On April 22, Celebrate Earth Day and Help Protect the Planet

by TerryMcNamee

Earth Day can result in positive changes for the environment, if enough people take part. Just one person, one step at a time, can make a real difference.

By Terry McNamee © 2013

There are many ways to help the environment, not just on Earth Day, but every day. Here are some of the ways everyone can help. You can start small in your home or on your own street or block, or think bigger by helping an entire community. What better time to start than on Earth Day? Here are some of the many ways you can help protect the planet we all share.

Donate, Reuse and Recycle

Buying what one doesn't need is not just wasteful. It costs you extra money that could be put to better use. One way to avoid waste is to buy second-hand whenever you can. If it is something that is needed just occasionally, consider borrowing or renting. Thanks to local web sites like Kijiji, it has become much easier to find ways to buy second-hand items or even trade things you don't need for those you do.

Instead of throwing out unwanted items that are still usable, donate them to a second-hand store or give them away to other people. Many a university student would be delighted to take an old recliner, table or lamp off your hands. Churches, second-hand stores and various fundraising groups such as the Diabetes Society and Cystic Fibrosis Society are examples of places that take good used clothing and household items. Keeping items out of landfills and putting them back to work for someone else is a win-win situation.

Another way to recycle is to re-purpose old items into something new. Old teapots and shoes can become miniature planters in the garden. Worn clothing can be taken apart and the good parts of the fabric can be saved for quilts or rag rugs or even for making doll clothes. The buttons can be removed and reused, either for other clothing or for crafts. The possibilities are endless! There are many ideas for reusing old items available on-line or in books.

An old bathtub repurposed as a planter
Old bathtub put to good use in Great Britain
Old bathtub put to good use in Great Britain

Ways to Save Energy

Save energy by replacing old incandescent light bulbs with new energy-efficient ones. Weatherproof outside doors and windows to decease heat loss in winter and reduce air conditioning needs in summer. Turn up the thermostat in summer and lower it in winter to reduce energy usage. Just one degree can reduce costs and usage. You can also save energy by washing clothes in cold water and hanging them on a line outside to dry. Use aerators on faucets and shower heads to use less water for bathing.

Plant deciduous trees in areas that will shade a home or other building in summer to reduce air conditioning needs and allow the sun in during the winter. Aside from reducing your heating and air conditioning bills, this also provides homes for wildlife (especially songbirds, which are in decline). Trees help hold soil together, preventing erosion during times of drought, and provide shade to help keep the soil from becoming too dry in summer.

When possible, buy locally grown food. Make local stores and restaurants aware that customers want local produce and canned goods to reduce the environmental cost of transporting goods over long distances. Too many local farmers have had to rip out their orchards and vineyards or quit growing vegetables because of being unable to compete with cheap imported food. You will not only be supporting local growers, you will be getting fresher fruits and vegetables. Of course, you could go a step further and grow some of your own fruits and vegetables. If you don't have room for a garden, there could be a community garden in which you could become involved.

Migrating Red Admiral butterflies rely on native flowering plants
Red Admiral butterfly on migration in southern Ontario, April 2012
Red Admiral butterfly on migration in southern Ontario, April 2012
Photo © Terry McNamee

Pay Attention To Environmental Needs

Make a conscious decision to buy only non-toxic cleaning products to reduce pollution and damage to area wildlife. Read the labels!

Remove foreign or invasive plant species. They may look pretty, but if they aren't native to your area, there may be nothing that can keep them in check. Examples are butterfly bush (native to Asia, and very invasive), purple loosestrife, bamboo and many ornamental grasses and shrubs. Imported plants can crowd out local ones, and often native birds, animals and insects cannot use them for food.

Plant native flowers, trees and shrubs instead of exotic imports. They are more suited to the local climate and in many cases need less water and fertilizer as well, since they are already adapted for the area. Remember, "native" means that it would naturally occur in the area where you live. For example, a Colorado blue spruce is beautiful, but it is not native to Ontario, so a white pine or a black, white or red spruce would be a better choice for Ontario. A portion of a yard, or even an entire lawn, can be replanted with native wildflowers and grasses. Lists of plants, shrubs and trees native to your area are readily available on-line. You may be quite surprised by all the choices!

If you encourage others in the community to use native plants in their landscaping, you can actually create a small island that will serve as a habitat or migratory stopover for birds and butterflies, many of which are now threatened or endangered. Habitats are becoming increasingly fragmented as cities, suburbs and golf courses replace natural woodlands and meadows, and this is one small way to help compensate.

Organize or take part in a neighbourhood clean-up on Earth Day to collect trash and beautify the area. Help environmental groups restore native savannas, prairies, streams, wetlands and woodlands. Remember, it isn't just about planting trees.

A list of special Earth Day events can be found at the Earth Day Canada website or contact a local conservation area, schools or the municipality to get a list of nearby Earth Day activities.

Panicled Aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum) is native to Ontario
Native asters in an Ontario yard
Native asters in an Ontario yard
Photo © Terry McNamee
Updated: 04/12/2013, TerryMcNamee
 
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katiem2 on 04/13/2013

Thanks for the reminder, I'm on it and LOVE the bathtub what a delightful addition. I put a smile on my face. :)K

TerryMcNamee on 04/12/2013

Thank you!

HollieT on 04/12/2013

Meant to add, why do so many people not think this way? :)

HollieT on 04/12/2013

I loved this, and your photographs.

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