8 Great Ways to Celebrate the Earth this Summer

by Maria Luci, editor at Maria's Farm Country Kitchen and Rodale's

Last week we celebrated Earth Day! We expressed our gratitude for all that our wonderful planet has to offer us--and supported protecting the environment and making the earth a healthier, more peaceful place for all.

But beyond Earth Day, there are many ways to honor and help protect the planet every day. Here are 8 simple suggestions for ways to celebrate and support the earth this summer and beyond:

1. Eat some bugs. Raising insects produces far fewer greenhouse gases than raising cattle. If more of us ate insects as a protein source instead of eating meat, we could ease global warming. (Learn more about edible insects here.) If you can't bring yourself to munch on tasty crickets, try eating fewer portions of red meat and cooking a few vegetarian meals each week. (You might like this vegetarian Zucchini Cheese Bake, for instance!) You'll lower your risk of cardiovascular disease as well as your carbon footprint.

2. Plant! This year's Earth Day theme was Trees for the Earth. According to Earth Day Network, our planet is losing 15 billion trees a year! The earth (and all of us on it!) needs trees to take in carbon and release oxygen. Trees clean our air, fight climate change, provide shade that saves water by slowing evaporation, and help prevent soil erosion. (They also offer wonderful limbs to swing from!) Earth Day Network's goal is to plant 7.8 billion trees by Earth Day's 50th anniversary in 2020. Join in by planting trees in your yard, your neighborhood, or your city. Get a group together and plant! If tree planting isn't your thing or you don't have room for a tree, plant other helpful plants like milkweed, which monarch butterflies need to survive. Or start an organic garden--vegetable, herb, or flower--which will improve the health of your soil and allow it to store more carbon.

3. Go paperless. Take a day to think about all the bills and junk mail you receive each month, then set up paperless billing and cancel any unwanted mailers. Commit to paying your bills online, using email more, and printing only when absolutely necessary (and double-sided when you do). According to the zero-waste advocacy nonprofit Eco-Cycle, "the average American receives 40 pounds of junk mail each year, destroying 100 million trees." Stop the flow of junk mail to your home by following these 6 steps suggested by Eco-Cycle, saving precious trees along the way!

4. Switch to organic. Organic is all about healthier people and a healthier planet. Choose organic foods at the store or farmer's market, or grow your own. Choose organic apparel when purchasing new clothing. Buying organic supports organic agriculture, which helps to sequester carbon in the soil, conserves water, and keeps toxic pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides (like Roundup) out of our soil and waterways. Make a small switch today, moving to organic for something you've never bought organic before--be it eggs, meat, milk, a shirt or even lipstick.

5. Clean up a waterway. Simply grab a trash bag and some gloves and head to your nearest lake, river, or steam to pick up trash yourself. Or you can join an organized water cleanup. Sustainable apparel company United By Blue is committed to removing one pound of trash from waterways for every one of its items sold, so it regularly organizes waterway cleanups. (You can find one near you and sign up for it here.)

6. Walk around naked! Conventional cotton is almost always grown from genetically modified seeds, and use up to 25 percent of the world's insecticides. This doesn't even take into consideration the rest of the environmental and human impacts of the fast-fashion industry, whose practices lead to 12 million tons of textiles being discarded in landfills in 2012 alone. While we know that going completely nude 24/7 isn't an option (for most of us at least), being mindful of this is just one more reason to wear quality organic-cotton clothing. If you buy clothes that wear well, you can keep wearing them until they wear out rather than replacing them according to the whims of fast fashion. The best part? With organic, you're keeping harmful chemicals and GMO seeds out of the earth's precious soil.

7. Share, share, share. Sharing is caring, of course. Share a bike, share a ride, share in a local farm's yield by buying a share in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. Not only does bicycling take no fuel, but it also it doesn't require anything other than pedal power to get you going. Plus, takes a lot less energy to make a bike than it does a car. But also, by sharing a bike through a bike share program, which many cities around the U.S. now have, you help cut back on bike production while saving yourself the worry of storing and caring for your own bike. Carpooling reduces fuel consumption, of course, and lowers your carbon footprint. And buying into a CSA's farm share program helps support local food, which requires less fuel for transportation--and if it's an organic farm, you're helping the soil and waterways, too!

8. Get outside and enjoy nature! Be connected, see the beauty, feel the love, and share your gratitude. There is so much on this earth to be thankful for, and today's the perfect day to appreciate it all!

Happy Earth Day...every day!

Maria Luci is the manager and editor at Maria's Farm Country Kitchen and content creator and editor at Rodale's. She grew up in Virginia, but now lives in Philly with her husband, a black cat, and a giant Aloe plant named Big Al. When not writing and editing, she's usually cooking up organic recipes or running--or eating when she should be running.

Some content in this story was adapted from a Rodale's Organic Life article.

For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com