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37 Ways to Go Green for Earth Day 2017

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It might seem surprising to learn that the first Earth Day was co-chaired by a conservation-minded Republican congressman, Pete McCloskey. He worked closely with Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson (then a Senator from Wisconsin) and national coordinator Denis Hayes to create a “National teach-in for the environment.

Around 20 million people gathered together on April 22, 1970 to hold rallies across the nation, demonstrating their passion for a healthy, more sustainable environment. Now, 47 years later, America seems poised for a similar rise in consciousness of our nation’s growing environmental concerns. Never before has there been a greater need for concerned citizens to stand up against climate change, fossil fuels, habitat loss, pollution, and wildlife extinction. Earth Day 2017 offers an excellent opportunity to “speak for the trees,” to quote Dr. Seuss’s classic, The Lorax.   

Saving the world may seem like a monolithic task, but there are a lot of simple changes each of us can make to help protect our precious planet. Individually, these “acts of green” may not seem like much. But collectively they can add up to a world of difference. Here are our tips for 37 ways you can go green for Earth Day 2017:
Green travel tips

  • Take a BPA-free water bottle you can refill rather than buying bottled water.
  • Choose a green hotel or eco-lodge that uses sustainable energy, employs locals, and has a strong give-back ethos.
  • Every time you leave your hotel room, turn off all lights, heat/AC and TV.
  • Hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door so housekeeping won’t clean your room. This saves on harsh cleaning chemicals and the electricity of vacuuming and washing bed linens.
  • Hang up your towels and re-use them for several days (like most of us do at home).
  • NEVER use the hotel laundry! They wash each guest’s clothes separately, even if there are only a few items, wasting tons of water.
  • Return brochures and maps once you’re finished using them.
  • Stick to marked trails to avoid harming native flora, and consider taking a bag to pick up trash along your journey.
  • When you go shopping, read labels and ask questions like “What is this item made from?” Don’t buy anything made from non-sustainable hardwoods, endangered species, or ancient artifacts.
  • Buy locally, taking time to seek out indigenous artisans and Fair Trade co-ops.

Road travel tips

  • Fuel economy drops by 1% for every three pounds your tires are below their recommended pressure. Check the inside of your driver’s side door for the manufacturer’s label indicating the proper PSI (pounds per square inch) needed to properly inflate tires for your car.
  • Save gas by driving sensibly, and maintain a steady speed via cruise control. Aggressive driving lowers your gas mileage by 33%.
  • Remove any excess weight from the trunk before you leave. Having an extra 100 pounds of stuff reduces your mpg by 2%.
  • If you’re stuck in traffic and idling for more than a minute, turn off the car until you’re ready to move again. Idling uses 1/4 to 1/2 a gallon of gas in an hour, costing a couple of cents per minute.
  • Don’t waste gas by warming your car up on cold mornings. Instead wear a warm jacket, and use a pitcher of hot water to quickly defrost the windows.

Gardening tips

  • Attract wildlife to your yard by choosing native plants with brightly colored red, purple, and yellow flowers.
  • Birds and other wildlife need water. Provide it via natural springs, birdbaths, or ponds and watch the animals come to drink.
  • Start composting by collecting food waste and plant debris in an outside bin. Moisture, heat and aeration will help to speed up the process.
  • Mix used coffee grounds and dried, crushed up eggshells to make a great homemade fertilizer! Spread some over your plants and flowers, or mix some into the soil before planting.  
  • Let your garden truly go green by reducing chemical use and turf grass. Let the birds you’ve attracted be your pest control for ants, spiders, and other insects.

Water conservation

  • Showers are much more eco-friendly than baths. A full bath can take up to 70 gallons to fill, while a 5-minute shower uses just 10-25 gallons.
  • It’s easy to install a $20 low-flow shower head, but this simple screw-on attachment can reduce water usage by 50-70%!
  • Replace any toilet manufactured before 1992 with a modern low-flow toilet. They use less than 1.28 gallons per flush (compared with over 3.5 gallons in the old days), saving 60% of the water. Sure, new toilets cost a few hundred bucks, but they’ll save you several thousand dollars in water consumption over the course of their lifetime.
  • According to the EPA, a typical single-family home uses 30% of their water to keep their lawn green. More than half of that water is often wasted due to the evaporation and runoff caused by overwatering. Instead of a high-maintenance lawn, consider landscaping that uses the natural flora of your region. or creating an edible garden.
  • Turn off the water while you’re brushing your teeth, shaving, washing/rinsing dishes, or cleaning veggies. Instead fill the sink with just the water you need.

Home energy tips

  • Add insulation to your attic and seal all windows and doors with caulk. Swap out older windows with more energy efficient models, and install a programmable thermostat to regulate the temperature.  
  • Ceiling fans can help create a killer breeze in summer, or at least help circulate air from your AC more efficiently. Make sure you buy Energy Star fans, which use 50% less energy than comparable models.
  • Opt out of any catalogs or subscriptions you don’t read or could read electronically instead.
  • Replace traditional refrigerators, microwaves, washing machines, dishwashers, etc. with ENERGY STAR qualified appliances.
  • Everyone knows you can recycle paper, glass, and even some plastic products. But you’d be surprised at some of the more unusual items that can be recycled. Visit the Earth911 website to learn how and where you can dispose of household products ranging from paint thinner and used batteries to broken computers and cell phones.

Cooking and cleaning tips

  • You can reduce your energy usage by up to two thirds and heat food faster simply by covering a pot on the stove top.
  • Paper products account for one-third of the total waste in landfills. Sponges and cloth towels are cheaper, reusable, and take up less space than a roll of paper towels. They’re also easily disinfected by boiling them in water.
  • Lemons have antibacterial qualities and will leave your kitchen and bathrooms smelling fresh. Tough stains on countertops and other surfaces can be removed by leaving lemon juice on the stain for several minutes, and then wiping it away with a wet cloth.
  • To keep your toilets sparkling clean, use a mixture of baking soda and vinegar rather than harmful bleach.
  • To clear a clogged sink drain, try using a combination of baking soda and vinegar. Let the vinegar mixture sit for 15-30 minutes, and then run some hot water down the drain.
  • Coffee grounds are an easy, greener alternative to chemical pest repellents. Sprinkle some around any areas of the home that are prone to invasions by ants.
  • Coffee grounds can also be used to help remove grease and stuck-on food from pots and pans. Just mix them with a little water and the abrasive, acidic properties of the grounds will making your cleaning process a lot more painless.

Bret Love is a journalist/editor with 23 years of print and online experience, whose clients have ranged from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and American Airlines to National Geographic and Yahoo Travel. Along with his wife, photographer/videographer Mary Gabbett, he is the co-founder of ecotourism/conservation website Green Global Travel and Green Travel Media.