Let's make Earth Day, everyday.
The world celebrated Earth Day yesterday on April 22. It's one of my favorite times of the year (the whole month of April is Earth Month) because it brings our planet front and center. I think we can all agree that preserving the planet for future generations is all of our responsibility, right? Now how we do that is something that has become a topic of political debate lately. I'm not a scientist, but I believe in science. And science is telling us that our actions are having an impact on the planet. Whether or not you agree with that or the concept of climate change, it's pretty impossible to ignore the signs we see around us - air pollution, melting polar ice caps, extreme weather, the list goes on. It seems so huge and out of reach that it's hard for us to grasp, but impossible to ignore. If we can see the impacts today, just imagine the planet in 20, 50 or 100 years from now. I want to be confident that I can look at my son Beau, my grandchildren and hopefully my great grandchildren, and tell them that our generation did everything we could to protect this planet for them, and for those coming after them. So I try not to get overwhelmed by the impacts of global warming, but instead focus on the things that I can do right now in my own home. It seems so simple, but if all of us can do these little things, it can really add up to big impact.
I found inspiration in one of my favorite companies, IKEA, this Earth Day and I checked out the Sustainable Living Event at my local Burbank store. This post is not sponsored by IKEA and they haven't given me any free stuff to write about them. I'm writing about them because I think it is important to highlight and support companies that are doing the right thing. They make stylish and affordable products with sustainability in mind. They do the hard work on the back end so that we can simply live more sustainably at home. IKEA created a Sustainability Guide that suggests some basic ways we can decrease our impacts in our own homes by saving energy, conserving water, reducing waste and eating responsibly. I've taken that and distilled it into 4 simple things we can all do today to help the planet:
Change a lightbulb. Yes, it really is that simple. If you still have incandescent bulbs, switch them out for an LED, which use up to 80% less energy. I did a post about the different kinds of lightbulbs you can check out here.
Turn off the tap. I hate to be cliche and sound like a mom, but turn off the faucet while you are brushing your teeth. This can save more than 200 gallons of water per person per month! (source: EPA) Those of us in Southern California just coming out of a drought can appreciate this - water is a precious resource.
Sort your trash. Ok people, let's talk trash. The exact process will depend on where you live and what your municipality provides, but the bottom line is this: take the time to separate recyclable items (bottles, cans, paper, plastic) from the rest of your trash or else it is considered contaminated by the recycling facility and it will get trashed. There is no such thing as throwing something "away" - it leaves your hands and ends up in a landfill where Americans send nearly 254 million tons of trash per year! That is an average of 4.4 lbs of waste per person a day. With that in mind, we can reduce a little bit each day, and take the time to recycle. (source: EPA)
Eat less meat. We don't often think about where our food comes from, or how it was produced. Raising animals for meat production generates nearly one fifth of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Think about this: skip a steak once a week with your family, and that's the equivalent of taking your car off the road for nearly three months! Try incorporating Meatless Mondays into meal planning. I opted for a Mediterranean veggie wrap at the IKEA cafe yesterday. (source: United Nations Food & Ag)
The IKEA Sustainable Living event had some other cool stuff going on like an option to bring in old furniture to donate to Goodwill and they would give you a $20 coupon towards a furniture purchase. They also created a Sustainable Living Challenge app where you could earn points for taking sustainable actions. I didn't win (because I got too distracted browsing all the gorgeous rooms in the store as I always do, and of course had to pick up a few things) but I thought the app was super informative about the ways we can make an impact every day and about IKEA's sustainability efforts.
Hopefully we can all take some inspiration from the smart folks at IKEA. It's not just about buying stuff to help us live more sustainably. It's about taking simple steps each day that make a difference and living like Earth Day is everyday.