Each year, many people spend some time on Earth Day planting a tree, cleaning up a park or participating in some other activity that raises awareness of environmental issues.
These are all worthwhile ways to help protect the environment, but what if you resolved to do something that would make a difference—not just on Earth Day—but every day? It is easier than you think.
This year marked the 40th anniversary of the EPA and the 40th celebration of Earth Day. EPA is leading a collaborative effort with the Coastal America Partnership to encourage Americans to commit to “4 for 40,” that is, making four changes this year that will benefit the environment.
Just making four changes to your daily routine can substantially reduce your ecological footprint.
An ecological footprint is the amount of land needed to provide all the resources and space you use, directly or indirectly, including the amount for storing and absorbing your waste and pollution.
The average American needs 25 acres of ecologically productive land to support his or her lifestyle. That’s three times the world average. You can calculate your ecological footprint at: http://www.ecofoot.org/
Earth Day is an opportunity for all Americans to demonstrate that environmental responsibility is everyone’s responsibility. There are a number of simple everyday choices that people can make to help protect the environment. To help you get started, choose at least four of the actions listed below that you’ll commit to:
1. Use less water! Take showers instead of baths, fix leaks, and turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. And buy efficient fixtures by looking for the WaterSense label.
2. Commute without polluting! Use public transportation, carpool, walk, or bike whenever possible to reduce air pollution and save on fuel costs.
3. Save electricity! Do a home energy audit, get programmable thermostats, buy Energy Star products, turn stuff off when you’re done, and change your bulbs to compact fluorescents.
4. Reduce, reuse, recycle! Try to find products with less packaging, take reusable bags on shopping trips, creatively reuse other products, and recycle what’s left.
5. Test your home for radon! Radon is a naturally occurring, odorless gas that can seep into your home and cause lung cancer.
6. Check your local air quality! When you exercise outdoors, use your local air quality forecast to help plan the best time for a workout or run. Learn more about air quality.
7. Use chemicals safely! Read pesticide labels carefully. Lock up pesticides, paints, and cleaners where kids can’t reach them.
8. eCycle! Take your old computer, DVD player, or other electronics to a recycling center. This helps keep hazardous substances out of the landfill.
9. Enjoy the outdoors safely! Find out the quality of beach water from your state office and get the UV Index to protect yourself from the sun.
10. Spread the word! Teach others where you work or go to school. Encourage people to commit to making 4 changes for the 40th celebration of Earth Day! Share online by commenting on our blog, or by sharing your photos and videos.
This list is by no means exhaustive, however, we hope that it inspires you to think of one—or several—changes you can make in your daily life to help protect the planet. Indeed, Earth Day is an ideal time for individuals to commit to taking actions in our day-to-day activities that protect our environment. We encourage you to share your ideas, and learn from others, by visiting the 4 for 40 website online at: www.coastalamerica.gov.
Remember – you can make a big difference by resolving to make small changes in your life. Commit to making 4 changes for the 40th celebration of Earth Day this year and tell others to do the same.
For more information go to: www.epa.gov/region4/earthday
Meiberg is the U.S. EPA's acting regional administrator in Atlanta.
Editor's note: This arrived on April 21, too late for Earth Day. It's still worth running.