Today, Google’s doodle shows an ecosystem through four seasons. Kids around the country are outdoors to plant trees at their schools and learn about their surroundings. Event technology retail giant Best Buy is dimming lights at all their stores for the morning to cut back on energy use.
And these are only in the United States.
Since Earth Day’s creation in 1970, the celebration has spread and is now celebrated by more than 500 million people in more than 160 countries. Across the globe, groups and individuals celebrate by doing things large and small to reduce our impact on the environment – from biking instead of driving to work, making a conscious effort to use less water, engaging in community clean-ups or planting entire forests.
But like many holidays, April 22 marks just one day of an effort that should be continued year-round. We’re not only patriotic on Independence Day, and most people will argue you should love your significant other more than on just February 14. The real struggle is not in getting people to participate on this day – it’s keeping that same zeal for the rest of the year.
There’s no doubt the actions taken on Earth Day are necessary and have a huge impact. However, I see the single greatest contribution we can make today is spreading information that will keep people making changes throughout the year.
It might be a bit naïve, but I like to think that the majority of people will make choices that they see as good rather than what they know to be harmful. According to a poll conducted by the Reader’s Digest, 1 in 3.85 individuals claim they regularly make a conscious effort to use less than the standard 80-100 gallons of water that most Americans use per day. Only 1 in 16.67 admit they never make an effort. I’d like to think much of that, of course, can be ascribed to laziness or inconvenience, rather than people sincerely not caring about the environment. But what about the people who weren’t even reached by the survey, who didn’t take a moment to stop a think about how much water they use? Would they be part of the former number if they knew that only 1 percent of the Earth’s water is usable? Or that letting the faucet run for 5 minutes takes as much energy as letting a 60-watt lightbulb run for 14 hours?
Though most people obviously know that they “should” recycle and reuse, would it make a difference if more people were aware of just how much of a difference recycling can make? For example, if they knew that if the 21.5 million tons of food residuals produced annually were composted instead of sent to landfills, that the resulting reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be equivalent to taking more than two million cars off the road?1
In order for more people to make a more concerted effort for the other 364 days out of the year, I think education is the best place to start. When people are given information rather than orders and can determine how to make the best decisions on their own, I believe they will make the choices that they can be proud of.
So today, while you’re taking the recycling out to the bin or riding your bike to the grocery store or taking the most efficient shower humanly possible, take a moment to remember exactly why you’re doing it – and maybe share those reasons with someone else. It could turn into their reason for doing the same.