This Saturday, April 22, is Earth Day, an opportunity for you to make a few small changes to your lifestyle that will save the environment and your wallet. First observed in 1970, the initial Earth Day has been credited with boosting public support for large-scale changes on the way the government managed natural resources. Following the first Earth Day, the government passed several environmental regulations including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
On its 47th anniversary, Earth Day founder and former California Congressman Pete McClonskey has deemed the day a "day of mourning," following repeated hits to the environment under the Trump administration.
"This will be a black day. This will be a day of mourning for what is about to happen to environmental regulations."
McClonskey is referring to the string of Obama-era environmental protection regulations Trump has scaled back or abolished since taking power. After appointing Oklahoma Attorney General and notorious climate change skeptic Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year, the Trump administration has fast tracked numerous oil and gas projects while continually slashing the budget for the EPA and other environmental departments.
So how can you make a difference? There are numerous ways to reduce your carbon footprint that could end up also saving you money.
- Ditch the Car: making a concerted effort to make less trips in a vehicle, choosing instead to bike or utilize public transportation can have a dramatic impact on your carbon footprint. With more and more cities implementing bike share programs, and even more reconsidering their layout to make walking a viable mode of transport, getting around without a car has never been easier. Bikeshare has a comprehensive list of the growing number of cities around North America and the world that have implemented bike share systems of their own. While catching public transportation is no doubt easier in some cities than others, the impact it can have on the environment and your wallet really ads up. Some studies even suggest those who catch public transport are happier than those who rely on their car.
- Group Trips Together: while it isn't always possible to get around without a car, grouping errands together so you can make fewer trips is a great way to minimize carbon emissions and save time.
- Switch to Tap Water: Bottled Water has overtaken soda as the most consumed beverage in the United States for the first time in history, with Americans spending $21.3 billion on water in 2016. While the switch from soda is undeniably a smart move for the health of the nation, the increase in plastic and transport required to deliver all that water spells disaster for the environment. While contamination scares like that in Flint, Michigan, have led many to consume bottled water thinking it is a healthier choice, the EPA advises that the regulated nature of tap water mean it is often the safer option.
- Bring a Reusable Bag: While some cities around North America have taken steps to outlaw single use plastic bags, they are still all too common and the devastating impact they can have on the environment should not be overlooked. It has been estimated that over 1 trillion plastic bags are disposed of every year, with next to none broken down for recycling. Many bags find their way into our oceans, where the Ocean Conservancy states they were one of the most common items fished out, after cigarette butts and bottle caps. With more and more cities implementing total bans or imposing fees on single use bags, switching to reusable bags is the right decision for the environment and your wallet.
- Be Mindful of Heating and Cooling: Unnecessary heating and cooling of homes is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and could also be costing you money. Simple steps, like reducing the heat by a couple of degrees and using timers so heat and A/C are only on when necessary can have a huge impact on your carbon output while also saving you some serious coin.
- Switch to Energy Efficient Bulbs: Switching out old light bulbs for newer, energy efficient styles is a simple solution that can help you save on your electricity bill. Many local governments also subsidize the purchase of energy efficient bulbs, meaning you can often pick them up for next to nothing.
- Compost: While not all local governments offer a compost pickup service, you can create one easily in your own home. In addition to diverting a huge amount of food waste from landfill, composting will result in a free, easy fertilizer for your garden.