It’s been a half century now since Earth Day began on April 22, 1970. I can still remember how strange it felt to be dismissed early from school to clean up litter. At the time, the idea seemed foreign to us, which means, of course, that we were used to throwing our trash on the ground. It’s hard to imagine in this day and age that was the common mindset.
WE’VE COME A LONG WAY
In the decades since, the world has shown some progress in tackling pollution. And as I’ve aged, I’ve learned that Earth Day involves more than picking up litter. Nowadays, I mark the day as a time of reflection. To that end, I meditate on Earth’s capacity to sustain life, man’s dependence on its resources, and just what my tiny role on our home planet can be.
Thinking about these things always fills me with gratitude. Recently, I’ve been working on becoming a better inhabitant. Here are five ways to honor our planet this Earth Day.
1. RECOGNIZE THAT WE EXIST BY EARTH’S CHOOSING
It should go without saying that our planet exists separately from its inhabitants. Every bit as alive as we are, it provides all that makes life possible on its surface. We exist by Earth’s choosing, which is remarkable when you consider what we do to it.
On Earth Day, drink deeply of the natural beauty that surrounds you and give thanks for the benevolence of our planet.
2. WEAN YOURSELF OF CHEMICAL DEPENDENCY
Chemicals make life easier. And they can be hard to give up. The obvious culprits like herbicides and fertilizers are only part of the problem. Many of the products we have at home contain additives that are harmful to our planet. And let’s face it, buying “green” isn’t always fun to do.
On Earth Day, take stock of your bad habits and choose at least one offending product to cut from your life.
3. STOP EATING FOODS OUT OF SEASON
Eating foods out of season is bad for the planet. Why? Because food accounts for 10-30% of a typical U.S. household’s carbon footprint. Purchasing exotic or out-of-season produce contributes to long-distance travel emissions.
On Earth Day, reevaluate your choices and strive to eat seasonal food, or produce that is purchased and consumed around the time it is harvested. To this end, support your area farmers and purchase food locally whenever you can.
4. ACKNOWLEDGE WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER
It bears repeating that we are on this earth collectively, not individually. As a result, each individual’s behavior impacts the broader community. And it is the sum of our combined actions that forms our human experience on Earth.
On Earth Day, embrace your unique role in the world and take responsibility for the impact it has on the course of our planet.
5. GO BACK OUTSIDE
Although technology has broadened our horizons, it has also driven us indoors. Yet, Earth’s changing seasons, infinite weather forms and stunning natural beauty are all waiting to be experienced outdoors.
On Earth Day, rededicate yourself to going outside and celebrating the incredible planet that is our home.
Want to know more about the original organizer of Earth Day? Check out this great article in the NY Times on Denis Hayes.
Wishing you all a very Happy Earth Day.