Another year, another Earth Day! As much as we love to celebrate our beloved planet, Earth Day can feel a little sad sometimes, when it seems as though so many people (and especially so many governments) are ignoring the important work that needs to be done to keep our Earth healthy and happy and livable.
But we can all make a difference — and below are a few ways you can celebrate Earth Day and give our planet (and yourself) a little boost.
- Go for a walk. Nothing connects us with nature, animals, and all things wonderful about Earth than taking a walk. Whether you wander into a forest, onto a beach, or simply around your block, take notice of the beauty around you. This could be seeing a deer grazing, watching pelicans skim the ocean, or noting all the city animals around you, from birds to insects. All are full of wonder.
- Recycle. You probably already recycle your plastics and your papers, but what about your clothing, your electronics, your books? Make a point of trying a new type of recycling; take things you don’t use, from clothes to kitchenware, to a thrift or consignment store. While you’re at it, save resources by buying used instead of new. Check out your neighborhood’s yard and estate sales (or better yet, its free piles). It’s not only earth-friendly to seek out recycled things…it can be tons of fun!
- Buy local. If you can visit a local store to find the perfect gift, this saves money and the large carbon footprints of packaging and shipping, and it also helps support your local businesses. As we emerge from the pandemic, local shops that have made it this far will appreciate it more than ever.
- Adopt, don’t shop. If you’re thinking of adding a nonhuman companion to your life, never go to a pet store to buy an animal. (Check out this podcast with undercover activist and author Pete Paxton on Our Hen House, and learn why shelters and rescues are always better than pet shops for finding the next love of your life, whether a dog or cat, bird or bunny.) Visit PetFinder to find an adoptable companion near you.
- Go vegan. Due to the fact that animal agriculture causes more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined, the single best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to eat plants. An all-plant diet is fun, delicious, and good for you as well as our planet. (Check out Vegan Cheese Tasting for reviews of plant-based items from cheese to ice cream to faux meats to snacks…well, the list goes on and on.)
- Take a “Green Day.” Whenever you’re able, take a day when you don’t drive. Either walk, bike, carpool, or otherwise get around without a car. See how it goes, and try doing this once a month, once a week, or however often you can!
- Gather trash. Even on the most seemingly pristine beaches, I look for plastic to pick up, and I always find at least a bit of it. Whether you live in a city, near the ocean, or in the woods, if you look, you’re likely to see a bit of trash. So pick it up, dispose of it properly, and know that you’ve saved the life of an animal somewhere who would’ve eventually encountered it. You’ve also made the world that much prettier.
- Make a swap. Whether you’re starting a new, plant-based diet or planning your next vacation, swap out your usual option for a green one. For example, for your next Taco Tuesday, use Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat products instead of meat; for your next happy hour, try Miyoko’s on your crackers or homemade pizza instead of dairy cheese. If you’re planning a vacation, seek out eco-friendly lodging, environmental expeditions, or a location closer to home (visit World Vegan Travel for some great ideas!).
- Volunteer. Believe me, your local animal shelter needs you. So does your local community garden, land conservancy, and farm animal sanctuary. Find a local organization where you can offer your expertise to aid them in their important work. If you don’t have the time, then maybe you have a few dollars to spare.
- Enjoy some green entertainment. Add some meaningful films, books, and podcasts to your usual lineups. If you haven’t seen Cowspiracy, Seaspiracy, or Earthlings, check them out! On the Our Hen House podcast, you’ll meet authors, filmmakers, and other change makers; on the UK’s Bloody Vegans Podcast, you’ll meet environmentalists, artists, and activists. And if you’re a reader, check out the myriad titles at Ashland Creek Press — and for more eco-literature, read the reviews on EcoLit Books to find your next book of eco-literature.