This spring, we celebrated another Earth Day. As this special day becomes more entrenched in the calendar alongside Arbor Day, Flag Day, Secretary’s Day and the host of other commemorative holidays, the question arises as to whether this day is doing its job as a reminder of our responsibility for the well-being of our environment. Or has it become another excuse to have a fair at the park? As we know from the popularity of the phrase, “Earth Day Every Day,” our concern for and awareness of our individual parts in protecting the environment must be constant in order to make a difference. Keeping up the momentum all year is the challenge.
Environmentalists are turning to the public more and more to foster a greater awareness of the impact their lifestyle and resource consumption have on the planet. Redefining Progress, an organization of sustainability experts, has created The Ecological Footprint Quiz, developed to help people assess and put into perspective the extent of their impact on the planet.
By going to myfootprint.org and taking the quiz, anyone can receive statistics on the earth’s ability to support their current habits and lifestyle. As someone who sees herself as an environmentally conscious person, I took the quiz and found out that if everyone lived as I do, we would need 3.3 planets! I was stunned. Now I see why they have a warning on the site: “CAUTION: This quiz may surprise you, shock you, or make you think. Please remain calm…but not too calm!”
Although this quiz admits it does not take everything we do into consideration, it does give us reason to pause and think. Though they are often hidden from view, it is important to be mindful of the many environmental dangers facing our planet today, which range from toxins threatening our health, pollution dirtying our air and water, the destruction of rainforests and the ozone layer, and overflowing landfills, to name a few.
Another internet resource that can help put our consumption into perspective is run by Campaign Earth, an organization whose purpose is to bring us to a new level of personal involvement on environmental issues while taking into account that all of us are busy and have limited time to spend on the ecological crisis. The organization thinks of itself as “solution-based” and provides realistic ways that the average person can help. These are just a few of the statistics that can be found by logging onto campaignearth.org/mainpage.asp.
• Americans make up only 4% of the world’s population yet we consume nearly 26% of its resources.
• Americans spend more annually on the purchase of garbage bags than the combined total value of goods and services produced by 90 of the world’s developing nations! That is a lot of trash!
Campaign Earth features something called the “Monthly Challenge.” It highlights one Earth-saving practice and encourages people to do it for one month. The steps are made to be easy, even for busy people, and create a feeling of empowerment. Participants simply sign up for the program online. After that, Campaign Earth sends an email every 30 days reminding you to return to the website to view their next challenge.
One of the details of the challenge on how to reduce junk mail – with fabulous results for the earth and the clutter in your home! Another one encourages members to change 2 of their most-used incandescent light bulbs to CFLs, (compact fluorescents lights). It’s a quick and easy way to make a big difference. A third showed that with properly inflated tires, Americans could save 100,000 barrels of oil a day (four million gallons of gasoline). In this day of skyrocketing gas prices, this will benefit our wallets too.
With just a little effort and a little action, collectively, we can achieve sizeable results. Think of the impact if everyone you knew embraced these practices. It would make a difference! Together, we can erase those lines on Mother Earth’s face and bring back a smile to all of us!