Every Day is Earth Day
Monday was EArth DAy.
Missed it? Don’t worry. I had the pleasure of sitting in on an educational session at Procore’s beautiful Carpinteria campus hosted by Erin Maker, the Environmental Coordinator for the City of Carpinteria. Gathered around a conference table with a dozen other like-minded, earth-loving individuals, she taught us how to celebrate Earth Day every day.
And this is important, people. As Maker informed us, we’re on track to have more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. And if you still think climate change is a purely natural process, think again. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has a 95 percent certainty that human activities are responsible for our current global warming.
So what can we do?
If humans are trashing (quite literally) the only home we’ve got, we clearly need to make some changes. It’s a daunting problem, but the swaps and hacks Maker recommended are surprisingly simple. Without further ado, here are 5+ actionable things you can do to celebrate Earth Day year-round.
Take alternative transportation.
Did you know that in the Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties region, vehicular transportation is the #1 contributor to greenhouse gas emissions? Well, now you do, so you have no excuse for hopping in the car when you could very easily walk, bike, take a bus, carpool, skateboard, rollerblade — you get the idea.
Shopping in our area doesn’t just support local businesses. When you buy produce at our local farmers markets (which are really awesome, by the way), you minimize your energy consumption. See, the produce in the supermarket has to get shipped here from somewhere. And all that shipping creates — you guessed it! — greenhouse gas emissions.
Plus, food that gets shipped long distances is picked before it ripens so it can hold up in transit. Your farmers markets finds will taste significantly better because they’re picked ripe and delivered fresh.
Pro tip: as you’re shopping, look for pesticide-free produce. When pesticides get washed into our water sources, they pollute them. And they interrupt the life cycles of small animals, which has ramifications all the way up the food chain.
Reduce and reuse.
Yes, recycling is important (more on that later). But reducing the amount of waste you create and reusing materials whenever possible is even more powerful. For starters, choose to buy products with minimal associated waste and, with your dollar, you’ll inform companies that they need to rethink their packaging. Want proof? Based on consumer request, Trader Joes has committed to eliminating 1 million pounds of plastic from their stores.
One of the best ways to reduce the waste you personally create it simple. Bring reusable server ware — including a water bottle, coffee cup, and utensils — with you to work and social functions. And skip the straw.
All that said, living a zero-waste life is pretty challenging. Recycling does make a significant dent in what goes into our local landfills, but you need to be smart about it. As Maker said, “Recycling is a really confusing field.” Fortunately, she laid out some guidelines to all help us make the right choices when deciding which bin our stuff goes into:
Soft plastic (e.g., plastic bags, film plastics, plastic wrap) can’t be recycled in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.
Hard plastics 1-7 (look for the number inside the recycling logo) are all good to go into your recycling bin.
Paper and tin foil are both recyclable if they’re food-free. That cardboard pizza box covered in melted cheese is a no-go. Paper can’t be wet, either, so let it dry before you toss it in.
Tetra Paks (those drink cartons with a screw-top or flap lid) are recyclable right now because there’s currently a market for them. But don’t get too attached because that market could vanish (looking at you, China). And toss the plastic cap in the trash.
Don’t put your recycling in a plastic bag. When it goes into local waste facilities, it’s dumped onto a conveyor to get sorted. That’s a lot easier to do if everything is loose.
Think about your
We’ve got a problem. One in eight Americans struggles to put food on the table, but up to 40 percent of the food we produce ends up in landfills. Oof.
The first, most obvious solution is to eat what you buy. Find ways to cook the ends and stems of your food (those carrot tops can make a mean pesto and more). The City of Ventura has some hot tips on reducing food waste you can use. Then, compost what you can’t eat.
Isn’t your food going to naturally break down in a landfill anyway? Actually, no. Because landfills are sealed, things don’t break down in them the way you’d expect. In fact, Maker says that a recent dig in a landfill to analyze its current state revealed newspapers from the 1960s that you could still read.
Bonus! Your home compost can be spread in your yard and garden to reduce the amount of water it needs and help your plants thrive.
Want to do more about food waste? Look into local organizations like the Santa Barbara Food Rescue, which is committed to rescuing perfectly good food that would otherwise be thrown into the trash and getting it into the hands of families in need.
But wait, there’s more!
Still looking to strengthen your eco-warrior stance? Or just want to minimize the amount of damage you’re doing to the earth on which you live? Sweet. Maker has more tips for you:
Pick up your dog’s poop and put it in the trash. Always. Pet waste is one of the biggest sources of local water pollution.
When you’re buying products for your gardens and landscaping, choose organic.
Stay informed. LessIsMore.org is a great place to start for local knowledge.
Whether you’re reading this in April, October, or anywhere in between, happy Earth Day!