1. Ditch the plastic bottles
Each year, billions of plastic water bottles end up in the trash – and that’s just in the U.S. Over 40 percent of the ocean’s surface is covered in trash and 90 percent of that trash is plastic water bottles. Not only does this harm the environment, but it harms and even kills birds and marine life. The best way to reduce these horrifying numbers? Use a refillable bottle instead of a disposable one. Even restaurants will refill your bottle instead of using a to go cup.
2. Pick up trash
Have you seen the trending hashtag #trashtag? What about the trash challenge? People all over the world are finding an area filled with garbage and litter and cleaning it up. They’re posting before and after photos on social media and encouraging others to do the same. Join the movement! Take 15 minutes and pick up as much trash as you find in your yard, along a walk, in a public park, or really anywhere!
3. Set out bird feeders
Earth Day isn’t just about the land, it’s about the animals that inhabit the land, too! Setting out bird feeders is great for the environment for various reasons. First, it provides extra nutrition for the birds. This can be extremely helpful during harsh winters, while migrating, or during mating season. Bird feeders also provide a great opportunity to upcycle what would otherwise be garbage. Take an old bottle, jar, or other container and turn it into a unique bird feeder! Last, it provides entertainment and added beauty to your yard by attracting more birds.
4. Take a hike or walk outside
Perhaps the best way to appreciate nature on Earth Day is to get out and experience it. Go for a walk. Take a hike. Dust off your bike or skateboard. Eat lunch in the park. Plant some flowers. Use your break at work to sit outside. Read on your front porch. Grab some sidewalk chalk and a friend. Basically, just get outside and enjoy it!
5. Adopt reusable bags
Perhaps one of the easiest changes to make is swapping out plastic bags for reusable ones. Plastic bags are a huge nuisance for the environment. Not only are they difficult to produce, but they take 400 years to break down when thrown away. Like the plastic water bottles, plastic bags kill hundreds of thousands of marine animals each year. This can be avoided by using reusable bags in grocery stores, while shopping at the mall, and for produce.
6. Try meatless Monday
Believe it or not, the production, processing, and distribution of meat has a huge negative impact on our environment. Meat products are responsible for up to 40 times as many greenhouse gas emissions as most vegetables and grains. They are also responsible for four-fifths of the Amazon rainforest deforestation and just one large farm can produce as much sewage waste as a small city. You can make a difference by choosing one day, or even one meal, and omitting the meat. Cutting back on meat can go a long way, even if it’s just one meal at a time.
7. Buy recycled items or upcycle your own
Another easy, and kind of cool, way to help the environment is to keep buying the same things you always buy, but search for a recycled alternative. For instance, they make razors made out of yogurt cups, shoes made from recycled plastic, shirts made from water bottles, skateboards made from fishing nets, and so much more. Not only does this give recycled items a purpose, but it creates a higher demand for recycled materials. Likewise, you can always buy or create upcycled items! Upcycling is the creative reuse of materials. You can find a creative way to reuse almost anything! Some ideas include using old clothes to create new bags or toys, using toilet paper rolls for storage dividers, turning bottles into lights and candles, making heating pads out of wine corks, and more.
8. Unplug devices
According to the EPA, electronic devices that are plugged in but not in use make up about 10% of Americans’ electric bills. This means you’re using electricity, even when you aren’t actually using it. Be sure to unplug your electronics when they aren’t in use. This includes things like cell phone chargers, laptops, lamps, and coffeemakers. Pro tip: use a power strip to control the flow of electricity to multiple things at once.
9. Share the knowledge
If you’re looking for something a little subtler, try expanding your knowledge of environmental issues. A few highly praised environmental books include The Imperfect Environmentalist: A Practical Guide to Clearing Your body, Detoxing Your Home, and Saving the Earth, by Sara Gilbert; Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren; and Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer. If you’ve got little ones in your life, share your knowledge and read a children’s book together. Some popular ones include The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss and the Magic School Bus, by Joanna Cole.
10. Sign up for online bill pay or eStatements
Ditch the hordes of paper for each bill, statement, or piece of junk mail. Instead, sign up for everything online. If you’re a DECU member, we offer free eStatements and Bill Pay. If you bank elsewhere, give your institution a call and ask what they offer. Many businesses offer online bill pay through their own website as well. You can also choose emails over mail for junk and business offers. Not only is it easier to keep track of them in email, but it’s easier to opt out of emails than regular mail. By switching your services to online, you’re not only saving paper and the environment, but you have unlimited access to all past information as well.