefit from wind power, but all across the country people can benefit from solar now. There are many innovative ways to go solar and many government incentives out there now that make solar a smart financial decision. An investment in solar can pay off in just a few years for many people now. After that, you’re making money. There’s hardly an investment out there (not sure if there even is one) that is so guaranteed to provide you with such a large return on investment so fast.Learn about various ways to go solar here.

Images via Ashish Lohorung RaiSaad Irfan

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