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Thoughts on Earth Day: 6 Simple Changes to Celebrate the Earth

EarthDay When I was a kid back at Oxford Elementary in Dearborn Michigan, the annual Clean Up Parade in the spring was one of the high points of the school year. Seriously. We made float and signs and costumes and marched through the neighborhood encouraging people to “Clean Up, Fix Up, Paint Up.”

Everything was simpler back then. From learning to relationships to saving the world, change could be accomplished by good intentions and good efforts.

"When the land was new, it was clean! Be a Pioneer!" My brother and I in the Clean Up Parade, 1973

“When the land was new, it was clean! Be a Pioneer!” My brother and I in the Clean Up Parade, 1973

The world is a lot more complicated now, and not just to me. We experience enormous environmental crises triggered by humans like oil spills or wildfires, and we cannot predict how far the results of those events will reach. We can debate about how much ill effect we have on the earth, but it’s hard to ignore our obvious impact when we look at energy consumption or pollution. As one of my students who is an environmental studies major noted last week, it’s hard not to get discouraged because there’s simply so much to do and so much to worry about.

The size of the concern cannot be the obstacle that prevents us from making changes or celebrating Earth Day. Here are 6 simple ways to mark the day and “Let the sun shine in.”

Recycle. Sure, you do it already. But why not step it up a notch? Make a commitment to be more diligent at home or work, wherever it’s easier to slack off.

Reuse. There’s personal satisfaction in finding new uses for no-longer-needed items. The trash can may be the shortest path out of your house, but an only slightly less convenient path could put your discards in the hands of someone who could use them. To find new homes of household goods, look for donations sites in your area.

Reduce. Give gifts that don’t create clutter: tickets to a play or live music, a meal at a restaurant, a trip to a museum.

Clean up. But do so using less chemicals. Explore the harmless cleaning power of baking soda or vinegar solutions. The internet is full of recipes and tips (see soft scrub and salt scrub for cast iron).

Fix up. If you aren’t ready to give up your car entirely, keep it in good repair to lessen emissions and fuel consumption.

Paint up. When painting or remodeling, request low impact paints or products. Consumer advocacy will continue to drive innovation in this area as well.

In all, little steps do add up. Our small changes will not solve gigantic crises, but they can help give meaning to our actions and make us more mindful of the great gift that is the earth.

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