As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, it’s time to think of the little ways we can make a big difference in our communities and the environment.
From changes in weather to increasing frequency of storms, a majority of Americans are seeing at least some of the effects of climate change where they live. Year after year, scientists continue to study the effects of climate change. Our media landscape shares news that can be discouraging. As this information is thrown at us, it’s easy to think our relatively small actions to help the environment may not be helping enough. But that’s not true—small efforts made by a large number of people can make a big difference, which is why it’s important we all do our part on Earth Day—and throughout the entire year.
If you’re looking for ways to shrink your footprint this Earth Day, check out our list of seven small actions that can make a difference in the environment and your community this year. To make a bigger impact, be sure to share with your friends, family and colleagues.
1. Use less energy.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average U.S. home uses nearly 50% more energy than the average car per year. In fact, of the energy used in 2009, 48% was used for heating and cooling, and 52% was attributed to water heating, appliances, electronics and lighting. For easy energy savings, turn your thermostat down an extra 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours a day, and you can save up to 10% a year on heating and cooling costs in your home.
2. Try your hand at composting.
According to the U.S. EPA, food scraps and yard waste make up 20–30% of what we throw away and are the largest category of municipal solid waste going into landfills and incinerators. Home composting can help reduce this burden, and it’s actually pretty easy to get started. You can use your compost as garden fertilizer or even sprinkle it on your lawn to keep the grass healthy. Find more ways to reduce waste in your home.
3. Make sure you’re recycling right.
Stricter recycling process guidelines mean it’s time to review what you’re tossing in the bin. Check your local requirements for what’s allowed, and avoid throwing plastic bags full of your recyclables into a community bin—it can cause the whole load to be rejected.
4. Reduce single-use plastic.
People in the U.S. use 100 billion plastic bags a year, and the average American family takes home nearly 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year. In 2020, commit to using less, or even to eliminating single-use plastic from your day altogether. This might include swapping your plastic grocery bags for reusable totes, packing your own silverware instead of plastic cutlery, and reusing glass or metal jars for your lunch containers, instead of buying more plastic.
5. Plant a garden.
Working on your garden (or starting a new one) is the perfect opportunity to create a sustainable outdoor oasis that’s good for you and the environment. Sustainable gardening uses various methods of sourcing and planting that can contribute to better health and well-being for you, as well as make the landscape more resilient. Looking to cultivate your green thumb? Take a look at our tips for sustainable gardening this spring
6. Become a LEED Green Associate.
Interested in growing your profession or expanding your knowledge of green building? Try becoming a LEED Green Associate this year. The credential exam measures general knowledge of green building practices and how to support others working on LEED projects. The exam is ideal for emerging professionals or those new to green building. Learn more about earning your LEED Green Associate credential.
7. Register for an online Earth Day event.
Earth Day 2020’s theme is “climate action,” and there are so many ways you can help protect and restore our planet, from joining a cleanup to working in your community garden to registering for an online Earth Day event.
Learn more about setting sustainability goals