Earth Day 2021 will mark the 51st anniversary of this holiday. Typically, Earth Day is assigned a different theme or area of focus each year; this year’s theme is “Restore Our Earth.”
Most years, Earth Day events range from river cleanups to removals of invasive plants. With social distancing still in place for many of us this April, Earth Day has gone digital. Virtual events, such as environmental lectures and films, will take place on Earth Day (Thursday, April 22). To see a catalog of official events, visit earthday.org.
Of course, social distancing doesn’t mean that you can’t go outside and enjoy nature, as long as you do so responsibly! Nature is not canceled!
Ever wonder how Earth Day began? The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970, when San Francisco activist John McConnell and Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson separately asked Americans to join in a grassroots demonstration. Dealing with dangerously serious issues concerning toxic drinking water, air pollution, and the effects of pesticides.
President Richard Nixon led the nation in creating the Environmental Protection Agency, which followed with successful laws including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
Today, not only is Earth Day a day meant to increase awareness of environmental problems, but also it is also becoming a popular time for many communities to gather together to clean up litter, plant trees, or simply reflect on the beauty of nature.
As a lot of activities are done subconsciously as part of our everyday routine, there is a great chance that some, if not most, of the activities aren’t always the most environmentally-friendly option available.
It only takes a few adjustments in order to change your habits to more eco friendly options. It's better to make sure that the changes are sustainable throughout a longer period of time, so that the change can become habitual.
Purchasing water bottles is a common practice - particularly in warm weather. However, a lot of water bottles end up in the ocean as a lot of people fail to recycle them properly. This results in a high rate of pollution in our oceans and the overall environment, as one plastic bottle will break down into 10,000 microplastic pieces over time - and this microplastic pollution is incredibly hard to clean up.
A solution to this problem is to invest in a water bottle that is not only reusable but also the right size, so you can take it with you whenever you travel.
Re-using a water bottle also saves money in the long run, as fewer plastic bottles will need to be purchased.
Just like ingredients in cleaning products, regular shampoo, and conditioner also contain various ingredients that are washed down the drain and end up in the ocean again. The chemicals in those ingredients are often toxic in nature and should not be used. Wherever they end up, they may hurt the biodiversity.
Opt for non-synthetic ingredients when shopping for shampoo. As the shampoo bottles will ultimately be treated the same as other plastic objects, consumers can opt for soap bars that are suitable for hair. It's a great alternative, as these soap bars are often made from natural, biodegradable ingredients.
As a lot of trees go into the production of paper - whether it’s toilet paper, regular paper to write with, or wrapping paper, it’s important to be mindful and invest in recyclable paper. Back in 2017, there were approximately 419.69 million metric tonnes and cardboard being produced in the world. Based on this data, we are on a bad trajectory in terms of paper and cardboard pollution if production does not halt.
Cars are a major cause of global warming, mainly due to the amount of pollution that they emit. Diesel and petrol cars are the main culprits of CO2 emissions.
In order to combat this, electric and hybrid cars are rising in popularity as they reduce overall emissions. This is mainly due to the fact that electric cars run on batteries, rather than a combusting fuel source. Hybrid cars on the other hand use both as a fuel source but switch sources as their fuel capacity gets low.
The damaging effects that producing clothes has on the environment are pretty significant. Fast Fashion is mostly to blame, as clothes that fall into this category are produced in massive quantities. These quantities are produced only to be disposed off in billions, which can take up to 200 years to decompose for certain synthetic fibres (such as polyester).
These types of fibres also threaten our biodiversity. When washing these garments, microplastic fibres end up in oceans, which are ultimately ingested by animals. Consumers could be mindful of the type of clothes that they buy, which textiles they are made of, and look for companies that have promised to reduce their emissions and water pollution from producing garments.
The UK has confirmed a ban on single-use plastic straws as a part of the 25 Year Environment Plan. As plastic waste is one of the biggest environmental challenges the UK and the world face, banning straws will make a huge difference.
There are over 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic in the world, and the vast majority do not enter the recycling process. Straws can take up to 200 years to decompose, hurting the lives of animals and also the environment during this long process.
Invest in a metal or bamboo straw that is reusable. It’s not only healthier for the environment, but it's also a cost-effective solution. When at a bar or restaurant, tell the server you would rather forego the straw in your drink.
Negative Environmental Impact
Straws are sharper than they look. Millions of sea animals, such as turtles and seabirds eat them, thinking it's food. This ultimately ends up hurting them, and oftentimes choking them to death.
All things come to an end. While you cannot control whether or not the products that you dispose of will end up at a location where they will be recycled and reused, you can however purchase products that are made of non-synthetic ingredients and are biodegradable.
Biodegradable products dissolve due to contact with bacteria and fungi. Meaning that if they get in contact with nature, they won’t cause any environmental harm, as they disappear due to natural processes.
