20 ways to make a positive impact this Earth Day

Earth Day is a global annual event held on April 22, where 1 billion people in more than 193 countries unite to demonstrate their support for environmental protection. The first Earth Day event was held on April 22, 1970, making 2022 the 52nd year of this event. This year’s theme, ‘Invest in our Planet’, inspires participants to act (boldly), innovate (broadly), and implement (equitably) to protect and preserve our planet. If you want to fight the current climate crisis, here are 20 ways to make an impact this Earth Day. What will you choose to do?

20 ways to make an impact this Earth Day

Reduce your use of single-use plastics

Single-use plastics not only wreak havoc on the environment and pose a serious health threat to wildlife and natural ecosystems, but the production generates significant amounts of pollution, which fuels climate change. This Earth Day, pledge to reduce your use of single-use plastics. Avoid plastic straws and single-use cutlery, stop using cling wrap and single-use shopping bags, buy food in bulk and avoid food wrapped in plastic.

Buy secondhand 

Thrift shopping is great for the environment as it keeps items out of landfill, and reduces pollution and the use of non-renewable resources caused by the production of new products. From books to homewares, fashion to furniture, there are many great items you can purchase from secondhand stores. Most thrift shops also support local charities, so your secondhand purchases have a double impact.

Change your light bulbs

Changing from incandescent light bulbs to LED light bulbs can significantly reduce the environmental impact of your home or business. LED lights are much more energy-efficient than other light bulbs currently offered on the market. Each LED light bulb saves at least 75% less energy and lasts up to 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.

Sign a climate change petition

Take action on climate change this Earth Day by using your signature to tell your local leaders the kind of world you want to live in and maintain for future generations. Signing an environmental petition may not seem very impactful, but your contribution and shared opinion with the thousands of other individuals unifies and amplifies everyone’s voices and puts pressure on local leaders to listen and take action. Greenpeace frequently runs environmental petitions targeting a range of issues.

Turn off and unplug appliances when not in use

We often dismiss the environmental impact of reducing our electrical consumption, but as a large portion of the energy that powers our homes is produced from fossil fuels, turning off and unplugging appliances when not in use can help reduce carbon emissions. This Earth Day, make it a habit to start saving energy in your home. It will not only reduce your electrical consumption and energy costs, but it will also reduce the risk of a house fire. 

Purchase local and sustainably made products

Whether you’re purchasing a gift or buying food for the week, buying locally is one of the best ways to reduce the environmental impact of shopping. By buying locally, you’re significantly reducing carbon emissions and air pollution caused by the transportation of items, and you’re supporting your local economy. It’s also great to support businesses that make it a priority to use responsible sourcing and manufacturing to create their products.

Plant a tree

Reduce the impacts of climate change this Earth Day by planting a tree. As trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. One Tree Planted is a wonderful organisation that makes it simple for anyone to help the environment by planting trees. For every dollar donated, they will plant one tree. Since 2014, with the help of generous donors, they’ve planted over 40 million trees in 43 countries to restore forests and create habitats for biodiversity. 

Pick up trash

Pick up any rubbish you see on your daily walk, run or when you’re out and about. Improperly discarded trash is not only a breeding ground for bacteria and diseases, but it can pose a risk to wildlife. Every piece of litter picked up and recycled or disposed of properly means there is one less dangerous item for birds, turtles, or whales to swallow. It also helps to restore our wildlife’s natural habitats.  Take 3 is a great initiative that encourages people to pick up three pieces of litter while walking along the beach. To increase your impact, you can also join many large-scale clean-up organisations such as Ocean Crusaders, Tangaroa Blue Foundation and Clean Up Australia.

Switch to online billing 

It’s always important to find ways to reduce waste wherever you can. Switching from paper bills to electronic bills is one of the easiest ways to reduce your environmental footprint. Many companies already offer paperless billing and encourage their customers to switch as it saves them money too. Some even offer incentives by running competitions for customers who switch to paperless. The environmental benefit might not seem much on an individual level, but imagine how many trees would be saved if everyone switched to paperless billing?

Use reusable items

Sadly, when you dispose of your single-use plastic water bottle in the recycling bin, it’s not likely to be recycled. A 2017 study in Science Advances estimated that only 9% of all the plastic waste generated globally up to 2015 was recycled, 12% was incinerated, and the rest was sent to landfills or ended up as litter in the natural environment. Using reusable items and eliminating single-use plastics is a crucial part of the waste solution. The best way to reduce your use of single-use plastics is to carry a reusable kit containing a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, bag, straw, and cutlery set.

Grow flowers

Bees, as keystone pollinators, provide an essential service for maintaining and preserving the ecological balance in our world. They are necessary for our survival, cross-pollinating around 75 per cent of the world’s flowering plants, including three-quarters of food-producing plants. But sadly, species are steeply declining.

Bees rely on a healthy and productive environment to provide food and safe nesting habitats, but unfortunately, the vast use of horticulture-modified plants and imported species produce little pollen and nectar for bees to feed on. Growing flowers from seed gives back to the essential pollinators we all depend on, and you don’t need a large backyard to make a difference. People living in apartments can grow flowers in pots or planter boxes on their balconies.

