Earth Day 2012…

…and it’s raining a steady, drenching rain. It is cold and miserable, yet nourishing to our plants and soil, which were snow-deprived all winter. It’s a good day to sit inside and think about what the day means and how I can do my part to make my piece of the Earth a healthier place.

When Earth Day started 40 years ago, it was in response to an an oil spill, and it ignited a new focus on environmental activism and political action. Much of the Earth Day messaging has been about energy use, clean air and water, and more recently, climate change. The theme for Earth Day last year was “A Billion Acts of Green”, and currently the counter on the EDN web site shows over 999 million acts of green submitted by visitors to the site.

The theme for the Earth Day Network this year is “Mobilize the Earth”, calling on people worldwide to unite their words and actions to create a sustainable future. “A Billion Acts of Green” and “Mobilize the Earth” speak to the idea that small actions can add up to a large impact, and that it will take all of us together to make the world a better place to live and grow.

So I’ve been thinking about what acts of green I can add to my life. I already recycle as much of my trash as I can, freecycle some unwanted items and donate others, try to use gadgets as long as possible before buying new ones, responsibly recycle my electronics, use an electric lawn mower, combine errands in the car when possible, and respond to appeals from Clean Water Action and other environmental groups. What’s left?

  • Being more mindful of water use. My local water company says that 70 gallons is the typical daily per person water usage in our area. My household is a little lower than that, but it’s still vastly greater than people use in other countries. Millions of people in the world don’t have access to a reliable source of clean water at all.
  • Riding my bike instead of driving. Last summer I bought a pannier for my bicycle, determined that I was going to start riding to the grocery store. I did it exactly once before the weather got cold. (I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to riding in cold weather). I am going to set a goal of substituting the bike for the car once a week this spring and summer. This has the added benefit of being exercise too!
  • Making “meatless Mondays” a habit. We’ve been gradually incorporating this idea in our house and 2012 could be the year to solidify it. The meatless Monday trend has the benefit of being good for the environment (lots of CO2 comes from cattle), saving water (it takes a lot more water to raise animals for meat than it does to grow plants) and making us healthier too. The Meatless Mondays web site has lots of great recipe ideas and other tips on how to incorporate this idea into your life.
  • Volunteering. Yes, I belong to environmental organizations, write letters occasionally, and send them money sometimes. But I used to do more, such as cleaning up my local stream and volunteering for environmental organizations. I can do that again.

I read back over the steps I’m proposing to take, and I see how intertwined my well-being is with that of the Earth. Eating less meat, exercising more and being connected to my community will all benefit me while I am getting “greener”. My individual future is inextricably linked to the future of my world. As Aldo Leopold once said, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

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