13 Ways to Make Earth Day Every Day

When I bought my very first new car, a little Mazda 323, I was thrilled with the gas mileage. I celebrated it by putting a bumper sticker on it that read "Earth Day Every Day."

When did I begin taking that for granted?

I am a huge recycler. There are paper bags strategically placed throughout my house to make it easy for everyone to recycle everything from junk mail to empty toilet paper rolls. One of the most important features in our house to me? The double garbage can pull-out drawer in the kitchen: one for garbage, one for recycling (I think my realtor thought I was a bit loopy for being so excited about that). We empty the recycling can far more often than the garbage can. I have apparently raised a very conscientious recycler, too. Z has been known to go on hour-long rants about wasteful packaging, and picks up trash anytime he sees it outdoors.

When shopping for cars, gas efficiency is at the top of my list, but I also look into where parts are manufactured and how. Afterall, if the metal is mined in Canada to the detriment of the land, then shipped to Japan to be fabricated into parts, then those parts are shipped back to the US to be manufactured as part of a "hybrid," that's a lot of desecration and waste to make an "energy-efficient" vehicle, isn't it?

I follow other sound, ecological guidelines for my home and gardens, as well as for living in general. But when did I become complacent in my habits? When did I forget WHY I'm changing habits, and stop actively looking for other ways in which I can lessen strain on our planet?

Earth is Friday, April 22nd. But shouldn't every day be Earth Day? It is our collective home.

In the meantime, here's a list of 13 Things We Can ALL Start Doing Today to Make a Difference for Our Own Corner of the World. If everyone participates, even just a little bit at a time, think about the POSITIVE impact we can have!

In no particular order, I present to you, my lucky list of 13:

1. Donate: Instead of throwing away items you no longer use, think about giving them away instead. Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and local charities are all good places to donate gently used items.

2. Recycle Glass: Recycled glass reduces related air pollution by 20 percent and related water pollution by 50 percent. If it isn't recycled, it can take one million years to decompose.

3. Go vegetarian once a week: One less meat-based meal a week helps the planet and your diet. For example: It requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef.

4. Wash in cold or warm: If all the households in the U.S. switched from hot-hot cycle to warm-cold, we could save the energy comparable to 100,000 barrels of oil a day.

5. Change your light: If every household in the United State replaced one regular lightbulb with one of those new compact fluorescent bulbs, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road. Don't like the color of light? Use these bulbs for closets, laundry rooms and other places where it won't irk you as much.

6. Turn off computers at night: By turning off your computer instead of leaving it in sleep mode, you can save 40 watt-hours per day. That adds up to 4 cents a day, or $14 per year. If you don't want to wait for your computer to start up, set it to turn on automatically a few minutes before you get to work, or boot up while you're pouring your morning cup 'o joe.

7. Use one less paper napkin: During an average year, an American uses approximately 2,200 napkins--around six each day. If everyone in the U.S. used one less napkin a day, more than a billion pounds of napkins could be saved from landfills each year.

8. Brush your teeth without running the tap: You'll conserve up to five gallons per day if you turn off the water. Daily savings in the U.S. alone could add up to 1.5 billion gallons -- more water than folks use in the Big Apple.

9. Buy local: Consider the amount of pollution created to get your food from the farm to your table. Whenever possible, buy from local farmers or farmers' markets, supporting your local economy and reducing the amount of greenhouse gas created when products are flown or trucked in.

10. Adjust your thermostat:
Adjust your thermostat one degree higher in the summer and one degree cooler in the winter. Each degree less will save about 10% on your energy use! In addition, invest in a programmable thermostat which allows you to regulate temperature based on the times you are at home or away.

11. Recycle unwanted wire hangers: Wire hangers are generally made of steel, which is often not accepted by some recycling programs. So what do you do with them? Most dry cleaners will accept them back to reuse or recycle.

12. Go to a car wash: Professional car washes are often more efficient with water consumption. If everyone in the U.S. who washes their car themselves took just one visit to the car wash we could save nearly 8.7 billion gallons of water.

13. SHARE! Take what you've learned, and pass the knowledge on to others. If every person you know could take one small step toward being greener, the collective effort would be phenomenal.