It’s Earth Day. A celebration of our natural beauty and resources is becoming another consumer holiday full of sales. Have we lost the meaning of Earth Day? Sustainability should be simple, not sexy. Overconsumption of goods and resources, buying the hottest, newest, “eco-friendly” item touted on TikTok is more likely to be detrimental than sustainable. Ultra consumption has pushed people to fill up their drawers and cabinets with overflowing stuff. Eventually that junk ends up in landfills or polluting our waters. While de-influencing is now trending on social media, environmentalists have been proud de-influencers for life by buying what we need when we need it and nothing else.
So let’s get back to basics. Here’s a few ways to honor Earth Day everyday (without shopping.)
- Plant native plants. Yards are an intense use of resources. Native plants are more adaptive to extreme weather and can also increase fire resistance. Planting clover or other native ground covers that bees love can give you the lush look of grass without the upkeep. Your local or state’s extension office (often associated with a state college or university) should have a list readily available on their website of native plants (and invasive species) for your region. Local buy-nothing groups can help you find neighbors who are splitting plants giving them away.
- Change your energy supplier. In PA and many other states, you can choose your electricity provider. Switching to a provider that generates electricity through wind or solar is cleaner for the environment and can even be less expensive than fossil fuels in many markets. Even renters can take advantage of these programs as long as they are responsible for their electric bill.
- Home energy audit. Consider all the major systems in your home, their age and expected lifespan. Is it time to replace something? The federal government’s Inflation Reduction Act is pushing several energy saving methods with incentives, specifically on heat pumps, energy efficient appliances and solar. Modern heat pumps are effective at much lower temperatures than ever before making them more effective and efficient option even if you live in an area with harsh winters. Take stock now to plan for your future.
- Don’t skip yearly maintenance. Inefficient systems could be costing you more. Check filters regularly and replace per your manufacturer’s instructions. While it might be tempting to put a higher rated air filter in your system, this could restrict airflow and cause your system to work unnecessarily harder. Be sure to review your local utility’s website for any current benefits and perks. Recently PECO was offering to reimburse the cost of having your HVAC serviced for a tuneup, making this essential yearly maintenance free.
- Learn to spot greenwashing. Many corporations are working hard this month promoting actions or values that may be mislead consumers about their environmental stewardship. Maybe they’ve changed their logo to the color green, added a note encouraging you to recycle their packaging or added a certification to the box. How many times have you read a news release about a brand pledging to be more environmentally conscious by some far off date a decade or more in the future? Consider the advertising and weigh that against the company’s actions. Are they consistently one of the world’s top polluters? Do they have a history of abusing or exploiting their workforce? Even green certifications may be misleading since many of the awarding organizations enable the recipient to self-certify making them essentially worthless.
- Don’t forget to vote. Are you registered? If not, go to vote.org to find more information. Get a reminder on your calendar. Individual actions matter but we can be even more effective when we work together on pro-environmental policies at our local, state and federal levels. My township recently banned single use plastic bags at all retail stores in the township - a massive achievement when you think about how many plastic bags a single Walmart can generate in a year. Vote for the planet! Happy Earth Day! 💚