Get Green: Backpacker Celebrates Earth Day

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Happy Earth Day! It's hard to believe, but the first Earth Day helped spark the modern environmental movement way back in 1969, and over the years the festivities have helped people worldwide embrace new concepts like recycling, sustainability, and conservation.

Of course, all is not well with the world: Global warming, continued pollution, dwindling ecosystems, and a looming global energy crisis have put the screws to the planet in the last 40 years. But don't pour a 40 for Mother Earth yet — Earth Day remains above all a celebration and a chance to act! If you're in need of Earth Day ideas, we've got a boat-load of diverse suggestions from the BACKPACKER staff. Incorporating even one or two of these ideas into your daily routine can make a big difference. And if you've got your own ideas, don't be shy: Give us your green tips in the comments section below. — Ted Alvarez

BACKPACKER's Earth Day Tips

1. Use clothes lines instead of a dryer. — Jason Stevenson, Associate Editor

2. Stock up on compostable plates and flatware to replace regular paper plates, plastic forks, and plastic knives at your barbecues this summer. I plan on using compostable plates and forks for the sausage and baked beans we'll have at my wedding picnic. I guess the sausage and beans make me a redneck, but at least I'm an eco-redneck. Yee-haw! — Genny Wright, Associate Photo Editor

3. For Earth Day, I rebuilt my 1997 GT Avalanche with mostly recycled bicycling parts. It's now my new/old single-speed/commuter bike. 'Reuse, recycle' — the old adage still rings true today. — Kris Wagner, Map Editor

4. I desire new, shiny objects, but I have to remind myself WWAGD (What Would Al Gore Do?). So I've decided to ride my bike to work more. To spend more time outside, I choose to explore the areas around me rather than flying to distant destinations (of course, living in Boulder, CO helps). — Tim Shisler, Map Intern

5. I've always been kind of an eco-freak, but the growing popular support for green living inspires me to keep getting better. Lately, I've been:

- Biking as often as possible to work or on errands (even to happy hour!)

- Vigilantly unplugging vampire appliances

- Resisting the urge to buy imported grapes from Chile during the cold, fruitless winter

- Re-using plastic produce bags, and toting all my groceries in canvas bags

I'm going to start:

- Dropping hard-to-recycle plastics off at the recycling center

- Buying more local food from the farmers' market

- Using a mini-wind turbine to power my iPod (seriously!)

— Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan, Editorial Intern

6. I heart Ecocycle, an online tool that helps build zero-waste communities. I also love the fact that my kids go to a Green Star school where they're required to compost and recycle in first grade. Even better, my kids don't make a big deal about it — it's just something they do. Oh, and I'm attempting to bike commute almost 2,000 miles this year, which I hate to say IS kind of a big deal, and something I can't shut up about. — Tracy Ross, Senior Editor

7. Here's simple idea: Use less paper towels. — Katie Herrell, Web Producer

8. I am happy that 'being green' is becoming the center of everyone's priority list, but I worry that it's only being talked about because it's trendy. It gets worse when large corporations jump on the bandwagon to supposedly change their ways, when in fact they are the main problem. It seems condescending to see a nice corporate logo attached to green ideas, like when a furniture store bought a sponsorship at the new John Deere wind farm in Michigan. The point is that some corporations and people are being hypocritical and only stating they are changing, when in fact they aren't. Both individuals and the media need to stay on top of corporations to make sure environment problems are being addressed, rather than just coasting on the fame and glory of being green. — Zach Watson, Marketplace Sales Manager

9. I have been throwing less and less of our laundry in the dryer. Now space is the challenge: How much can I hang from the shower-curtain bars and drape over chairs (outside isn't an option -- clotheslines are not allowed in my neighborhood) to avoid using my dryer? Jeans and towels are still a problem, but I'm going to try to avoid buying clothes that take too long to dry (sorry, heavy cotton blends) in the future. That could mean eventually I'll have to hang a clothesline over the dining room table. — Jenn Fields, Map Intern

10. I've become a little composting queen at my house; my compost bin runneth over, and now after over-watering it, I have discovered compost tea! My boyfriend and I are starting all our vegetable & flower plants from seed, which means we have trays of seedlings in every bedroom window, kitchen table, counter top and ironing board. Also, I'm commuting 18 miles one-way to and from work. It's a lot of work being green! — JoAnn Hopkins, Office Manager

11. I plan to buy the earth a nice card from Hallmark. Or maybe I'll utilize the strength of two trees to hang a hammock, where I'll have an organic beer or two and think about how much I love everything around me.

In truth, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do on Earth Day. I already recycle, I compost, I bike to work occasionally, I offset my truck's carbon for the year, I buy organic stuff, I vote for people who support the environment, and I donate to the park system, and I volunteer. So, here's a personal message to our Earth:

"Hello, Earth. I'm not going to wear tie-die and hemp pants or anything today, or join a drum circle. I might not even wish anybody "Happy Earth Day!" I'm actually considering getting some Taco Bell for lunch (and maybe even driving there!). But I try pretty hard to celebrate you most other days. Thanks for everything, and see you tomorrow...and the next day, and the next. — Shannon Davis, Associate Editor