Meat and dairy are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the agriculture industry. Emissions occur from the stage of production, to processing, packaging, and to finally being served. Farming releases two powerful greenhouse gases: Methane from livestock during digestion due to enteric fermentation, and Nitrous Oxide as an indirect product of organic and mineral nitrogen fertilisers.
As the majority of emissions are a result of production and preparation of meat and dairy, consuming less meat would be a positive contribution in reducing GHG emissions. While some opt to drastically change their diets to a vegan one, simply reducing your intake of meat can already have a big impact.
Being conscious of the environment does not have to be limited to the home. There are many different things that employees can do in order to minimise environmental damage and make activities at their workplace more sustainable.
A lot of paper is printed in an office space. It’s unavoidable that paper will be printed, whether it’s for a meeting or to sign a contract. However, printing out a document may not be entirely necessary.
The best thing you could do is to think if it is absolutely required to have a document in hard copy. If not, you could consider to send it in an email. In order to minimise their carbon footprint, contracts can be sent and signed digitally.
Depending on the distance from the employee’s home to the workplace, there are different ways to commute to work. While using a car may seem like the easiest and fastest option, taking the train or bus would pollute less. Depending on your city’s biking infrastructure, you could even opt to ride a bicycle to work.
Offices naturally require electricity to power their equipment, amenities, facilities. However, it’s important to be aware of the energy consumption and be conscious of what is required.
One way companies could contribute to a greener office is by ensuring to plug off electric devices when not in use. It's good to stay aware of the energy consumption and to make changes when the usage is predicted to go above the limit set for the month.
Moreover, an increasing number of large tech corporations are using green energy to meet their electricity needs.
These three well-known principles of waste management will make your office more eco friendly. Offices should set up different containers for different types of products. Use recycling bins for paper, plastic, and soft drink cans, rather than throwing everything out in one bin.
When serving food at the office cafeteria, offer employees recyclable food containers so that they can take any leftover food home. This will greatly reduce food waste, which is a big issue in the UK.
As airplane tickets are becoming cheaper, more and more people are travelling. Travelling to foreign countries as a backpacker is also becoming increasingly easy. However, there are negative aspects associated with frequent travels, such as pollution and damage to local cultures. Therefore, there has been an increasing trend in promoting sustainable travel and more eco friendly holidays.
Even if electronic devices are shut off or in sleep mode, they are still using energy. Being away for too long wastes a lot of energy that could otherwise have been plugged off. So, before going on vacation, make sure to unplug your devices from the wall sockets, in order to save electricity.
Each UK household spends around £50 – £86 a year to power appliances left in standby mode or not in use.
Before leaving for vacation, make sure to check if any food item in the fridge is about to expire. If possible, consume it before the expiry date, otherwise donate it to people in need and avoid food wastage.
Housekeeping usually involves using unhealthy chemicals to clean the rooms and towels, so avoid requesting the service unless necessary. Re-use the towels that are offered at the beginning of the vacation, and place food trays from room-service outside your room for collection.
When it comes to being environmentally conscious, the method of transportation has a major effect on the environment. There is a huge difference in how much CO2 a car and an airplane emits. In fact, a single flight from New York City to Los Angeles produces 20% of the CO2 emissions that a car emits in a year.
Depending on the destination, it may be better to drive rather than to fly. In Europe, in particular, most big cities are very well-connected by train, which makes flying less and less necessary.
Cruise holidays have become increasingly popular, however these big ships contribute massively to GHG emissions. In fact, Carnival Corporation's fleet of 47 cruise ships emit 10 times more sulphur oxides (SOx) than 100 million cars do.
It is important to be aware of your holiday's footprint on the environment, and opt for more sustainable holidays when possible.
Flying to foreign destinations will emit emissions no matter what. However, if flying is the only option, then travellers can try to pack light in order to be able to still minimise the amount of pollution. The more luggage a plane carries with them on their travels, the more fuel the airplane needs to fly.
When looking for accommodation abroad, it’s important to look for places that are most sustainable in the activities that they do. Selecting Green Key certified accommodation is one way to do that.
In order to be Green Key certified, there are 13 criteria that need to be fulfilled. Being Green Key certified means that the accommodation respects local cultures and their traditions, takes care of the environment, treats its employees fair and equally, and more.
There are different ways to be more eco friendly with products when travelling. Just like the tip associated with reusing water bottles at home, you could also do the same with travel products. Instead of disposing travel-sized bottles such as shampoo and conditioner, you could reuse the bottles for the next trip.
Participating in fun and social activities while abroad is a common thing, but there is a risk of inflicting damage to the environment. This includes littering at the beach, or hiking in areas where one might cause damage to the local area. Being mindful about the consequences of one’s action can make a big difference for the local communities.
As big businesses are expanding to popular holiday destinations, there is, unfortunately, a problem with local communities struggling to get by. One of the reasons is that bigger corporations are receiving the majority of the money invested in the travel industry for that country. Spending your money in locally-owned shops and restaurants can help communities to overcome financial adversities.