Let’s Celebrate Earth Day!

article image
ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

Here are 10 great Earth Day ideas from the editors of Mother
Earth News
magazine. Accept our Earth Day Challenge ?

share them
with your friends and family.

1. CHOOSE AN EFFICIENT RIDE
by Bryan Welch, Publisher

Before you plunk down a lot of dough on a new hybrid car, consider
whether a used motorcycle might be more fun and might get you more
total miles per gallon. I love my 1988 BMW K75S. It cost me about
$3,000 and gets about 60 miles per gallon. I can’t ride it every
day, but when I average it out with my car, my overall mpg is
terrific!

2. SUSTAINABLE LAWN CARE (AND FREE ORGANIC
FERTILIZER)

by Cheryl Long, Editor in Chief

Conventional American lawn care is about as unsustainable as you
can get. First, people buy expensive fertilizer that makes the
grass grow faster, which means they have to mow more often. Then
they send the nutrient-rich grass clippings to the landfill, rather
than leaving them to decompose and return nutrients to the soil.
Plus, most people tend to mow their grass too short, making it
easier for weeds to move in. Here’s a better way: Fertilize
sparingly if at all, leave the clippings on the lawn, and cut your
grass high.

You can help further reduce the amount of yard waste sent to
landfills by using the bags of clippings that your neighbors put
out with their trash. The clippings are rich in nitrogen and other
nutrients and make a great organic garden fertilizer (be sure
they’re herbicide-free). A 1- to 2-inch layer of fresh clippings
applied once a year will provide plenty of slow-release nutrients
for most crops. Plus, the clippings do double duty as a great mulch
to prevent weeds and conserve soil moisture.

3. CHECK TIRE PRESSURE; IMPROVE FUEL ECONOMY
by John Rockhold, Managing Editor

One of the easiest ways to maximize your car’s gas mileage ? and
make a significant difference for the environment ? is to maintain
the correct tire pressure. Seasonal temperature changes and normal
wear and tear cause tires to lose pressure, which can cut fuel
economy by up to 5 percent ? costing you an extra $50 to $100 a
year, depending on your vehicle’s mpg. If every American drove with
properly inflated tires, we would annually save 1 to 2 billion
gallons of gasoline and slash global warming emissions by as much
as 20 million tons, according to the
Union of Concerned
Scientists
.

So resolve to check your tire pressure at least once a month. Do so
when the tires are ‘cold’ ? before you drive or after driving less
than a mile. For the recommended inflation level, check your
owner’s manual or look for a sticker on or near the doorjamb of the
driver’s door (don’t use the number that’s on the tire itself).
Simple gauges the size of a pencil cost a couple bucks, more
accurate digital gauges cost $20 or more. I keep a gauge in my
glove compartment and check the pressure every other time I get
gas.

4. TURN YOUR GARBAGE INTO GREAT GARDEN SOIL
by Megan Phelps, Senior Associate Editor

For an easy way to reduce the waste you send to the landfill, try
composting! Composting transforms your kitchen scraps and yard
waste into nutrient-rich garden soil. To get started, all you need
is a simple compost bin or tumbler. Then add a mix of ‘browns’ (dry
leaves, straw, dirt) and ‘greens’ (grass clippings, vegetable food
scraps). Add water to keep the compost moist, and occasionally stir
it up to keep it aerated. You can learn more about

how to compost
from the Mother Earth News archive.

5. STOP JUNK MAIL
by Scott Hollis, Associate Editor

If you get large amounts of unwanted advertising through the mail,
you can reduce this wasteful and annoying ‘junk mail’ by
registering your name and address with the Mail Preference Service
sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association. Once you register,
many (but not all) companies will remove your name from their
mailing lists and after a few months you will receive less
unsolicited mail. To register for this free service, go to
www.dmaconsumers.org.

