Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day, a day designed to protest the destruction of the environment and bring awareness to all the things we can do to save the planet.

I'm going to go for a walk around Lake Arlington to pick up litter this afternoon. My friend Debbie, the founder of the Random Acts of Kindness Club, has organized this walk. The weather is supposed to be nicer and I think it will be a great way to experience early Spring in Chicago, spend some time with a good friend, and do something nice for the planet.

There are many things we can each do to help the planet today and everyday:

1. Stop drinking bottled water. Get yourself a reusable bottle and wash it out. Go see the award winning documentary "Flow" to learn about how harmful to the environment (and us) bottled water is and the worldwide water crisis.

2. Recycle. This absolutely could not be much easier. I don't know of a town that doesn't offer a recycling program and most of them pick up recycling with the garbage. Sure you have to separate it, but that takes seconds as you're already tossing stuff out. In my kitchen, I have a garbage can, a brown paper sack for paper recycling (that doesn't need shredding or is already shredded) and another can for plastic, glass, and aluminum recycling. Yes, at first it was a little burdensome. But once I got into the habit of recycling, it is now second nature and I throw out less than one bag of actual garbage per week. That's huge!

3. Freecycle. I've talked about this before. Freecycle is a grass roots organization that exists all over the country (and world) where you offer up things that you can't use for free and other people take them off your hands. I've gotten some amazing things through Freecycle: a new (to me) microwave when mine died; a new (to her) washer and dryer for my mom when hers died; many plants for my garden; drapes in my living room; an otoman for my brother's apartment; and numerous new items (in packaging) that I used as Christmas gifts. I've also given away many items that I can't use anymore. Freecycle is proof that one man's trash is another one's treasure.

4. Go see the movie Earth. It opens today and if you see it this week, Disney will plant a tree in your honor.

5. Read the single most popular post on Little Merry Sunshine: "Real Simple Recycling A to Z" to learn all the easy ways and many things you can recycle.

6. Plant a tree.

7. Plant a "Recession Garden." Not only is gardening great exercise, but it will save you money. A $70 garden investment will save you about $600 in produce groceries over a year. I don't know about you, but $600 is nothing to sneeze at. In this economy, I'm not sure where else you can legally get a guaranteed 857% return on your investment. Not even Bernie Madoff could give those kinds of returns. Gardening is also great for the environment and healthier for you as well. The produce doesn't need to be trucked or otherwise shipped in from far away and you know exactly what chemicals (or not) are used on your vegetables and fruits. You could also do this with a friend or neighbor and share your harvest to give each of you more produce variety.

8. Take your own bags to the grocery store and anywhere else you shop. I've been doing this for years, ever since I had to walk over a mile each way to the grocery store and those icky plastic bags wouldn't hold up.

9. Use refillable cosmetic compacts. Okay, this may seem like a shameless plug since I'm a Mary Kay Consultant and to my knowledge only Mary Kay has refillable compacts, but this is truly a huge savings to both the environment and your wallet. No more tossing out a whole eye compact because one color is empty because when one color runs out, you only replace that one color. No more buying colors you don't really like because you fill the compact with exactly what you want.

10. Bike, walk, or take public transportation rather than driving. The other day I was spending the entire day in Chicago. Traffic from Arlington Heights to the city is fairly unpredictable and can take anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 hours or more. Rather than drive and have to pay for parking twice, I took the Metra train into the city and then took the subway. Cost to drive and park = $37 in parking and tolls, plus gas and wear and tear on my car. Cost to take public transportation = $13 round trip. I saved $24, not to mention that I was relaxed when I arrived.

11. Install a solar attic fan. Okay, yes, this is another shameless plug for my brother's company, Crystal Skylights & Solarlighting, but he installed a solar attic fan for me last summer and in the first month alone, my electricity bill decreased 35% over the same month (with the same weather temps) in 2007. And the savings have continued each month. My whole house stayed cooler last summer and I ran the AC much less. Plus, the government will give you a tax credit for installing one! I simply cannot rave enough about my solar attic fan.

I could go on, but I'd rather hear your ideas for celebrating Earth Day. What are your favorite ways to save the planet?

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