April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! Fifty years of making the world a greener place by drawing attention to environmental issues and encouraging action. From a small grass-roots movement in California to an international celebration that includes over 141 countries, it’s come a long way and has made a big difference.
This year’s theme is a difficult yet important one: Climate Change.
“Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.”
While current events have forced most of the Earth Day celebrations to go digital, there are still some things you can do to celebrate at home. Take a look at our list of 8 things that you can do to fight climate change for Earth Day 2020!
1. Calculate Your Carbon Footprint
Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gasses (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are produced by your everyday activities. Few people know how much they contribute to climate change by driving, heating and cooling their home, or even by the type of food they eat. That’s why it’s important to find out how much you contribute to the problem so you can find out how to help. Calculate yours for free here!
2. Commit to Reducing Your Time on the Road
Once you know your carbon footprint, it’s time to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Did you know that in the United States the top source for carbon dioxide emissions comes from transportation?¹ You can help by committing to driving less. Walk, bike, carpool, or take public transit. If you do have to drive, make your car more fuel-efficient by keeping the tires filled with air and getting regular oil changes. It will save you money on gas and help fight climate change at the same time.
3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
In the United States, over 40 percent of our greenhouse gases can be linked to making, transporting, and disposing of the items we use every day.² That’s why reducing waste by recycling and reusing items is an important part of fighting climate change. It’s easier than you think. Simply purchase items that have less packaging, reuse or repurpose things when you can and follow this simple recycling chart to help you sort out what can be recycled. Over the course of a year, a household of four can reduce their carbon footprint by 1,930 pounds through recycling alone!³
4. Plant a Tree
Trees might be the best defense against climate change. They absorb and store CO2 while releasing oxygen back into the air. A mature tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of CO2 per year while releasing enough oxygen for one person to breathe for two whole years!4 They can also help reduce heating and cooling costs by providing shade or acting as a windbreak for homes and office buildings. Office buildings with shade trees are 8-10° F cooler in the summer and they can see a 50 percent reduction in heat loss if they have a windbreak. If you can’t plant a tree yourself, you can always donate to reforestation programs like the Trillion Tree Campaign.
5. Go Meatless
Meat, particularly red meat, has a surprisingly large carbon footprint. Some studies suggest that each serving of beef represents six pounds of CO2. This is due to the amount of energy it takes to raise cattle as well as the methane gas that they produce.5 But you don’t have to give up meat entirely to help out. Even if you just switch from steak to vegetables for one meal a week you could save up to 595 pounds of CO2 To find out more, calculate your Foodprint at earthday.org today!
6. Vote Earth
While individuals can make a difference by reducing their carbon footprints, big change comes from supporting legislation that fights climate change and protects the environment. You can register to vote and sign up for election notifications at earthday.org!
7. Go Solar
Investing in solar panels for your home reduces your carbon footprint and it can also reduce your utility bills. While making the change can seem overwhelming at first, you’ll find that there are a lot of resources out there to help homeowners make the switch. Depending on where you live, there might even be programs that can help you with financing. Find out more with this handy guide from energy.gov.
8. Travel Responsibly
While all travel plans are on hold right now due to COVID-19, it’s important to understand how you can help fight climate change on future trips. Responsible travel is simply being mindful of your impact on the places you visit. By choosing destinations that are not over-burdened by tourists, reducing your waste while traveling, respecting local rules and customs, and supporting local business you can actually be a force for good. Not sure where to start? Look to the experts. At Gondwana Ecotours, we apply the principles of responsible travel into every tour we create. Not only do we minimize waste, but we also support local conservation efforts and contribute a portion of the proceeds from our tours to purchase carbon offsets for the airfare of every guest who travels with us. To date, we’ve offset over 580 tonnes of carbon emissions on behalf of our guests!
Things are tough right now and many Earth Day events have been canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean that you still can’t do small things to help celebrate Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary! Even if you can’t help now, by learning about how you can fight climate change in the future, you’re taking the first step towards making the world a greener place.
¹Albeck-Ripka, Livia.”How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.” New York Times.
²”Curb Your Carbon Footprint.” Indiana Recycling Coalition.
³Osmun, Rosie. “How to Reduce Your Family’s Carbon Footprint.” Early Bird, by Amerisleep.
4“How Planting Trees Can Help Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.” One Tree Planted.
5“Carbon Footprint Factsheet.” The University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Resources.
6Purdy, Chase. “Scientists calculated the carbon savings of giving up one steak a week.” Quartz.