Alternative Energy

Published on April 15th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan


How to Make Earth Day Significant

You probably have a handful of options in your community for what you can do on Earth Day. Hopefully, each of them would be beneficial to the planet and to yourself.

Most environmental organizations or activists will tell you whenever they have the chance that “every little thing counts”, in order to try to get you and a large number of other people to make enough little changes or donations that they add up to something big. Earth Day is an especially popular time for such a motto. On Earth Day, enough people are looking to make some small effort to help the environment that it really can add up to something big.

However, the question I think everyone should ask themself on Earth Day is this: Will I do something so spectacular on Earth Day that I can consider myself an environmentally caring person for the whole rest of the year?

Image Credit: IronRodArt – Royce Bair Restored historic photo of Earth and North America from space

Restored historic photo of Earth and North America from space

The truth is, what you do on the other 364.25 days of the year (don’t forget about leap years) is probably hundreds of times more powerful than what you do on Earth Day.

If you really want to be an environmentally caring person, I think Earth Day should be sort of like New Year’s Day. Approaching it, you can take a good look at where your life is (as concerns your relationship to the environment), you can set goals or resolutions for what you’re going to change, and you can start living your life in a new way on that day.

Habits are the drivers of many of our environmental problems. From what I’ve heard, it takes 30 days to change a habit, but you have to start somewhere. Here are some major habits hurting the environment that you could look to change starting on Earth Day in order to make a spectacular difference for others, yourself and the planet as a whole.

1) Leave the car at home, or sell it!

The average transit rider in the US saves over $9,000 a year by riding transit. In New York, that number is approximately $14,000. In Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Honolulu, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, it is over $10,000. Riding a bike for transportation purposes is even more economically beneficial. Also, in many cities, bicycling is faster than driving or using transit.

Environmentally, transportation is the big cheese. It is the leading net contributor to climate change pollution. It is also a major factor affecting air pollution and water pollution.

For your health, for the environment or for your pocketbook, pick up a bike and get on it or take a walk to your nearest bus, streetcar or subway stop.

Leave your car at home or make a nice extra buck and sell it (you can always rent a car or sign up for a carsharing program like Zipcar when you really need one).

2) Don’t put meat on the table — go vegetarian or vegan (at least during the week)

Water and energy use for livestock production is skyscrapers higher than for fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. Concerning climate change, livestock production is third on the list for net contribution to climate change.

For those you think going fully vegetarian is too difficult (I assure you it is not), a new environmental trend is sweeping the nation — weekday environmentalism. Surely, it is not too difficult to cut meat out of your diet during the week, at least, and what a difference it would make! Apparently, it could cut your carbon footprint by as much as 70%.

3) Put some solar panels on your roof!

This may be a more invisible habit, but I think it is one nonetheless. Where do you get your electricity? You are probably in the habit of getting it from your utility company, which more likely than not gets it from coal power plants.

There are great tax incentives and rebates across the country now for using solar power on your house or business. Additionally, innovative programs like PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing or group solar buying are continuing to make it easier and more affordable to go solar. This Earth Day, consider finally making the switch.

Well, here are a few big ideas for you to consider this Earth Day. I’m sure you can think of a few more on your own or you can even modify those a bit to your own liking. Hopefully, though, you will choose something more than going to an Earth Day community fair or donating to another environmental organization (which, of course, are both still wonderful things to do)! As the saying goes, every day is Earth Day. Find a way to make it so in your life. Any other specific suggestions? Leave a comment below.

And share this with your friends — social change happens when people share with and encourage others.

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.

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