Switch to green energy 

Switching to green energy is one of the most significant changes you can personally make to fight climate change. Solar and wind-powered energy are renewable energy sources that don’t emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The simplest way to switch to green energy is to call your local utility company and ask them to change your account to use green energy instead of energy produced from fossil fuels. As energy companies source their power from multiple providers, you won’t need to change the utility company you use; they will switch the energy you choose. As more people switch to green energy, the investment in this energy source increases, which supports future growth in these areas.

Compost food scraps 

Did you know landfills produce 12% of the world’s methane emissions? Organic matter needs air to break down. When it decomposes in a compost heap, it undergoes aerobic decomposition, broken down by microorganisms that require oxygen. But when organic matter is buried in landfill, it undergoes anaerobic decomposition, which creates a biogas by-product. This biogas is approximately 50% methane and 50% carbon dioxide, both potent greenhouse gases.

Composting food scraps at home is a great way to reduce the amount of waste you send to landfill. It also provides nutrient-rich organic matter to improve your soil health. Luckily, composting options have advanced in the last few years, providing options for people with large homes and those living in apartments. From setting up a backyard compost heap to using a compost barrel or a small Bokashi Bin, there are many options to suit your needs and space. Suppose you don’t want to manage a compost bin. In that case, you can still recycle your organic waste via ShareWaste – an app that connects people who wish to recycle their kitchen scraps with their neighbours who are already composting, worm-farming or keeping chickens.

Practice sustainable fashion

Did you know Australia has the second-highest rate of textile consumption per person globally, after the United States of America? Every year, Australians consume an average of 27 kilograms of new clothing and send an average of 23 kilograms of clothing to landfill. Fashion production also impacts the environment by using vast quantities of non-renewable resources, creating toxic water waste, and producing carbon emissions.  Although clothing is an essential item, you can reduce the impact your clothes have on the environment by buying second hand or sustainable clothes, taking care of your garments, mending items, and wearing items as much as you can before donating them.

Eat less meat

Did you know it can take at least 30 bathtubs of water to produce one beef burger, and an area of rainforest the size of a hundred football pitches is cut down every hour to create room for grazing cattle? Having at least one plant-based day each week is good for you and good for the planet. Meat Free Monday is a wonderful initiative that encourages people to have a healthier diet and save animals and the planet by eating plant-based food at least once a week. They have a fun calculator where you can measure your impact by the number of plant-based meals you enjoy each week and a database of plant-based recipes to try.

Grow an organic garden

Reduce your food miles this Earth Day by committing to growing your own organic food. From herbs and leafy greens to fruit and vegetables, growing your own produce reduces food miles and the consumption of plastic waste, commonly wrapped around store bought produce.

Reduce food waste

Food waste feeds climate change. Did you know if food waste was a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases? In Australia, our annual food waste is more than 7.6 million tonnes each year, with households contributing 2.5 million tonnes of food waste. According to scientists at Project Drawdown, reducing food waste is the single most impactful action each of us can do to tackle the climate crisis. You can reduce food waste in your home by creating a meal plan, only buying what you need, eating leftovers and storing your food correctly. OzHarvest has a wonderful range of tips and downloadable tools to help you reduce food waste and fight climate change this Earth Day.

Recycle hard to recycle items

You may already be recycling cardboard, cans and bottles in your council recycling bin, but what about the other items you can’t put in the recycling bin, like toothpaste tubes, pill packets, coffee pods and razors? This Earth Day, find the right places to recycle other items in your home rather than sending them to landfill.

TerraCycle is an innovative recycling company that has become a global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle materials. They’re an innovative waste management company that operates in 21 countries with a mission to eliminate the idea of waste. They partner with businesses, communities and individuals to move from a linear economy to a circular one by creating new waste solutions. You can purchase their boxes for your home or office or recycle items through one of their business partners. Three of our stockists, Biome, Flora and Fauna and Go for Zero, are TerraCycle partners and offer complimentary recycling. Planet Ark’s website Recycling Near You is also a wonderful online resource for finding places to recycle hard-to-recycle items.

Build a bee hotel

A bee hotel is a structure you place in your garden with the idea that it gives native solitary bees a place to rest and breed. Nearly all of Australia’s 1,700 native bee species are solitary and can be found in most parts of Australia. Unlike honeybees which live in hives, native bees are solitary and nest in tiny hollows and nooks safely away from predators. They don’t store honey in their nests and only collect small amounts of nectar to feed their young. ​​​​​​​​Learn how to make a bee hotel to provide the bees that frequent your garden a safe place to live and raise their young here.

Volunteer with a local environmental organisation 

Organisations always need volunteers to help bring their environmental initiatives to life. There are many opportunities to participate in projects from planting trees, cleaning up catchments and rivers, and marching in rallies. Any action you take to support an environmental organisation fighting for climate change will contribute to the greater good!

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