Earth Day turned 40 years old on April 22. In honor of the anniversary, I would like to offer 40 musings on a variety of topics—small gems of inspiration—in hopes that some will motivate us to make every day an Earth Day.
- Earth Day Network (www.earthday.net) is a source of ideas, city urban quality scores, the Billion Acts of Green pledge, and other information. (You can even make a tax-deductible donation.)
- “Earth Days,” the movie, is a fascinating look back at environmental challenges and the people who took them on.
- Most of the sustainability improvements we need to make are actually good for us. For example, driving less improves our health because we walk more.
- 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity. Our planet is more likely to thrive if we have widely varied species inhabiting it, but we’re rapidly causing their demise and impacting our agriculture and fisheries. (www.greenfacts.org/en/biodiversity)
- Since 1991, 30,000 people have donated $22 million to protect 600,000 acres through the Adopt an Acre program. Coral reefs can also be protected. At the current rate of destruction, 70 percent of the world’s reefs will be gone by 2050. (http://adopt.nature.org)
- GreenFacts.org is an interesting health and environmental Web site for those who want to understand scientific issues but don’t have a science background. Topics are presented in three levels—summary, details and sources—with a glossary and links for each.
- Sustainable development is best defined by the 1987 World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) as: “Development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the abilities of future generations to meet their own needs.”
- Variations on the WCED definition appear in many places, but one of the key findings of the organization is often overlooked: That environmental issues, economic development issues, and social equity issues cannot be solved as separate problems (as had been attempted in the past), but must be assessed together with holistic solutions.
- “Prepare to be inspired” is its tagline but “wowed” is more accurate. Check out the case studies at www.biomimicryinstitute.org to see what we can learn and apply from nature. Nature-based solutions are at www.asknature.org.
- We can’t afford to wait for our kids to get it right. They may be interested in the environment, but we have to act now! Time is running out; kids are major consumers, and they may lose much of their green focus as they grow up.
- Of the 332.5 million cubic miles of water on the planet, 96 percent to 97 percent of it is saline. Of the remaining 3 percent fresh (non-saline) water, nearly 70 percent of it is glacial ice, 30 percent is groundwater, and less than 1 percent makes up our rivers, lakes and swamps. (U.S. Geological Survey)
- For reliable information about global conditions, try www.earthtrends.wri.org by the World Resources Institute.
- Check out the Encyclopedia of Life project, listen to the Podcast of Life and maybe curate or contribute to the collection at www.eol.org.
- There is no such thing as a sustainable product yet. Maybe someday …
- A review of 160 socially responsible mutual funds from 22 members of the Social Investment Forum found that the majority of the funds (65 percent) outperformed their benchmarks in calendar year 2009, most by significant margins. (www.socialinvest.org)
- Words of wisdom not always followed: “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.” (Wingspread Statement, 1998)
- A terrific read: Believing Cassandra: An Optimist Looks at a Pessimist’s World. (Alan AtKisson, 1999)
- A wake-up call that still rings true: The Twenty Ninth Day. (Lester Brown, 1978)
- Agenda 21 and the Millennium Development Goals—if only world leaders would take them seriously (sigh).
- Be glad we have organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council, WorldWatch, the World Wildlife Fund, and Union of Concerned Scientists. There are many others, too, who are out there putting their commitment to work for all of us. Support them, please!
- It seems that 1970 was a good year for the environment in the United States. In addition to Earth Day, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was established to work on our befouled air, water and land.
- A PVC shower curtain releases 108 volatile organic chemicals into the air which are 16 times higher than the limit established for indoor air quality by the U.S. Green Building Council. (Center for Health, Environment, and Justice)
- Plant trees … lots of trees. Get your friends and families to plant trees. Get your community and schools to plant trees. Get dirty yourself (www.arborday.org) or do it online at www.plantabillion.org.
- One of my favorite green info sites is www.thegreenguide.com.
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is located between California and Hawaii, is made up of millions of tons of discarded plastic and is twice the size of Texas. One has been spotted in the Atlantic, too. (National Geographic News)
- The symbol for ecology was created by cartoonist Ron Cobb in 1969 as acombination of the letters “e” (from environment) and “o” (from organism).
- In 1597, Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power.” Learn much and share it.
- More recently, my calculus teacher’s poster proclaimed, “For every complex question, there is a simple answer, but it’s wrong.” In the world of green, you have to dig deep to find accurate answers.
- As consumers, it’s our job to “close the loop” by reusing our stuff as long as possible, then getting it recycled so we needn’t dig up so many resources. Our kids will appreciate it since scarce resources become more expensive.
- If you want your green changes to have an impact, measure your ecological footprint first. That will give you some ideas of where to start. (www.footprintnetwork.org and www.myfootprint.org are good options)
- Organic and Fair Trade chocolates are becoming easier to find locally and online. Buying fair trade products encourages sustainable production and decreases child labor in cacao-growing countries.
- We use too many disinfectants in our society, promoting the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and contaminating our waters with chemicals. Soap and water washing are often just as effective. For an extra boost, mix a bit of the essential oil of lavender or tea tree into a cup of white vinegar.
- Mother’s Day (and Father’s) is coming, so don’t forget to enter “organic flowers delivered” into your favorite Web browser and send U.S.-grown blooms. Most commercial flowers are grown in South America where pesticides (including some that are banned in this country) are commonly used.
- “If you can smell it, it’s in your lungs,” (as per Robert Pojasek, an enviro-friend). Wise words to keep in mind when choosing synthetic chemical products.
- “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead. Take some inspiration here!
- Your garden can benefit nature. More than 100,000 backyards and schoolyards across America are certified wildlife habitats, and you can learn how to provide habitat—even in small places. (www.nwf.org)
- Find all kinds of organic and otherwise “green” gifts in the National Green Pages.
- In manufacturing, we say that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. That’s true in everything we do, including trying to be greener. Start by measuring your purchases for a month—are they durable for long life and will you recycle what can no longer be used?
- Host a green film festival. Find great films to rent or buy from Bullfrog Films.
- “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi.
Happy Earth Day … every day!
Keri Luly, LEED AP, is Allsteel’s stewardship coordinator and regular contributor to EnvironDesign Notebook. She can be reached at email@example.com.