6. PROGRAM YOUR FURNACE TO SAVE
by Charles Higginson, Associate Editor

You can cut heating and cooling costs dramatically with a
superefficient tool, the programmable thermostat. The simplest
models cost as little as $35 ? less than some standard thermostats
? and can work with conventional heating and cooling systems and
some heat pumps. Set the thermostat to hit target temperatures when
you’re home and to pull back by 8 to 10 degrees while you’re away
or sleeping. In a typical home, that could reduce fuel use by 10
percent, reducing annual carbon dioxide emissions by about 1,000
pounds and cutting annual utility bills by $100. If you can operate
a screwdriver, you can install a programmable thermostat in less
than half an hour. Set it, forget it and save!

7. A WIN-WIN APPROACH TO EATING
by Tabitha Alterman, Associate Editor

The average American meal travels 1,500 to 2,500 miles before it is
consumed. It’s not hard to imagine how much it would cost us to
make that trip, but when the supermarket is just a few blocks away
it’s easy to forget about the environmental costs of all that fuel
consumption. Meanwhile, I’ve been witnessing an encouraging
grass-roots movement: The number of farmer’s markets in the United
States has increased more than 900 percent since the 1970s. So
what’s happening? People are eating locally.

By purchasing food from as close to home as possible, you can help
reduce America’s addiction to oil while giving the environment a
much-needed break. Plus, when farmers sell directly to consumers,
they are able to keep all the profits. (Typically, only about 20
percent of the money we spend on food trickles down to the farmers
who actually grow it.) To find food produced near you, check out
Local Harvest and enter
your ZIP code.

8. SAVE WITH COMPACT FLUORESCENT LIGHT BULBS
by Heidi Hunt, Assistant Editor

Replacing your standard incandescent light bulbs with
superefficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) can decrease
your overall home energy use and save you money in the long run.
CFLs cost a little more upfront (prices start at about $3), but use
a quarter of the electricity of comparable incandescents, and last
up to 13 times longer.

Replacing a standard 75-watt incandescent ‘long-life’ bulb (which
lasts about 1,500 hours) with an equally bright 20-watt CFL (which
lasts about 12,000 hours) can save you more than $50 over the
eight-year life of the CFL. If you replace just five standard light
bulbs with CFLs, you could save more than $250. This is one simple
thing you can do for yourself and the Earth. CFLs are
available almost anywhere you find standard light bulbs.

9. CLEAN OUT THE CLOSET AND REDUCE LANDFILL WASTE
by Stephanie Lingafelter, Assistant Editor

Do you have a closet full of things you no longer want, or old
furniture that needs a new home? Join
The Freecycle Network and
convert your junk into someone else’s treasure. The Internet-based
network is a grass-roots, nonprofit effort started in 2003 that
helps people swap items locally as a way to reduce waste that would
otherwise go to landfills. More than 2 million people worldwide
participate in nearly 3,500 different communities. Membership is
free ? all you need to join is a valid e-mail address. Visit
www.freecycle.org to find a
network in your area.

10. REUSE AND RECYCLE E-TRASH
by Katie Moyer, Editorial Intern

Twenty to 50 million tons of electronic products are discarded
worldwide every year. In addition to the bulk of this e-waste,
there are toxic substances ? such as lead, chromium and mercury ?
in computers, cell phones, televisions and other electronics that
can contaminate our soil and water.

Do your part to reduce and recycle e-waste: Sell or donate your
unwanted cell phone; donate your old computer to a local school or
contact the manufacturer for recycling information; take your old
electronics to a local drop-off or community recycling
center.

Find the nearest electronics recycling organization by visiting
these Web sites:
International Association of
Electronics Recyclers

Earth 911
EIA Consumer Education
Initiative


MAKE A DIFFERENCE:
Send these Earth Day tips to your
friends and family.


ENJOY TIPS LIKE THESE EVERY WEEK:
Twice a week, Mother
Earth Living provides short, practical tips via e-mail. Sign up now
and you’ll get fresh ideas for conscientious living.