Monday is Earth Day. It is one day each year when more than 1 billion people worldwide take time to note changes in the environment and how they can help make it better.
Started in 1970, Earth Day channeled the energy of the anti-war movement to bring environmental concerns to the public. According to Earth Day Network, the official sponsor, the idea for the observance came from former Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Wis., after seeing the effects of the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“… he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda,” according to the event’s history on the network’s website.
Earth Day began as a “national teach-in on the environment” with 20 million Americans on the streets, at parks and in auditoriums demonstrating for a healthy, sustainable environment. Since then, the Earth Day Network has been working to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement.
This year, the network is trying to put a face on climate change and how it affects everyone. It is asking people to send in photos showing how climate change has impacted them or what they are doing to prevent it from getting worse for its The Face of Climate Change project, which will result in a global mosaic. For details, visit www.earthday.org.
Caring about the Earth, however, shouldn’t just be a one-day observance. There are things you can do year-round to try to live more sustainably on the planet.
Earth Day Network runs the Billion Acts of Green campaign with the goal of getting billions of people to take action on behalf of the environment. Activities can range from encouraging policymakers to consider sustainability initiatives, to recycling e-waste, planting trees and going solar. So far the group has recorded more than a billion individual acts of green and is working on its second billion.
You, too, can perform an act of green, and it can be something as simple as turning off the lights when you leave home or adjusting your thermostat.
An easy way to accomplish these energy-saving tasks is with a home automation system such as Nexia Home Intelligence.
Paige Muhlenkamp, brand manager for Nexia, said the system is a new way to run your home.
“With the system you can do things like unlock the front door, adjust heating and cooling, even manage home security and energy use, right from your smartphone,” she said. “With Nexia, many consumers gravitate to the lighting and climate features that they can control remotely or schedule to automate to cut back on energy consumption reducing bills.”
Muhlenkamp said the amount of savings varies by home, and what features are being used, but using a programmable thermostat and linking with your system so it can be adjusted remotely, can save as much as 15 percent on energy costs.
Additionally, you can program the system to send text alerts or email when it is time to change your heating and cooling system filters. Having a fresh filter keeps your system running efficiently, saving you money, she said.
The home automation system is supported by brands such as Trane, American Standard, Schlange, General Electric and Leviton. All of the components can be installed by a homeowner, Muhlenkamp said. The Nexia Bridge, which links all the systems, plugs into a home’s router, while the smart door locks and programmable thermostats use standard installation methods.
Another way to been green is to take the movement literally by planting a garden.
“The purpose of Earth Day is to connect with the Earth. It reminds you of the source where things come from,” said Stephen Orr, author “Tomorrow’s Garden: Design and Inspiration for a New Age of Sustainable Garden” and gardening editorial director for Martha Stewart Living.
“It’s fun to grow something and then cook with it,” he said. “Even though we don’t have to grow our own food, I do like having things that grow outside that I can pick.”
Orr said one of the easiest things to grow is herbs. The plants are sustainable, as you only pick what you need.
He recommends celebrating Earth Day by starting a small herb garden, planting easy-to-grow items such as chives, mint, thyme, oregano and basil.
They can be planted in the ground or container, depending on how much space you have.
Other plants that grow well in hot environments include tomatoes, peppers, radishes, squash, melons and okra.
Even if you are planting flowers, it reminds of us of how things grow and relate to the soil, he said.
Orr said gardening is a great way to unplug from today’s technology and is especially important for children.
“When you are gardening it is hard to have them (cellphones and tablets) in your hand. You don’t garden with a cellphone in your hand,” he said.
He also cautions gardeners to be sure any fertilizers they are using are coming from natural sources. They are healthier for plants and people, he said.
You also can celebrate Earth Day by replacing old, energy-hogging appliances with new ecofriendly versions.
Introduced just in time for this year’s observance is Rowenta’s first energy-saving iron. The Eco Intelligence iron offers a 25 percent energy savings.
Savings come primarily from its Microsteam300 3D soleplate, which was designed to concentrate steam on the fabric, reducing loss of steam and saving water.
Rowenta said the iron also was designed with a round shape at the back to reduce the frequency of crease so the fabric will not need to be reironed and has 1,700 watts of power for faster heating.