Happy Earth Day

Keep up the good work, and the world will be a better place.

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Yesterday I had a conversation with my editors about what to write about for my Earth Day blog post.

Earth day is a big deal if you happen to be a green blogger. We bounced around ideas, like featuring the top five organizations in this country that are really making a difference, and the biggest US enviro coups and challenges that lay ahead.

They’re good ideas. We talked about a State of the Earth address. And I started thinking–a lot–about what is happening in the world, what’s changed since last Earth Day.

While I was thinking on these heady topics, I visited the Chittenden Solid Waste District Recycling Center, a state of the art resource reclamation facility in Burlington, Vermont. (I’ll blog about it soon.) While I was there, I walked around with Jess Sankey, CSWD’s Outreach Coordinator. Jess interacts with about 7000 kids each year teaching them about recycling. She takes them on tours, helps them put on educational theater, and organizes a youth conference for high school and college activists. We were talking about all the cool things Jess does each day, and the trickle down effect that has when her students take the message home to their parents. Then, one of the kid’s moms brings a Brita filter into work and sets it on her desk instead of a disposable plastic water bottle, and the spreads the word even further.

What really struck during this conversation with Jess is how “the norm” has changed in our world because of individual actions. It’s not organizations that come to mind per se. It’s the way that individuals across this country have taken responsibility. When I think about where we stand as a culture, and especially when I think about that on earth day, a day of actions, a day when people acknowledge the fragile planet we live on and what each of us can do, it makes me think about small changes. Small changes highlight a change in awareness and a stepping up to the plate.

In the past year, we’ve signed on-line petitions forcing global warming to the front of the line of pressing political issues. We’ve spoken out on protecting species from wolves to whales. We’ve demanded that lands be put in conservation, and this year, our demands were answered. New legislation designated two million acres of Wilderness, 1100 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, and closed the 1.2-million-acre Wyoming Range to new oil and gas development.

We’ve raised issues of water scarcity here at home, and across the ocean. We’ve changed our lightbulbs, and with it we’ve helped change legislation. The EPA is now calling carbon dioxide harmful to human health. A year or two ago, people groaned and rolled their eyes if you mentioned changing to compact fluorescents. Now, it’s a non-issue. Recycling is up, more people are composting, and gardening is climbing the ladder of personal past times. There are so many choices, small changes that so many people are making in each day of their lives that it’s having an impact, changing the way we think as a culture.

A couple years ago, when we published 101 Solutions for Global Warming, things each of us could do in our daily lives, it was a big deal. So many people have now integrated so many of those small actions into their lives, we’re poised to take it to the next level. So we know what you’ve done, but what are you gonna do? What’s you’re earth day resolution? What are the next steps that you’ll commit to taking in your own life to make the world a better place? Tell us below.

I asked my colleagues at Backpacker the same question, and here is what they said:

Kris Wagner, Map Editor: To cut the water usage of my yard by 20%. To grow a salsa garden. To take my daughter on her first backpacking trip.

Genny Fullerton, Senior Associate Photo Ed.: I’m making trendy notebooks from cereal boxes and paper that would have been recycled, but still has useful writing space.

Katie Herrell, Web Producer: I’m creating a watchdog photo blog dedicated to overzealous sprinkler systems that water the grass, the sidewalk, the neighbor’s poodle, etc. Fellow finger pointers who are tired of dodging sprinkler sprays can send their photos to submit@wateringthesidewalk.com. Please include city, state, and photographer’s name.

Julia Vandenoever, Photo Editor: Not to use lights during the day and always turn them off when I am not in the room. Use cloth diapers and teach my toddler how to grow and pick her own veggies in our garden.

Shannon Davis, Assoc. Ed: 1. I’m going to arrive at work au natural, then get sent home to find some proper (100% organic cotton) clothes. 2. Expand our garden. We’re going to have everything from blackberries to spinach to squash to salmon. Except the salmon.

Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan, Asst. Ed: This year, I plan to go for local fruits and veggies as much as possible—starting with an herb garden on my patio—to take advantage of their lower carbon footprints, to support local farmers, and to up the healthy factor of my diet. Guess that means I’ll be celebrating Earth Day by getting rid of that high-fructose-corn-syrup-laden mojito mix I’ve got lying around.

Tracy Ross, Senior Ed.: I just bought six chickens and am going to teach my kids the value of growing and tending our own food (we’re planting our biggest garden ever as well). We have lots predators (foxes, coyotes, bears) so we’re building a “tree coop,” elevated off the ground like a treehouse with a ramp. The coop will be made of recycled building scrap and insulated with spray foam. As for celebrating, we were going to do the most consumer-sucker thing possible and see the Disney Earth 2009 film. But maybe I’ll just make a huge salad with lots of edible flowers and we’ll all write our own resolutions on little pieces of paper and burn them in a fire outside, before roasting marshmallows.

Mine: Drive less, bike more, rig up a bike trailer for my dog so I can bring her along; be conscious of water, how I use it, not to waste it; buy bulk whenever I can; and be really careful never to stick stuff in the recycling that doesn’t belong.

Tell us what you’ll be doing differently from now on… And if there is something you want to see covered here to help you get there, let me know.

Oh, and thanks for making this a happy Earth Day.