We have been celebrating Earth Day since 1970, when U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson realized the importance of environmental awareness and education and initiated an environmental teach-in day that in turn generated the Earth Day we know today, as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. Since then, more than 192 countries have adopted this day and celebrated it with environmental events, hoping to build a more sustainable world. It is important to aim for a clean environment and extend an environmental awareness to other days of the year, making Earth Day every day.
Earth Day’s message is about the personal responsibility we all have to think globally and act locally in order to protect the planet’s finite natural resources, today and for future generations.
Small changes in our lifestyle can make a big difference. Do we really need to buy a new cell phone every 12 months when a new one comes out? Can we use the old cotton shirt as a rag instead of buying new rags? Are we willing to purchase products from the many companies who use sustainable practices whenever possible? There are many opportunities to practice sustainable consumerism; it only depends on our choices.
Sustainable consumerism can best be illustrated with an organic farmer’s market. The food is grown without chemicals and shipped to a local market where it is purchased by the consumer. A large supermarket provides goods that are grown thousands of miles away, sometimes in a location that requires extensive irrigation, with various chemicals applied to increase the production of the food, and shipped to a large store that consumes large amounts of electricity where it is purchased by the consumer. Farmer’s markets use minimal resources to produce a product that provides just as much, if not more, benefit to the consumer: you. Did you know, Kaiserslautern regularly holds a farmer’s market every Tuesday and Saturday.
Each of us can play a part in reducing our ecological footprint. Start with small steps, like changing your conventional light bulbs to energy saving bulbs, such as LED lighting or compact fluorescent light bulbs. These more efficient bulbs use 80 percent less energy and can last 10 times longer. Imagine, just replacing 10 bulbs will pay for themselves within one year, saving you about 25 euro per year, and reduce 14 kilograms of carbon emissions from being produced by electrical companies each year. Additionally, fully powering off electronics, or even unplugging them, instead of keeping them on standby will save both energy and money, as will washing your clothes at a lower temperature to reduce hot water bills.
Another way to reduce the impact you have on the environment is to replace large vehicles with more fuel efficient models. Vehicles powered by alternative fuel sources, such as electricity and biofuels, are becoming increasingly available and more affordable. Simply giving your vehicle regular tune-ups, ensuring your tires are inflated with the proper amount of air pressure and driving more conservatively will increase your vehicle’s efficiency. Keep in mind that reducing the number of trips you take in your car, taking public transportation, carpooling, bicycling, walking or shopping at neighborhood stores can reduce the impact to the environment as well.
During Earth Day 2016, think about all the little things you can do that will save money at home and at work, protect the environment and help your family to focus on sustainability.